My wife, Mary Ellen, is usually a warm and caring person, so when I turned to her the other at dinner and said, “I can’t think of anything left to make fun of anymore. I may have to stop writing my humor column,” I was surprised when she replied, “Could you please pass the salt?”
I knew I had writer’s block several weeks ago when I awoke in the middle of the night sweating, with discomfort in my chest. I thought it was a heart attack. With a heart attack, trained physicians put you on a table, insert a tube in your leg, and then shove it into your groin and up to your heart to clear the blockage. I should be so lucky. At least there’s a treatment.
I’ve written these weekly columns for 22 years — almost 1,200 of them. Mary Ellen must think it’s easy to come up with a good idea every week.
“Why aren’t you more sympathetic to my problem, Mary Ellen? I cannot think of anything funny anymore.”
“You always think you have a humor block, Dick. You complain about this every few months. Look, I’ll prove it. Pick any topic and I’ll throw some straight lines at you. Let’s see how you do.”
I picked inflation and high gas prices. Mary Ellen was ready: “Dick, why did you go to Taco Bell yesterday and eat a burrito for breakfast?”
“Let’s see … I wanted to go somewhere I could get gas for under $4?”
“See? You’re still on your game. Suppose I said for our anniversary, I want you to take me someplace expensive. What would you say?”
“I’d say, let’s go to the Shell station.”
“Right on the money. Let’s try this: How high are restaurant prices?”
“Even the Mafia is eating at Olive Garden.”
“Dick, that was great. I almost cracked a smile. Now, one more straight line. How bad are gas prices going to get this spring?”
“Pretty bad. This year it may have to be the Indianapolis 200.”
“See, you did beautifully. Now, quit griping and get back to work.”
“Wait a second, that little exercise proved nothing. I stole those lines from Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah and Jimmy Fallon.”
“Dick, let’s be realistic. You’re no comic genius, you’re just Dick Wolfsie. You have to get material any way you can, even if your method is a little shady. And remember, every column can’t be great. Work with what you have.”
She was right. I can’t come up with an original idea for every piece and expect each one to be hysterical. Sometimes I just have to turn in something that’s mediocre, encompassing a funny line or two that I pilfered from someone else. Then I have to hope you won’t notice.