Tuesday, September 18, 2007

hah! things!

A brace more of

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

71. Freshly-vacuumed carpets. I just love 'em. There's nothing like the well-groomed, fluffed, brushed look of a carpet just after vacuuming. It gives the whole place a clean look, even if it's otherwise not exactly neat and tidy (the room I'm in isn't).

I enjoy most household chores to some extent. Taking out the trash has never been a favorite, and of course cleaning the deep-fryer is admittedly rather disgusting, but other than that, most are satisfying to perform and to have completed. But none of them tops vacuuming. I even like to refer to it as Hoovering, when I'm feeling jaunty and anglophile.

70. Running gags. I just love 'em. In fact, running gags should be much higher on this list, if it's meant to be in some kind of order, which it only sort of is. I don't know if "running gag" is official terminology in the comedy biz, but it's the term my friends and I have used at least since college. I define a running gag as a joke or bit of business whose comic impact is based at least as much on its being repeated as on its intrinsic humorousness.

The grand champion of running gags in our college days was definitely my friend-I-never-hear-from and erstwhile roommate Doug Dyer. Doug would repeat a gag so long, so consistently, and with such tenacity, grit, and endurance, that the gag would be crippled, killed, beaten, buried, dug up and burnt to ashes, and then resurrected, exponentially funnier than it had been in its first life. Then he would begin the long slow torture of crippling it all over again. One of the best and weirdest running gags we had was knocking on the inside of our dorm room door before exiting. Usually, this was reserved for times when someone else was in the room, to respond saying, "Go out." But I suspect Doug would perform this ritual even when he was alone. I know I did.

At present my loveliest and my pal Jim ("The Most Optimistic Man In America, And That's Saying Something") Williams have a running gag going, and I have to confess I'm slightly jealous. When he calls, and she answers the phone, they spend at least 2 minutes swapping long "halllllloooooo!"s. I only ever hear half of this schtick, so from my side it sounds like this:

Lauren: Hello?


Lauren [singsong]: Oh, helloo!


Lauren [still more singsong]: Oh, halllooo!


Lauren [reaching a higher pitch, louder, more singsong yet]: Haaalllloooooo!


Lauren [still louder]: Haaahhll-looooooooh!


Classic running gag. It's not actually particularly funny to say "hello" like Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire (at least, I don't think so), but two people swapping this greeting for several minutes over long-distance becomes funny.

Lauren and I have also picked up a running gag that Jim and I started during one of his many visits. I had picked him up at SFO, and driving back took a turn to avoid Tracy ("Tracy: We Think You Can Get That Stain Out With White Vinegar Or Something, Or At Least Make It Light Enough That Nobody Can Really See It Unless They're, Like, Standing Way Too Close") down I-580. The sign indicates that this is the route to Fresno. So, Jim, sounding a little frightened and surprised at the prospect: "Fresno?!" And me, sounding slightly diabolical and sinister, but also sneaky and furtive, in a low tone: "Heh heh heh heh." We ran that sucker probably 6 times that visit, several more the next, and now, because Lauren and I drive up and down to LA so often, we get to run it many times every month. It may be worth noting that making this joke while actually driving through Fresno seems to make the drive through Fresno more pleasant.

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