I once met Mel Torme’s daughter who shared a bit of trivia about her father. While her mother was in labor, Mel was waiting out the birth in a room without air conditioning, in the desert town of Palm Springs, in the middle of a brutal summer. To pass the time and to take his mind off the unbearable heat, Mel began to think of things associated with the winter season; chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, etc. The results of this mental exercise produced “The Christmas Song,” one of the most recognized and recorded songs of all time. The reason I retell this story is that I now find myself in the exact opposite scenario; I am writing these words in the frigid cold of winter, trying to warm myself with thoughts of toasty weather.
Winter’s wrath was a condition I had never truly experienced before I embarked on the “Road Warrior” lifestyle of a touring professional comedian. Growing up with the mild winters of Texas left me ill-prepared for the cruel climates my career would eventually expose me to. For example, the high school I attended did not even have a hockey team for the simple reason there was not an ice rink within a hundred miles (and in Texas walking on water is considered dangerously close to blasphemy). From Texas I moved to a beach in sunny Southern California, where a ten degree fluctuation from winter to summer made the word “seasons” little more than a rumor (try getting in the Christmas Spirit by hanging tinsel and lights on a Palm tree). When I arrived in Los Angeles I was shocked to find that many of the homes in this tropical climate had fireplaces (which are about as useless as the referees in Professional Wrestling). Eventually Viacom lured me to New York City, where I quickly received a painful education on the harsh realities of winter.
I have concluded that because of my limited early experience with winter conditions, I find it much more fascinating and amusing than the other seasons. I reached this conclusion after discovering I have written more jokes about winter than the remaining seasons combined. Cold is proven to be more conducive to comedy, which is why David Letterman keeps his studio audience in a frosty sixty-two degrees. In cities that have unforgiving winters it is difficult to get the population indoors on a pleasant summer day; the comedy clubs have better attendance in the colder months, often adding more shows and paying more money. These clubs sometimes reverse this trend and offer “summer money,” a term that so angered one comic I know he responded with “Then you are getting my summer act.” (The exception to this rule is locations that see an influx of tourists in the summer and increase the pay, which is why I try to only work Hawaii in the summer).
When I analyze humor by season, it breaks down as follows: cold is a bit funnier than hot, and hot is a lot funnier than comfortable. In fact I find “comfortable” is not very funny at all. The one and only joke I have written about spring addressed the myth that men become more romantic at the start of the spring season and my belief the sudden appearance of these loving tendencies has less to do with the mating season of the natural world and more to do with women suddenly wearing a lot less clothing than they did in winter. And the only thing I have found funny about autumn is that it is the only season that balding men can relate to trees. The above examples clearly illustrate that spring and fall are not all that funny.
Extreme weather conditions generate more laughter, which supports the theory of there being a fine line between comedy and tragedy. I frequently voice my opinion that the license plate in Arizona should read “But It’s A Dry Heat,” (but as another comic pointed out, so is fire). The last time I was in Arizona during the summer months it was such a dry heat—I saw trees following dogs (insert rimshot here).
As opposed to the bone-chilling weather I’m writing in today, where you could not pet your dog without the risk of his tail breaking off. Let me set the stage; I am in the middle of the Pocono Mountains, in the middle of January, in the middle of a blizzard. The temperature is double-digits below zero, with a wind chill factor that has dogs stuck to fire hydrants. I’ve been cold before, but never this cold. I’ve experienced winters in Alaska where snow banks that lined the roads were so tall your car moved like it was on a giant Hotwheels track, making it unnecessary to touch the steering wheel. I’ve spent wintertime in Montreal, where urine testing involves writing your name in the snow (in English and French). And I’ve made many winter trips to Minnesota, the state where the license plate should read “Nine Months of Winter – Three Months of Crappy Bobsledding.”
But I can honestly say I have never been as cold as I am today. It’s hard for me to envision the Pioneers heading west to settle our country, getting to the Pocono Mountains in January, and saying, “Well, I guess this will do.” I suspect the people here are all descendants of wagon trouble. For example, this afternoon I was in a phone booth and needed to write down a number, but I didn’t have a pencil, so I just scratched the number in the glass…with my nipple! And that was more painless than my testicles apparent intended migration to become ovaries (however, I am thankful that if they find my frozen body at least they can identify my gender by looking on my driver’s license).
Did I mention I have never been this cold?
And I am not alone. The comedian I’m working with is also apparently not accustomed to such harsh winter conditions. Moments ago, he was so disgusted with how dirty the salt and sand on the highway had left his car, that he decided to go to a self-service car wash. I sat in the car and watched as he sprayed on a layer of soap, which immediately froze, and then he tried to rinse it off, adding another even thicker layer of ice. We are now riding in what must look like the world’s fastest glacier. That’s funny. That’s cold. But… it’s a dry cold.
“The Laff Guru” has taken his message of LAUGHTER=NIRVANA to all 50 states and 23 countries. His awards include: “Comic of the Year,” “Campus Performer of the Year,” and a “Cable Ace Award.” His credits include over fifty TV appearances, including: Showtime and The Late Show. He is represented by GP Entertainment. To find out more about his award-winning comedy act please visit: laffguru.com