I'm the Funniest Guy Around just ask anyone (except my family)

Rob Reid, design by Janae Breunig

To supplement my income, I travel and perform as a storyteller. To distinguish myself from the other storytellers, I bill myself as a “children’s humorist.” I was inspired to come up with this term when I heard Garrison Keillor refer to himself as the “world’s tallest radio humorist.” I specialize in making kids and their families laugh via storytelling, musical activities, and wordplay. In fact, I guarantee they will laugh.

Here’s a sample of my show. I start by having the entire audience join me in storytelling warm-ups that includes hitting falsetto notes and doing tongue pushups. I let the audience know I’m warmed up by doing a very fast tongue-twisting poem. I share two or three funny stories mixed with musical activities. Favorite stories include “The Exploding Frog,” “The Biggest Juiciest Apple in the Whole Orchard,” and “Why I’m Late for School.” Favorite songs include the arms-flapping, waist-bending camp song “My Aunt Came Back.”

Over the years, I have provoked laughter from Seattle to Birmingham, from Phoenix to Montreal. Everywhere … except at home.

I’m taking a wild stab at this upcoming piece of insight, but I’m guessing I practiced my routine out loud on the home front one too many times. Over the years, the sounds heard inside my house turned from giggles to groans.

I recently read Judd Apatow’s book Sick in the Head: Conversations about Life and Comedy. Apparently even famous comedians are underappreciated by their families. Apatow’s daughter told him, “Dad, all those things you say that you think are jokes are not funny.” He interviewed Jerry Seinfeld who confessed that when he told his son, “You know, I’ve made up a lot of words that people actually use as words,” his son replied, “Uh, really, like what? Unfunny?”

I know the feeling. I can share what I think is a funny story at the dining table with my wife and whichever grown child is visiting, and there will some eyeball rolling, an uncomfortable pause, and then one of them will ask, “Will someone pass the butter?”

I was partly inspired by my own Uncle Guy, who cracked a lot of jokes at family holiday gatherings. His face would light up and he would laugh loudly at his witty remarks and not seem to notice the eyeball rolling and groaning from the rest of us.

Now my family accuses me of telling “Dad Jokes.” I didn’t even know “Dad Jokes” were a thing until recently. I just got bifocals for the first time, and in the presence of my son, I held up my new glasses and said “Hi-focals.” He immediately shouted, “Dad Joke!” I retorted that I had, in fact, just shared an “Uncle Guy Joke.”

I have some personal routines I frequently use that I’m sure my kids think of as “Dad Jokes.” Feel free to disagree with them. For example, when I hear an odd word or phrase, like “ablation therapy,” I will say, “I once dated a girl named Ablation Therapy.” I don’t remember when I started this “shtick,” but I’ve been doing it for years. Sometimes I say “I once dated a girl named Tungsten Carbide” or “I once dated a girl named Ambient Light.” You get the picture. No double entendres. I’m just making funny noises. Another corny routine is to read the Culver’s sign as if the menu items were one food dish, like “Banana Cream Tuna Salad.” Or “Chocolate Volcano Walleye.” You probably do it, too.

OK, I know I’m complaining too much. I still get the occasional chuckle from my wife and kids … when I share new material. I’m old enough now to appreciate that Uncle Guy most likely didn’t care about going for the laughs. He was going for the eyeball rolls and groans instead. That was part of who he was, and maybe that’s part of who I am. I may even be somehow passing this on to the next generation despite the eyeball rolling. I’m very proud of the moment when I overheard my son telling his fiancée that he “once dated a girl named Deciduous Shrub.”

The nice thing about entertaining other people’s kids is that the turnover rate is high. I get to use my old material over and over again each year on fresh ears.

And on the home front, my own grandchildren are coming along. It won’t be long before they’ll be old enough to appreciate my humor. I’m looking forward to that day when I ask them, “Hey kids, want to hear some Grand-Dad Jokes?”