Ode to Mr. Squishy Ball

Being a comedy writer is not always easy. Being a comedy writer that nobody has ever heard of doesn’t make the situation any better. Or at least I suspect this is the case. I’m sure all writers have to deal with mental blocks that keep the words from being transferred from the brain to the keyboard from time to time. Sometimes it becomes necessary to “fall back” on countless readers who willingly send in funny local newspaper stories involving strange occurrences involving toilets, animals, and possibly explosions put together in some rather humorous combination. This method, however, can only be used if you are an established comedy writer with an internationally syndicated newspaper column where countless readers are aware of the fact that you write comedy for a living.

One of the most common approaches to humor is to make fun of a physical condition of a complete stranger. Try using the phrase “severe rectal itch” without it being funny. Not counting the last sentence. A typical example goes something like this: “My wife thought she had a SEVERE RECTAL ITCH, but it turns out she just wants to have kids.” This type of comedy is, in my humble opinion, not particularly suited to my style of writing. First of all, I don’t have a wife. And if I did, with my luck I would be the one with severe rectal itch. Readers would be scratching their heads wondering if our kids would have the ailment, and how that is supposed to be funny.

I think this style is better suited to standup comedians. While the aforementioned phrase used in the printed word does maintain some of its intended qualities, the heart of the joke lays in the physical interpretation of the medical condition. Just imagine a young man in a dark comedy club running around on stage pretending to be his pregnant wife who happens to be suffering from severe rectal itch. Now there is a five minute comedy routine that anyone would enjoy. Well, maybe not his wife.

So where does a guy like me turn to when the proverbial comedy well runs dry? Generally speaking, I go and play with my toys. On either side of my computer I have a lava lamp. When the words aren’t coming out, I’ll turn them on and start reminiscing about the 1970s. Of course I was no older than 5 years old during that decade, so I can’t say I understood too many of the political and sociological changes that shook our nation. Elvis died before I had a chance to sing “Heartbreak Hotel” in the shower. Saturday Night Live was making fun of Jimmy Carter’s career as a nuclear scientist before I was allowed to stay up that late. But I digress.

Lava lamps do their share to provide me with visual stimulation, but it’s kind of a one way process. Sure, they can be turned on and off. Although they get hot, it is also possible to shake them up to see what happens. But when all is said and done, the lava lamps are just made to be watched.

Interactivity is the key for a toy to hold my interest. That is why I love my squishy ball so. It fits wonderfully in the palm of my hand. Inside the green stretchy rubber exterior is some type of fluid with hundreds of little tiny purple and blue beads that float about at will. I sit on my couch and play with it when I need inspiration. I squish one side of the ball and lots of the beads go squirting off to the other side. One of my favorite things to do is to squish the ball in half and try and get all the beads on one side, and all the fluid on the other. It’s quite a difficult task. And the worst part is that the fluid inside is somewhat opaque, so I can never be one hundred percent sure I have achieved my goal. But that is totally beside the point. I can’t explain how, but it inspires me to write.

Many of my friends who have seen my squishy ball notice it has a definite resemblance to a breast implant. That is why I now keep it carefully hidden from casual observers in the back of my desk drawer. While I’m not opposed to breast implants in extreme cases such as mastectomies and severe rectal itch, I don’t want my squishy ball being surgically placed in the chest of a woman. Even if the recipient host were to somehow agree to quietly sit in my apartment and let me play with it whenever I wanted, I’m sure with my luck the “women-ness” would rub off on the squishy ball. It would only be a matter of time before the squishy ball would say to me, “Let’s just be friends, OK?”

A lot of people wonder how much of what I write is the truth. I include myself in this group. I’m not saying I always tell the truth, but I would never lie about my toys. That is why I felt it necessary to dedicate this story to severe rect… I mean Mr. Squishy Ball.