Enter your address below to receive free email alerts when a new comic or a blog post is published:
You may unsubscribe easily at any time & your email will never be shared with anyone!
Explore the current collection.

Leave a Comment in Response to:

An Impractical Joke
I bloodied my friend’s nose a while back, and I still feel badly about it. We weren’t fighting; no blows were exchanged. In fact, I wasn’t even there when it happened. But it wasn’t an accident, either.

The weapon was a Groom Mate manually operated nose hair trimmer. I still see them advertised at $19.95, and they’re not available in stores. I can see why; they wreak bloody havoc on the inside of your nostrils. Just ask my friend; I gave it to him as a gift. The gift, I must confide, was meant as a joke. My question here is: was it a funny joke?

Let me state right now that I am not a fan of “practical” jokes, especially those that cause pain or injury. I suppose that a surprise party is one form of practical joke, and such events are pretty hard not to like, but there is very little real humor even with those. Some one is tricked and made to feel a little foolish, but ultimately the source of enjoyment is the surprise of the “victim” and the show of affection given to him. Surprise is a critical element in most humor, too, but I’m sorry — I don’t see any joke in simply tricking people. It can be fun, maybe, but not a joke.

Practical jokes are like a thrill ride at the boardwalk — heightened expectations followed by shock and disorientation, then exhilaration, and in the end, laughing. Unless you barf, in which case there is no laughing (at least not by you).

It’s the same with a practical joke. If it results in barfing, unconsciousness, organ failure, brain death, or bleeding, there might be some laughing, but it would only be of the mean-spirited variety. Think Nelson Muntz of “The Simpsons” (“HA-ha!”). I don’t count that as humor, either. Every movie must have its shot-to-the-balls scene, and every audience will laugh at that scene, but just because they do does not make it funny.

So what about my friend’s bloody nose? Was that my Nelson Muntz moment? Was it a cruel jest and therefore no jest at all? Allow me to mount my defense. For starters, this particular version of the Groom Mate nose hair trimmer came to me through my uncle’s estate. It was, then, a dead man’s nose hair trimmer. I cannot explain to you why that is funny, but it is.

But is that funny enough by itself to cancel out the pain and bleeding, enough to turn agony into laughter? Perhaps not, but consider this: my friend has large, oddly shaped nostrils; nostrils so cavernous that even the shyest bat would be tempted to hole up there. I cannot tell you if there are ancient paintings on the interior walls of his nose, but if there are, you can be sure they are amusing ones. Amusing because nostrils are the funniest apertures in the human body. Consequently, nose hair trimmers, by virtue of their close association with nostrils, are also funny. What’s more, they are funny independently of the unfunny carnage they might cause.

I wasn’t sure when I gave my friend the trimmer that he would actually use it. It had been fully sterilized, of course (what do you take me for?) but it was, after all, a dead man’s nasal mower. I will not use my uncertainty as an excuse, however; I certainly should have known he’d try it. Why wouldn’t I? I’d tried it myself, with the same painful and bloody results. Perhaps that is the lynchpin of my defense: I had used this patently ridiculous product, and I had felt my friend’s pain even before he had.

Even with all this, I’m still not certain the joke was funny. When he phoned me a couple of days later to tell me what had happened to his honker, I did feel some guilt. There wasn’t that much damage, really — a little nip and a little blood — but it was enough to make me tell him I was sorry.

Which raises another question: is it still an apology if you deliver it while laughing?

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

Yes, voting matters. Polls do not.
~ H, Santa Cruz