Friday, August 7, 2009

A Perfect Joke, By John Hughes

By Lars Trodson

Whenever I am in a situation where people are telling jokes, and I feel compelled to contribute, I have two stories in my back pocket that get a laugh. I have to have something, because I don't usually remember jokes.

One is a verbal version of a New Yorker cartoon that I tell like this: "There's a family standing in a yard with their backs to us and they are looking at a house burning down. The family is holding hands and the father says to his wife and kids: 'Thank God we were only house sitting.'"

The other is a scene from the movie "Mr. Mom", which was written by John Hughes. The setting is this: the stay-at-home dad played by Michael Keaton is trying to keep order in the house as his wife, played by Teri Garr, is about to leave on a business trip very early in the morning. Her boss, played by Martin Mull, arrives to pick Garr up. Keaton makes some small talk with Mull, and then asks, in his sardonic way, "Would you like a beer?"

"It's 7 o'clock in the morning," says Mull.

Keaton, looking both hurt and confused, retorts with, "Scotch?"

I've told that joke hundreds of times, I think, and it always gets a laugh.

The scene was beautifully played by Keaton and Mull, but then again it was a great vignette.

I think it is the best kind of tribute to any writer to say that, through their writing, they have kind of infiltrated your life. I can only say that I never pretended that joke was my own. That would have negated the guy who wrote it, and that didn't seem fair. John Hughes wrote it.