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Living With A Comic Genius

As you may have read earlier in the magazine my Dad, Clint McElroy, has been chosen as the person with the “Best Sense of Humor” in Huntington. You may not have considered the full repercussions of this achievement. Heck, I’m not even sure he has. Think about it. This means if Soupy Sales were to roll into town, my Dad could stroll right up to him, pat him heartily on the back and slap a large red ribbon on his chest that read “#2.” Now that’s power. I’m here to tell you, if your father can’t demean Soupy Sales in public, you’re missing a heady experience. That’s just one of the perks of being the son of the funniest man in Huntington.

Another perk is the never-ending stream of stories that make for great party fodder. Here’s just one example: My Dad was in Huntington City Hall’s Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium to see his eldest son perform as Lord Growlie in “The Wizard of Oz.” Dad has an affinity for white, golf ball-sized jawbreakers available at any local Cracker Barrel. At some point before my stunning performance, one of these jawbreakers popped out of his mouth and onto the floor of the darkened theatre. As it began to roll down the sloped floor of the auditorium, my Dad jumped to his feet and shouted, “Oh my God! My glass eye!”

A kindly old woman seated in the row in front of him snatched the faux glass eye from its certain fate of sticking to the bottom of the shoe of a pit trombonist. The poor woman only had the glass eye in her possession for a few seconds, but I imagine she spent that precious time evaluating the relative stickiness of a glass eye that had recently been in someone’s head. She passed the ocular confection back to him as he responded with a sheepish, “Thank you so much. I would have hated to miss half the show.”

Pure comic genius.

I’ve grown up in a household that is ruled by stories like this. We live in a constant, friendly competition of outrageous stories, silly new catch phrases, and, of course, the latest jokes. This is high quality material you understand, not corny puns like most fathers serve up. (Our household considers the pun to be the humor equivalent of a poke in the eye. It is effective, sure, but it is dirty and only to be used as a last resort.)

Dad also taught us the boundaries of humor. It shouldn’t be used to hurt people (unless they really deserve it) and making fun of people because they are different is down there below the pun.

Is it possible to go too far with a joke? Maybe. For this example, you should know that my cousin Tom installed an invisible fence around his yard to keep his dogs on his property. My younger brother Travis once thought it would be a great idea to take the dog’s collar (the one installed with electrical prongs which emit a shock into the dog if it crosses the invisible barrier) and strap it around his leg. My Dad and I agreed this would indeed be a great idea. Collar in tow, Travis leapt towards where he envisioned the barrier to be. What follows in an actual transcript of the event:

“Did I hit it yet?” Travis asked.
“You’ll know when you hit it,” Tom replied.
“Did I hit ye....(buzz)?”

Travis yelped like a newborn and fell into a heap on the opposite side of the fence. He proceeded back toward us, obviously frazzled. Somehow in this state he forgot to take the collar off before crossing the barrier again, and again was shocked into oblivion.

Humor is something that is a way of life for us. It is always easy to have running jokes with my family and you never need to catch anyone up. For instance, when Travis was six he felt he was being saddled with more household chores than was fair. He suggested to my parents that they acquire a foreign exchange student, perhaps named Bing-Ho, to help with the work. Now, almost 10 years later, whenever Mom has work for Travis to do she refers to him as Bing-Ho.

When people ask me “What must it be like to live with a man as funny as your Dad?” I tell them that it’s not much different than most families, though admittingly a bit more pleasant.

Everybody has a different way of saying “I love you,” a different way of passing on traditions. The people in my house just happen to communicate with humor. It is just the way I grew up. I never really thought it was odd, though I did wonder why other Dads could never time a good punch line. Not to mention wondering why other kids’ brothers didn’t have those weird burn marks on their legs.


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