The Birth, Life, And Death Of Jokes

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Daniel Kalwhite.
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Comedy is hard.
Photo:Chion Wolf
The Birth, Life, And Death Of Jokes
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The Birth, Life, And Death Of Jokes

Some time in the late 1980s, when my main job was writing allegedly funny newspapers and magazine pieces and books  I was visiting a friend who worked in the offices of "Late Night with David Letterman." I think she was an assistant to Dave's assistant or something. Anyway, she introduced me to the show's head writer Steve O'Donnell and she must have mentioned me before because he said, "Oh yes. The humorist."

This was said in a tone that combined the way you might say "the pornographer" with the way you might say "the rodeo clown." It wasn't meant to be nice, and I experienced a wordless understanding of the distinction he was making.

Today, I have words for it. The humorist writes and is read. The comedy writer writes for an audience. Comedy writers have to come up with jokes that will be sent out onto a battlefield where the weak die on the beach. Today, we talk about the birth, life, and death of jokes.

You can join the conversation. E-mail or Tweet us @wnprcolin.




I was in NYC during and after 9/11. Worked a lot during that time because I worked in news.

Went to a comedy club about two weeks after it happened. And I spoke with several of the comedians and told them that they have to be funny, that we need it and that if they couldn't be funny after the attacks then we would never heal.

I would love your panel to comment on that.




Just wanted to say I was disappointed that none of your guests seemed to have laughed out loud at your Zimmer/Zimmerman quip halfway through today's show; I sure did.