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July 3, 2000   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

[In Haiku form]

Word play gets me none.
Who wants to date a punster?
Breakup Girl, help me!

--Polysyllabically Perverse Paul

PS Why is it that while intelligence and humor rank high on the list of desired characteristics for a man (somewhere after "cute buns," "fat wallet," and "not an axe murderer"), word play is considered most unattractive?

PPS Does the superhero-who-puns-not-too-infrequently-herself also find it necessary to bite her tongue on first dates?

Dear Polysyllabically Perverse Paul,

Why does word play get you none? Good one, good question. This super-comedian will offer you her theory: yes, we like intelligence. Yes, we like humor. (Never mind a "sense," in fact; how about a freaking "grasp," thank you very much?). And yes, puns can be a sophisticated form of humor.

Can be. See, yeah, Shakespeare used puns, but then again, so did Dixie Cups. Puns can be total genius; puns can be total groaners. On one level, the danger's simple as that.

Even more important: it's one thing when humor seems to flow naturally from a situation. It's another when humor seems to have been wrung from it. I say this not so much about the craft of humor per se, but rather, in the context of dating. The point: your date wants to feel like you're listening to her, not for homonyms.

Here, from the "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Improv Class" file, the pearliest of pearls: "Never try to be funny." If the joke's not there at exchange #1, wait 'til exchange #2. Or #3. Whatever. Same goes for "crowd work" in standup. Just wait. The joke -- pun, whatever -- will show up because it's funny, not because you're trying. And the payoff -- humor-wise, first-impression-wise -- will be that much greater.

Do I have to bite my own tongue? Honestly, not so much, as I try to follow my own (above) rule here. But I will say that single female comedians have a whole different take on the question: "Are there any straight men left?"

Breakup Girl

PS Click here for tips on opening lines.



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