No laughing matter

My brain scan glared at me from the illuminated display board. Not good news I’m afraid, said the doctor. You have a condition we call Early Onset Wit Loss. This section of your brain is deteriorating. You’ve already noticed that you’re no longer as funny in social situations.

He paused. You need to know that the condition is degenerative, there’s nothing we can do to stop it. So it’s going to get worse, not better. I’m sorry to tell you, you will never be funny again.

How long do I have? I asked quietly.

It could be months, it could be years, he said.

I shook my head. Is there nothing I can do?

He said, the best advice I can give is: don’t try to be funny. If you hope you are about to be funny, you probably won’t be. Most importantly you should avoid puns. Many people with your condition slip into a bad pun habit. Remember, puns are never funny.

But I’m funny, I said. I know I am funny.

He said gently, of course you are, but this is a medical condition, you can’t fight it. Perhaps now is a good time to re-brand yourself as a quiet font of wisdom.

I grinned. I’ve never been that font of wisdom, I said.

My God, said the doctor. It’s worse than I thought.

From my book Ministry of Ideas. First published in The Kiwi Diary 2010.