The Gift of Joke-Telling

The ability to tell a great joke is a wonderful gift. I wish I had it. My problem is that I can never remember the damn joke. I remember who told it, how hard I laughed, where I was when I heard it, and tantalizing snippets of the set-up or the punchline. But never enough to tell the joke well. Just the other day, a friend told me a swell joke. It’s already slipping away so let me get it down quick.

A man inherited a parrot when his aunt died. The bird had been his aunt’s great joy and he felt responsible for keeping it, and keeping it healthy. However, it was an unruly and obnoxious bird that spewed expletives at guests and woke him every night with loud chatter. The man made many efforts to control the bird – he covered the cage, he relocated the cage, he offered treats and praise for good behavior, scolds for bad behavior. None of it worked. Finally, in desperation, he stuck the bird in the freezer for a brief time.

Much to the man’s surprise, the parrot emerged a changed bird: humble, chastened, polite.

“I’m sorry I had to do that to you,” the man told the bird. “I hope I never have to again.”

“Understood!” the parrot replied. “And might I ask …