This article was not written by Dick Wolfsie. It was written about Dick Wolfsie. He was having trouble coming up with something to write about this week after being housebound for a year. Humor is based on life, and he apparently hasn’t had much of one lately.
It’s hard to know whether he’s really tried to come up with a topic. Maybe he’s been busy compulsively popping bubble wrap and binge-watching VHS tapes of his old TV segments. I volunteered to be a guest columnist this week so he wouldn’t miss his deadline.
I’ve been Dick’s copy editor for 20 years, scrutinizing more than 1,000 humor columns. I’ve removed the typos from his stories before the newspaper editor sees what a lousy speller he is.
I’ve also worked with Dick on 13 of his 14 books. We have a mutual appreciation for clear, concise language and a well-timed and snappy punch line.
I’m taking this opportunity to share what that relationship has been like, since readers might not know what happens behind the scenes.
Dick is a former high school English teacher and I’m a grammar nerd. He and I can spend 20 minutes debating a single sentence’s best wording. We dissect and reconstruct whole paragraphs in order to fine-tune the comedic timing. If Dick and I worked with each other in person instead of over the phone, we’d have to wear helmets. That’s how often we butt heads.
By the way, I am not a writer and I’m not creative. I don’t come up with any of Dick’s clever lines. I don’t even try. My job is to ensure his wit comes through to you. If you ever thought something he wrote wasn’t funny, you can blame me.
When we’re working, I’ll often hear his wife Mary Ellen holler downstairs to Dick to ask who he’s arguing with. He yells back, “Heidi,” which lets Mary Ellen know she has time to go finish the last half of the book she’s reading or to watch a couple of old episodes of “The Big Valley.”
Dick often pokes fun at his wife in his stories. Readers comment to her all the time what a saint she must be to put up with that. What about me? I get no sympathy and I’m the one fighting with him. We disagree on a lot of things, like any two people might, but I always convince him he won the debate. Here’s some free advice from writers and copy editors: Don’t ever let your spouse edit your text. Not if you still want a spouse.
I hope you enjoyed this column and that you didn’t find any spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or editing issues. I don’t have a proofreader, and I sure wasn’t going to let Dick mess with it.