I wanted to write something for Father's Day. This is what came out.
I am an over-the-moon extremely proud and lucky father, but the truth of it is -- when Father's Day rolls around, I automatically go to thoughts of my father. My actual father. And I'm certain he was my father, because, well, sometimes you just know these things. Pronounced nose, an overly considerate nature, and ... an appreciation for a silly dick joke every now and again. That was my dad.
He was an incredibly funny man. An executive of meat for a supermarket chain. Yup, that's what you read ... Meat. His name was Ben -- and though this may be hard to believe, we have the same last name.
He told me a lot of jokes as a kid: which I have talked about in my stand-up as well as in my book -- out now from It Books/HarperCollins, Dirty Daddy. Some may call what I just wrote to be a "shameless plug." I was taught by my father that there should be pride in plugging something if you worked hard on it and you are proud of it. Hence this shameless plug.
Many of the jokes he told me were stories of our relatives in Russia and what they suffered through -- big laughs right? Not so much. Then, he would rail off a series of quick little unrelated puns. And many of them, though deemed inappropriate by a lot of people, were what we call today "dick jokes," which had been handed down to my father through the generations. That is some classy legacy, don't you think?
My dad passed away eight years ago. He died at the age of eighty-nine. He was a child of the Great Depression. He used to joke, "Oh yeah, son, it was a great depression." He was the oldest of five siblings and outlived all of them except his sister, my wonderful aunt and godmother, who is living happily with her husband in the holy land of Florida. I love her and respect that she and my mom didn't dig the kind of jokes that my dad and I used to find funny.
My dad's philosophy was basically this -- and it is actually the core of what my book is about: Life is so hard. And exponentially harder for so many, you really want to get your mind off it. Just so you don't obsess on the negative. So when things got really tough through illnesses and deaths through the years, my sweet dad would try to lighten the pain with humor.
Humor is a diffuser -- not in the way that a Febreze mist diffuser automatically sprays the air periodically in a truck stop ladies room, but humor can be a diffuser of painful situations. The news of the day can be incredibly tough to receive, especially for a sensitive person. I am one of those people. I may give off a brash exterior, what with my angular dentist-accountant-you-look-like-my cousin-like features, but after only about twenty minutes of catching up on the world's news each day, I'm shaking like a twenty-year old girl sitting in a vibrating massage chair in a manicurists' window.
Believe it or not, I was skeptical to title this piece "Why Dick Jokes Are Relevant," even though the metaphor goes hand in hand with my new book from It Books/HarperCollins: Dirty Daddy available everywhere in hard cover, eBook or audiobook.
Woah, what the hell was that? A second shameless plug for my new book. That may come off as a gimmick to jam it down your throats. I don't want to do that to you smart readers, even though my book is the perfect gift for Father's Day. I should really make sure the editor of the Huffington Post polices this kind of self-promotion. By the way, it's not a "shameless promotion" if there's no "shame" in promoting it.
It's not an accident, and I'm certain it's been sighted numerous times, but the word "innuendo" is itself an innuendo. I humbly submit that if the word innuendo was coined today, in the more risqué world we live in, the word would be inyourasshole.
So back to my validation of "the dick joke." All to defend my father's position -- which was usually on all-fours, at the request of my mother. It's okay, they both had a great sense of humor and they'd both be fine with that kind of joke. If they were alive.
I've heard many lovers of comedy that some comedians call "civilians" criticize the dick joke's use. But I'm not talking about just a filthy one. I'm talking about a dick joke that is done more subtly, and has some girth to it. I'm talking about a well-conceived piece of observational comedy that once revealed to an audience, you discover that the backbone, the tent pole, the structural support of the very story itself was a dick joke.
Jokes about the male reproductive organ have been around since the beginning of the penis. They're imbedded into most comedy movies and television shows of our culture. On one hand I agree, they stick out like a sore thumb, dangling in front of your nose. On the other hand... they're in your other hand.
At times they're well crafted, strewn throughout all the shows on television, even on the seemingly clean family show. But other times, I agree with those who see them as nothing more than cheap laughs, spewing from the lower depths of humor, coming from below the belt, and hitting you smack-dab in the middle of your face.
When in the wrong hands, a cheap and only-for-shock-value dick joke can be the crassest form of comedy. It's like resorting to that line we heard in grade school when twelve-year-old boys answered any remark remotely obscene with the pointless go-to: "That's what she said."
If conceived or uttered at all, dick jokes should be used not to offend or shock, but be added as a seasoning -- to spice up a performance or conversation: "There's a rise in diamond prices today. Every time I give my girlfriend a diamond, she gives me a rise." I heard that on the local news. Okay, this example doesn't really support the relevance of the dick joke. But this next incident did.
I was once introduced to a man by a friend of mine who said to me, "Ask this guy what his name is?" And I said, "Okay. Sir, what is your name?" The gentleman took a moment and replied, "Seymour Weiner?" And I answered, "Absolutely."
Mr. Weiner laughed and told me he'd heard all sorts of jokes about his name his whole life, but never precisely that one. Never just a one-word answer. I felt proud, like I had given him a new take on something he'd been burdened with his whole life.
My good fortune in that exchange was that he had answered my question with a question: "Seymour Weiner?" As though he wasn't even sure that was his name. He knew there was going to be a come back. So his question was really more geared toward me, wondering what's "your" answer going to be to the question: "Seymour Weiner."
Ethically and humanly it is not necessary to make a pun out of someone's name. That's also old-school street comedy -- it's what kids do when they hear a funny sounding name in school and state the obvious. But it can be hurtful. My name was always Saget so the obvious negative joke I would hear about my name was "Saget the faggot." It never bothered my dad because he came out of early 1900s and "faggot" meant "cigarette." In fact, I don't think he ever fully understood why being called "Saget the cigarette" hurt anyone's feelings in our family.
Here is a brief excerpt from my book Dirty Daddy, which addresses my childhood name-calling discomfort with being called "Saget the faggot" -- "When guys called me that it hurt my feelings so much that to get back at them, I would blow them. No, I did not just type that, and no, you are not reading that in print. One-fourth of this book would have made my English teachers very proud."
Comedically, to try to eradicate dick jokes is pretty much impossible. I mean if all democratic societies became completely puritanical, we would have no choice. Dick jokes would have to be told only in speakeasies, or at private clubs where discussion of privates is not only allowed, but engorged. I'm sorry, I meant, "encouraged."
But what are you supposed to do when you meet a man, ask him his name and he says: Dick Hertz. Or Michael Hunt. Or Harry ... Well ... Harry ... anything.
Even "Peter," which is a good name, a biblical name, can be used to draw out that kind of laugh: "I came all the way down to the village to find my son Peter." Then the poor Town crier yells out for all to hear: "Please, has anyone seen my Peter? I must find my Peter. I haven't seen my Peter for two days now." There's no way some villagers aren't going to laugh at that. One raggedy street drifter will undoubtedly expose himself, drunkenly walking around yelling, "I've got your Peter right here!" True, not highbrow stuff.
But meeting a nice man named Seymour Weiner was a serendipitous way of how organically an innocent dick joke can be conceived. That particular funny life incident wasn't forced or crafted -- it happened by itself. And it was originally designed by Seymour's parents, who I can only assume were called, "Mr. and Mrs. Weiner."
What bubble did Seymour's parents live in that, when it came time to name their son, they couldn't give a little thought ahead to the consequences of his first and last name put together. Seymour obviously sounds like "See more" and "Weiner" -- well that's the answer to what you're "going to see more of." And that my friends, is how a dick joke is birthed.
The thing I liked about meeting Seymour that day was that he wasn't ashamed to say his name to me. Just the opposite. He was proud. If anything he was a little cocky.
People tend to profile comedy -- "All he or she does are dick jokes." Like they're cheap and easy. They certainly can be, which is why more and more people are taking vacations in Bangkok. I think my point was it's cheaper and easier there.
Apologies, if the following is a little bit too scientific for some people:
Dicks, or penises as they are called at Universities such as Yale, are not something new. They are in fact the roots of human existence. Like them or not, as far as I have been exposed to their evolution, up until very recently, there would be no human beings without the penis.
Yes, the vagina is equally as important -- in fact much more important to me, especially at the time of this writing -- but I believe the penis came first.
So as soon as the penis was seen by early man, I would go out on a limb to submit that in the beginning of semi-civilized human life as we know it, another early man was making fun of another early man's penis.
So that moment -- that first moment -- that one man originally laughed just looking at another man's penis -- the first dick joke arose. And the penis was the joke. And it was a visual.
And once the first woman saw her first penis -- that was that for all time. I mean, you don't glance at an elbow or a knee and have a chuckle. You might if it had a penis dangling from it. In the knee's case, a British pun could be whittled from that, as the man would probably be Cockney.
Back to being a sensitive man, I realize this piece could rub people the wrong way. I don't want to do that. It could cause rug burn. For me, one of my goals as a new writer is to rub people the right way. With all the heaviness in this world, we all could use a few quick laughs a day. A couple quick releases. With a happy ending.
Maybe with this brief article, I'll move on and grow as an artist, past my inherited occasional immature enjoyment of the dick joke. I know some would find it refreshing -- yet, on the flip side, some would find it sad because it would be the end of an era. It's bad enough that the ice caps are melting, but the end of the dick joke? We can't let that happen.
My father handed them down to me because they were handed down to him by his father -- well, maybe not his father -- maybe it was his uncle. In any case, it was inappropriate but funny. And it gets some people through their day, no matter how stupid and miniscule the concept of it even seems. And it's a part of our vernacular and my personal family history.
So here comes some truth:
Some people hand down the family business, some people hand down the family intellect, but I was handed down from my father something I will treasure until the end of my days...
What a kind, proud, and loving father he was. And that's what I'm going to hand down to my kids. Kindness, pride, and love -- what the hell, they're all girls -- I can't just give 'em a bunch of dick jokes.
Happy Father's Day.
Bob Saget's book, Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian, is available now and for full stand-up tour dates visit BobSaget.com.