Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mr. Fantastic and the joke that never got a laugh

Mr. Fantastic. Funny. 

Buy the premise, buy the bit.

One of the oldest rules of comedy usually holds true, but only once in my long and checkered, I mean distinguished, career as a stand-up comic did a joke defy this law.

The joke - a mildly risque observation about Mr. Fantastic - would get laughs at the end of the setup, but when it came to the punchline? Nothing. Nada. Zip.

I enlisted the help of my comedian friends. That didn't work, so I got the help of my non-comedian friends. That didn't work, so I asked my enemies. They just beat me up.

So, with that in mind, here is the joke with a blank where the punch - the funny - should be.

The joke:
The setup: 

When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be a superhero. Not just any hero. I wanted to be Mr. Fantastic, leader of the Fantastic Four. Mr. Fantastic was cool, because he could stretch any part of his body into whatever length, width, or shape he desired. So he did what any guy with that power would do. He fought crime.

The punch:

Oh, come on. If I had that power, I'd be hanging out at parties. Just waiting for people to inevitably ask, "Why do they call you Mr. Fantastic?"

And I'd say (casual pose, holding mock drink), "I'm standing here talking to you, right? Well, three blocks away, I'm ___________________. (Take sip of mock drink.)

Probably my favorite discarded punchline is, "Doing it with Betty and Veronica." Nope: that didn't work either.

Any ideas? Remember: I don't work blue (aka "dirty") and we're aiming for "Ha, ha, ha!" not "Ewwww...." Do tell.


  1. I'm on a date with the Invisible Woman

  2. "...stuck in traffic."
    You're welcome.

  3. This is how the bombing started. Ha, ha!

  4. I'd like to play the obscure card and end your story with "making Milton Berle cry". Uncle Miltie had a reputation among comedians for having a large penis, so clearly he'd feel emasculated by Mr Fantastic's super-power. Of course your audience might think Milton Berle was crying for a totally different reason, but as he's dead, they are clearly very sick individuals.

    (Jeff's Sizable Contribution)

  5. I don't get it. Did you tell this joke at a Celibacy Anonymous meeting? It's a damned good joke!

  6. I think the best I can come up with is "teaching kids sign language", because that sounds like a thing somebody would (as the saying goes nowadays) humble-brag about at a party anyway.

    The problem with the punchline might be arrangement rather than content, actually, when I read it over again. Keep in mind that I suggest this as somebody who doesn't do standup or anything, and as such is wildly unqualified, but -- I think the payoff of the gag, whatever it might be, clicks better mentally if "three blocks away" comes after the blank rather than before it. "I'm also __________ three blocks away." Walking my dog, picking up beer, mowing my lawn, reading a book, parking my car -- they all work (or at least work well enough) in that spot because that isn't the funny part, the funny part is that he's three blocks away. He stretches. To crib from McBain, that's the joke.

    But then, I suppose the efficacy of the switch would depend entirely on one's personal delivery, which is why the whole hypothesis is theoretical at best. Curse my ivory-tower background!

  7. Love the comments. I'll write a follow-up soon.


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