There are few things more surreal than a joke made up by a child. Children understand the concept of a joke. They see the structure and they see that certain characters show up regularly. So, they just rearrange these parts and come up with something new, that, to them, makes just as much sense as the jokes everyone else is telling. But they make no sense at all, because the crucial concepts of “pun” and “satire” have not made it into their mind yet. But they are still funny, because children understand something that we as adults often forget about, and that is that 50% of the joke is the interaction and contagious laughter of either the joke teller, or the other people listening to the joke teller. It’s why sitcoms have laugh tracks, right?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past 12 hours. Because last night Gideon told me a joke in the car.
He said, “Hey dad, I have a joke.”
And I said, “Oh, yeah? I bet you do.”
And then he said, “Okay, why did the chicken go across the road?”
And I was like, “Huh, I don’t know. Why DID the chicken cross the road.”
And he already started laughing and then calmed down just long enough to say, “Okay, so the chicken go’d across the road because him wanted to be an astronaut, but he got lost on the way and ended up at City Hall!”
And I said, “Excuse me?”
And so he said it all again, this time laughing the whole way through. And Lydia, sitting next to him was laughing too and gave him a high-five and said, “That was a good one Gideon.” and by this point, I was too confused to laugh, and I nearly drove the car off the road because I was so distracted.
The chicken wanted to be an astronaut, but somehow on the way to becoming an astronaut he lost his way and ended up at City Hall. I can laugh. But at the same time, after 12 hours of thinking about it, it also makes me a little bit sad. This poor chicken. He had such impossible dreams. He wanted to be a chicken that went beyond his chicken heritage and did something great. Chickens can’t fly you say? Well, watch this! Straight to the moon. Straight to the moon… He would lay in bed and dream about this. In his mind, he designed a helmet that fit over his beak. He would close his eyes and dream about jumping on the moon with his wings extended and floating, his children watching on television screaming “That’s my dad! I can’t believe that that is my dad!”. He worked hard at this dream. He did everything in his power. But something happened along the way, and his dreams never became a reality. The space program just isn’t the place for a chicken. And eventually, after decades of trying, and decades of failing, he found himself standing on a sidewalk downtown, holding a briefcase, wearing a tie, clucking anxiously to himself. He had hit hard times. Become desperate. As a last resort, he turned to politics. If he couldn’t overcome the obstacles preventing him from achieving his dreams, maybe he could at least change the rules so his children could have a better chance at life. He thought about the eggs his wife was sitting on back at the roost. He looked up into a blue sky and saw the moon frowning down at him. He closed his eyes and remembered his wife’s words as he left the house that morning. “Bock bock,” she had said. And she was right. Of course, she was right. He stepped off the curb, and slowly crossed the street as everyone, including my own son, stood on the sidelines and pointed and laughed.