Tag Archives: humor

Drunk on a Truth Binge

April 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

What does a medieval murder have to do with your television viewing habits?

How could a bit of historical treachery lead to a description of your propensity for watching endless hours of Netflix, abandoning family and friends for 28 consecutive episodes featuring a British actor playing an epically depressed Swedish detective, or your continued, addictive retreat into the vast canon of Sex in the City?

Indeed, the old saw is all too true: “Those who do not know history are doomed to re-watch it.”

There’s a Shakespeare quote from Henry VI, Part I that offers our first clue. “A base Walloon, to win the Dauphin’s grace/Thrust Talbot with a spear in the back.”

“Who the heck was Talbot?” you wonder as you search for your Amazon Fire remote. “Glad you asked,” I reply. Sir John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, was an English commander during the Hundred Years War. (Yes, back in the 15th century warfare was a more leisurely pursuit.) He was defeated by Joan of Arc at the Siege of Orleans, and eventually killed by the aforementioned “base Walloon” at the Battle of Castillon in 1453.

“What the heck is a Walloon,” you inquire half-heartedly, as you browse the menu looking for that eight-episode series starring the onetime “King of the North,” post-Red Wedding, Medici: Masters of Florence. “Once again, glad you asked,” I answer. The Walloons are an ethnic group, who populate a region in Belgium centered on the Sambre and the Muese rivers. Descendants of Roman soldiers and Gaulish collaborators who stood on the lower Rhine against the Germanic barbarians back in the day.

“And I should care about them, because?” you interject as you give the Turkish miniseries about Suleyman the Magnificent, Muhtesem Yuzyil, a single star review because you didn’t like the music. “Well, because they have a Carnival,” I explain.

“Get on with it,” you’re getting a little exasperated now. “Where is this going?”

You see, at this Walloonish carnival that precedes Lent just like Mardi Gras, the citizens of one old walled town parade around wearing scary wax clown masks and ostrich feathers, throwing oranges at people. Everyone gets wild and does crazy things they couldn’t do any other time of year. They go wild. Excess is the rule of the celebration. If you can avoid being struck by too many oranges, or being traumatized by a feathered waxy clown, you can indulge yourself without pause.

“Indulge myself without pause?” Now I’ve got your interest. “And the name of this town?”

I thought you’d never ask. The tiny walled city is called Binche.

“Binche?”

Yeah, Binche. Say it out loud. Repeat. Binche. It’s the origin of our new favorite word.

“Oh! I get it! Binge!” Your face lights up. Not from any sudden understanding, but from the glow of your 77-inch black matrix LED big screen as episode one of Breaking Bad starts. You’ve got a long weekend ahead. You’re starting your latest binge.

So, Shakespeare mentions a murder, which brings attention to an obscure ethnic group who have a yearly party in a walled town full of fruit-tossing creepy clowns, and that gets us a word that describes us stuck on our TV room sectionals.

Stop, I confess! I made it all up. Well, everything about Henry VI, the dead Talbot, Walloonish clowns, and the walled town of Binche was true. Unfortunately, none of it applies to the origin of the word in question. It’s another case of fake lexicography. In reality the word “binge” comes from the Northampton, England, dialect, “To binge,” meaning to soak. Yes, even the truth can be wrong.

Ain’t that the way it goes these days?

Otis XII hosts the radio program, Early Morning Classics with Otis XII, on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Ethics

June 11, 2015 by

This article originally published in Summer 2015 edition of B2B.

Consider the following:

Bob, Carl, and Doug are refilling their coffee cups in the kitchen at their office. Bob says that a friend of his just forwarded an email with really funny jokes. His favorite is, “A sandwich walked into a bar. The bartender says, “We don’t serve food here.”

Carl and Doug laugh.

“And how ‘bout this,” Bob says, “A woman gets on the trolley with her baby. The trolley driver says: “Ugh, that’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen!’’ The woman walks to the rear of the trolley and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her, ‘‘The driver just insulted me!’’ The man says, ‘‘You go up there and tell him off. Go on, I’ll hold your monkey for you.’’

“Mmm,” says Carl.

Doug laughs.

“Was that your wife and new baby on the trolley?” Doug teases Carl.

Everyone stands uncomfortably silent.

Bob says, “Did you see the picture of Wally and his team in the paper?” [Wally’s firm is a competitor.] “Looked like Wally should have had a trim and a shave before the picture. I think I saw long, black monkey hair coming out of his shirt sleeves.”

Bob, Carl, and Doug walk out of the kitchen together, smiling.

What do you think of the guys’ humor? Is it funny? Depends on whether it hits the mark and makes you laugh. Personally, I laughed at the sandwich joke. I like puns. And I laughed at the second joke about the mom and child on the trolley. But Doug’s teasing about Carl’s wife and baby was a little painful—and Bob’s final joke was cutting (Wally wouldn’t have liked it at all)—but it brought the guys together. What’s that about?

Bob used what is called outgroup humor. It’s demeaning, negative humor directed outside a group that has the positive affect of bringing a group together. The May 2014 edition of International Journal of Humor Research (no joke) included an article called “Assessing Humor at Work,” that talks about this.

I’ll bet we’ve all experienced outgroup humor. I’ve been in workplaces where bosses use it. And you know what? I’ll laugh at almost anything, but for some reason I’ve never appreciated outgroup humor.

Outgroup humor has the mark of being unethical. While it does succeed in creating a bond, it builds an “us” vs. “them” mentality based on divisiveness and derision.

The journal article also helps us understand why we appreciate (or don’t) Bob’s other jokes. The authors of the article distinguish between positive and negative, self-oriented and other-oriented humor.

Intuitively, any positive humor, whether about oneself or another, is usually appropriate and ethical. Thus the sandwich joke is funny. We start getting into trouble when we use negative humor, especially regarding others. Thus the “ouch” when Doug teases Carl about his wife and kid. This kind of humor, when used on someone in our group, can feel like a betrayal and not end up being funny at all.

Generally speaking, humor is a good thing. It has value because it can help us get along with each other.

The questions about the ethics of humor concern the what, when, how, and with whom. It’s important to think about these and use humor right because I want to hear a good joke or two at work, don’t you? Like, “What do you call a nun lost in the woods?” A roamin’ Catholic.

Beverly-J-Kracher,-PH-D-BW

The Mavboni Guy

February 6, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The schtick never gets old.

It happens every time the University of Nebraska-Omaha men’s hockey team scores its first goal at a home game: Greg McVey comes rolling onto the ice driving what appears to be a miniature Zamboni, executes a wheelie or two, scoops up a frozen fish that’s been tossed onto the ice (as the opposing team’s goalie “fishes” the puck from the back of the net), then steers the quirky contraption back through an opening in the boards and disappears. The crowd at the CenturyLink Center Omaha roars its approval of the sideshow—and the UNO goal.

“Once the fish is thrown,” explains McVey, “I’ve got to get in and out of there fast, driving around four refs and 10 players, so I don’t hold up the game. Complicating matters, he adds that “I never know if the dang thing is going to steer right.”

The “dang thing,” designed and built by McVey, made its on-ice debut in January 2003 when the Mavs hosted Ohio State at the old Civic Auditorium under then-head coach Mike Kemp. Dubbed the “Mavboni” by McVey’s fellow Red Army hockey boosters, the nifty fish-retrieval vehicle quickly became part of the whole hockey experience.

Well, usually, that is.

“Four times in 236 home games the first goal never came,” says McVey, who lives in Lincoln. “They were shut out. Only four times. Impressive.”

The Mavboni demonstrates McVey’s evolution as a tinkerer. The Norfolk, Neb. native spent 14 years assembling and racing go-karts. He chased national and world championships all over the country, running on dirt tracks at 105 miles per hour. Later on, an episode of “Monster Garage” inspired McVey to build a motorized bar stool. “Just what everyone needs,” he deadpans, though he sold quite a few in two years. With motors, steel tracks, and tires filling his basement, the life-long hockey fan thought building a shrunken ice-resurfacing machine would bring a laugh at tailgate parties.

While McVey is a fan of all things “silly and meaningless,” Coach Kemp looked for gimmicks to lure fans to his young hockey program. In fact, it was Kemp who came up with the fish throw soon after the Mavs played their first game in 1997. He got the idea after he was hit in the head by a flying salmon during a hockey game in Anchorage, Alaska, while an assistant coach at Wisconsin.

Is there any doubt the two men would eventually team up?

“I was going to my weekly radio show at DJ’s Dugout in Miracle Hills around 2002 when I saw this really neat Zamboni thing racing around the parking lot,” recalls Kemp, now UNO’s associate athletic director. “I said to somebody, ‘we’ve got to get that out on the ice.’”

When UNO hockey moves to its new arena in Aksarben in October, the Mavboni will also make the move. “Even after all these years, every time I see it I smile,” says Kemp.

Thanks to Greg McVey, thousands of hockey fans can say the same thing.

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Please Open the School Doors

August 16, 2013 by

I enjoy my kids a lot. But by the end of summer, I’m exhausted, and the kids are bored. We’re all ready for school to start. I’m the wacky woman with nose pressed to the window of the school (like the crazy lady from the Target Black Friday ads)—ready for school to open.

I’m not beneath suggesting my kids are smarter than me. It’s not a stretch. I’m okay with that. My kids need/demand a few things: attention, intellectual stimulation, and activity. In short, I cannot keep up with them during the summer.

They are smarter, faster, and stronger. I can’t find enough to keep them engaged and entertained. And what’s with their physical recovery time? They could run a marathon, then announce, “Mom, I’m hungry.” Or “Mom I’m bored now.” Or “Mom, now what can we do?” Funny. Cleaning their rooms, mowing the lawn, or doing their laundry never seems to cure their boredom.

Could someone please open the doors for school? Please?

This summer we went on several road trips. We went camping. We let the kids stay up and then sleep in. We took full advantage of their spare time and had them help in the yard and do their own laundry. We had lazy days and even got caught in the rain a few times.

And so, soon after dropping my kids off for school, I want them back. I’ve just had so much fun with them this summer. I want them to hug me and tell me all about their day. Because, in the summer, I know about their days—I’m with them. Now I don’t know what’s going on all day. I try to get them to let me go to school with them, but I guess there are rules against that.

Summer is all about cool, new experiences and adventures. Back-to-school is all about seeing old friends and making new friends. And turning those brilliant minds back into high gear. Projects, essays, concerts, and games await us.

I must admit, I’m dreading the ridiculous morning routine for school. Can’t we start school a little later? Like, say, maybe noonish?

Why on earth (of all schools) would my district have the middle schools starting the earliest? Doesn’t the school board know we’re dealing with amateur teens here? Chemicals are literally brewing in their brains. They can’t function, and you’re going to hit them with a leaving time of 7:20 a.m.?

Let the “KIDS, GET UP, TIME TO GO LEARN!” fights begin.

And so school begins and summer comes to an abrupt end, as does the conflicted, intense, emotional battle of wanting to schlep our kids off to school while fighting the urge to never let them go.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Fashionably Late

July 22, 2013 by

I wish I could be the cool and fashionably late gal. But as it turns out, my body doesn’t process late or fashionable. There’s just one thing I put off until the last minute: buying school clothes. Aside from my disdain for clothes shopping, there’s reason in waiting until the very last minute—my kids grow, and they grow fast.

Being a six-footer since I was 12, you’d think I’d be completely aware of fast-growing kids. But just a glance at my kids’ feet and I’m overwhelmed. “Growth spurt” in our house isn’t so much the adolescent years as much as an incessant lifetime.

When I was a kid, school clothes shopping was a time-honored tradition a few weeks before school started. Not the case here. One look at my kids and their clothes, a slight calculation of weather not cooling down for a few more months, and we’re the chumps who wait for the first snowfall to go from flip flops and shorts to boots and pants.

If I buy my kids jeans for school, in August, they are guaranteed to be wearing said jeans as capris—maybe even Bermuda shorts—by October. Shoes are a crapshoot; they are updated when toes poke through the shoe.

Lucy needed a different color dance shoe than she had for her recital. Much to the chagrin of the dance teacher, who I promised I’d get the shoes, I waited until the week before the recital. Sure enough, when I took Lucy to get new shoes, she was sporting a full-size bigger than her current shoe.

Even with all those clothes and sizes in all those stores, with all of the updated fashion and technology, any mom with a kid of any shape or size has a hard time finding clothes that fit.

Factor in the new adventure of tween mood swings (I’ve passed down my bad attitude of clothes shopping) and the shopping experience is doomed to fail. There’s just something “unfun” about relentless reps of fiddling through racks of clothes, finding something both the kids and I like, finding their size, the right color, and then the calisthenics of oddly disrobing in an open-aired, quasi-private dressing room. You do all that, pull it on, and then it’s too short. So you get all your clothes back on, trek back out to the rack of clothes, find the next size, back to the dressing room, off with the clothes, on with the new find, and it’s long enough but too baggy. Tack on the fact that my kids now sport adult sizes. Finding age-appropriate clothes in adult sizes makes me feel like I’m Bear Grylls looking for food in the desert. Except my task is way harder.

So we wait. We wait on our shopping attitudes to change and for the weather to chill. The weather happens first. We’re still waiting on attitudes. A promise of mall food and a cookie can only buy so much time. Be assured, when we finally go, we get to the stores early. I’ve patiently waited until far into the school year to buy the kids’ school clothes. We go in, we try everything on, we find what fits and what the grumpy tweens like, and we buy everything in that size, style, and color.

The kids arrive to school fashionably late with their school clothes that fit…at least for a few weeks.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Home Improvement or Not

June 20, 2013 by

If you have a handy person around, it’s good to point out that “I can fix that” only suggests that it’s possible. If and when it actually gets done is apparently on its own moon cycle.

It took me a few days years to convince my husband that re-siding the house wasn’t going to bode well for a weekend project. Eventually, a compromise ensued: Paint the trim ourselves and hire a professional to do the siding. I mean, it’s just painting the trim, right? How hard can that be? (Note to self: Never ever ask that question again.)

We even got the kids involved, working together and frolicking in our cost-saving family togetherness. We did a team huddle, I poured the paint, and that’s when I threw my back out. Wincing but still determined, I couldn’t lift anything. I could bend over, but getting back up wasn’t really an option. So I taped off the top half of the windows.

The kids were eerily eager to play with paint. My husband, Chris, told them to not get paint on the driveway. They must not have heard that part because there were blobs of paint strategically where only the kids had been. Sick of being nagged, the kids took refuge with video games.

Once half of all the windows on the lower level were taped, we headed up to the roof for the next round of windows. At some point in this process, Chris twisted his knee. Now, we had a back-injured grump and a fresh knee-twirked grump hoisted up on the angled roof with no comfort in sight. I kept looking over each shoulder trying to find the best way to sit down without rolling off the roof. That’s when Chris and I struck up a conversation that no doubt saved our marriage:

Chris: “Maybe we should hire someone to do this?”

Me: “How much does it cost to pay someone to do this?”

Chris: “Whatever it costs, we’ll find it in the budget.”

Me: “I love you so much right now.”

Chris: “Let’s get down and go take a nap.”

And that’s how you turn a simple weekend painting project into a 20-minute Clampett’s themed re-décor on its own moon cycle.

Sidenote: I’m on the mend with physical therapy for my back. Chris’ knee seems to have been a by-product of being, ahem, older, and the rain. We’re that old now. And our house looks better for it.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Verbal Gumbo

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Felicia Webster’s voice produces chills up the spine. “And then he kiiiiissssssed me, and I melted. Like buttah.”

Her friend, Michelle Troxclair, nods and waves a hand. “Mhm, girl, we know what that’s like.”

This is spoken-word entertainment. It’s theatrical, it’s heartfelt, it’s ethereal, and it happens every third Thursday of the month at House of Loom on 10th and Pacific streets. This is not your safe-bet night out. The words you’ll hear could be dark, could be sexy, could be hilarious. It could be anything really, which is why Webster and Troxclair, the open-mic evening’s organizers, call this night Verbal Gumbo.

Troxclair arranges the club’s random chaise lounges, velvet chairs, and embroidered hassocks on the dance floor. Webster picks out the candles and incense. If guests outnumber the usual crowd of around 70, there might be a few people standing. A $5 cover charge gets you a simple meal, like Troxclair’s white chicken chili or her brother’s highly requested mac-and-cheese.

The evening begins around 7 p.m., giving guests enough time to sign up to speak if they wish, get their bowl, and settle into a seat. Troxclair is strict about minimizing distraction during the spoken word sets that begin about 8-ish. Of course, feel free to get up from your seat to wait for the massage therapist set up in the corner or the body painter off to the side as someone else speaks at the mic.

“For those who haven’t come here before,” Webster explains, “they’ll find out that it doesn’t matter what order you sign up in.”20130321_bs_8812

Troxclair laughs and says, “It’s whoever I’m feeling like hearing at the time.” The two women make sure speakers alternate male and female, but other than that, there are few rules. People offer poetry about anything from relationships to violence to the triumph of breaking cycles. “Sometimes it’s comedic,” Troxclair says, “but there’s always a message.”

The only requirement is that “you respect the mic,” as Webster puts it. Verbal Gumbo creates a flow between audience and speaker, almost a conversation. The speaker shares his work, and the audience participates in the performance by responding verbally when something resonates.

“Say yes, say amen, say all right, honey!” Troxclair suggests. “You’re validating what they’re saying.”

About 15 people speak per night for about three to five minutes apiece. If time’s not running tight, each person should feel free to offer two pieces. A short intermission makes room for a few public service announcements and to refill a drink.

Felicia Webster

Felicia Webster

If the easily stage-frightened start to come out of their shells as the evening progresses, all bets are not off. Walk back to the sign-up sheet, add your name, and you’ll probably be called on. Deliver your offering with confidence that whatever you bring will be accepted. “This is not The Apollo,” Webster says. “You don’t get the hook.”

Let’s be clear. Verbal Gumbo is not another poetry slam. A poetry slam is an entertaining competition. “Spoken word incorporates storytelling,” Troxclair says, separating spoken word from slam. “It can be prose or poetry.” Historically, it’s an artistic—and sometimes secret—way to spread information. It’s an oral tradition shared by Africans, African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and many other cultures.

“You are disseminating information to get people to think, to move, to change, to progress, to become empowered,” Webster says. That recipe ensures that Verbal Gumbo, like its culinary counterpart, is savory, spicy, and never the same twice.

Sample the next Verbal Gumbo on Thursday, May 16, or Thursday, June 20.

Adam DeVine

Photography by Avalon Management

In Workaholics, the Comedy Central sitcom hit about three roommates/co-workers at a California telemarketing firm, actor Adam DeVine plays an immature, self-absorbed, funny 20-something without any direction. In real life, the former Omahan and Millard South grad, now living in L.A., seems much more motivated and mature than his character, though he’s definitely still after the laughs. Humor has gotten him through some tough times, as well as helped him with “the ladies.”

Just before entering middle school in 1995, DeVine was hit by a cement truck at Harrison and 144th streets, suffering severe injuries. “[Recovery] was tough…But I found out that if I was funny, girls would push me in my wheelchair to my next class. BOSS MOVES,” he jokes.

Later, while attending high school at MSHS (“Go Patriots!”), DeVine struggled with rejection in sports. “I wasn’t crazy-athletic. I tried out for the basketball team every year [and didn’t make it.] By senior year, the coach told me not to bother. I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny,” he says.

So DeVine threw himself into school activities like drama and student council, which allowed him to express his humorous side. As his performance and comedy skills grew, so did his ambitions. His drama teacher, Robin Baker, was instrumental in convincing DeVine’s parents to let him follow his dream to move to California to pursue an entertainment career. “She didn’t blink an eye and told my mom that it was a great idea and that she thought I had the chops to make it,” he remembers. “And she’s always encouraged me to write my own stuff and create my own content. Big ups, Mrs. Baker!”

 “I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny.”

One of DeVine’s big breaks was a national TV commercial for Taco Bell. “I came back to Omaha while it was airing, and I thought I was a superstar,” he says, laughing. More recently, he landed a small supporting role in the box-office hit Pitch Perfect, which garnered him a new league of female fans. (DeVine has to be happy about that.)

Landing Workaholics, however, which has been picked up for two more seasons, has definitely been his biggest role to date. And DeVine feels very lucky for it.

“The creative freedom I have on Workaholics is amazing,” he says. “I want to keep writing my own stuff, and I’ve been told it’s really hard to have this kind of freedom.”

DeVine, who comes back to Nebraska regularly to see friends and family (and occasionally catch a Husker game and grab a Runza, he says), is currently at work on a stand-up comedy/sketch hybrid show called House Party, also for Comedy Central. He and fellow Workaholics actors have written a movie as well, for which comedic actor Seth Rogen has signed on as a producer. “I couldn’t be more psyched. Seth is a great guy to learn from because he’s about my age, and he’s been through it all.”

When asked if there’s any downside to a booming career and fame, he answers, “Finding time to have a life and not working all the time…It’s good to stop, kiss my girlfriend, and call my mom every once in a while.

“Oh, and fake friends…Ya know, the people who would never be friends with me in a million years are suddenly like ‘Bro! What are you doing tonight?’” to which he typically responds, “Nothing with you, dude…I won’t fit in with your crew…I don’t have a fedora or a bedazzled shirt.”

Per usual, DeVine goes for the laugh.

Who’s Wearing the Pants?

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

What do you get the woman who has everything? A man who wants nothing! So you’ve spent your entire life working your way to the top of the corporate ladder, the big house, the big paycheck, and the big car. The problem is finding the big man. In your case, the big man is going to have be the smaller man in many ways.

You’re the alpha-female. You have to be in control. Do you really want to come home to a man who can’t handle your success? What you need is a man that is happy finding success in different ways, such as in the gym or being an excellent chef. Does that mean you’re looking for a maid with abs that walks around all day in an apron that says, “Kiss the Cook”? It’s possible, if that’s what you’re looking for. The most important thing is to find a man who takes pride in whatever it is that he does—regardless of its monetary return.

An alpha-female dating a less successful alpha-male is a one-way ticket to nowhere. Set him free. There’s someone out there that can make him feel like the man he needs to be, and there’s someone out there that can make you feel at home on top of your ivory tower.

Lüc Carl is a writer in NYC, originally from Springfield, Neb. His website, LucCarl.com, has had over one million hits in one year. Look for his book The Drunk Diet. Follow @luccarl on Twitter.

Don’t Blow It

January 25, 2013 by

5. You’re Dating Your Phone. As much as he likes it when you’re distracted, it’s a turn-off when you have a better relationship with your plastic phone than your hunk of burnin’ love. Stop texting so much.

4. You’re Too Needy. He needs his “man time.” Let him watch sports as much as he wants. When his team wins, remind him about that movie you wanted to go see.

3. Too Much Too Soon. Give him time to ask you to be his “girlfriend.” To say “I love you,” to meet your parents…It’s a natural evolution. If you let him breathe, he’ll do these things because he wants to, not because he feels he has to.

2. Stop Complaining. If there are certain things you don’t like about your man to the point where you’re complaining, chances are you don’t really like your man. That’s your fault, not his. Stop wasting each other’s time.

1. You Don’t Like His Job. If you want him to get a better job, go out and get yourself a better job. If he’s any kind of a man at all, he’ll want to grow with you as a human being and as a life partner. He’ll be inspired to go out and try harder at life to make the relationship grow.

Lüc Carl is a writer in NYC, originally from Springfield, Neb. His website, LucCarl.com, has had over one million hits in one year. Look for his book The Drunk Diet. Follow @luccarl on Twitter.