My dad was a true extrovert: I don’t think he ever met a stranger. Upon making someone’s acquaintance, he would immediately seek opportunity to amuse or cheer the person. To accomplish this he would resort to resources he had on hand, such as several good impersonations in his repertoire: Fred Flintstone, Mr. Magoo, and Yogi Bear, to name just a few. These Hannah-Barbera and UPA feature cartoons were very popular with both adults and children in the 60’s, so dad’s renditions could be counted on to evoke smiles. (He could also re-enact the entire pool hall speil by Harold Hill in The Music Man — flawlessly — but that wasn’t one you’d whip out on a first encounter with someone.)
He also stockpiled Laffy Taffy caliber puns that would elicit either grins or groans. (Unfortunately, when I got to my teenage years, I took to groaning.*) He had one-liners that were designed to catch people off guard and amuse, such as his compulsory after-dinner quip to dinner guests, “Well, don’t leave hungry… just leave!” at which point he would begin laughing, completely caught up in the humor and scandal of it all.
He could blow smoke rings, often to the oohs and aahs of observers. He could simulate a person with his dentures out by manipulating his lips (which was sure would get giggles from kids), as well as the classic, “Pull my finger” ploy. He wasn’t averse to sporting his hat or cap at a funny angle, creating impromptu zany mustaches with whatever props might be on hand (think soda straws and other restaurant paraphernalia), or other silly antics to get a reaction from folks — especially young people.
I grew accustomed to him being Johnny on the Spot with little gags and rib-ticklers, but one that stands head and shoulders above the rest was when he master-minded a caper to pull off during the next card party he and my mom would host.
To execute the prank, he would first need a drinking glass. The one he selected may very well have been “borrowed” from my mom’s stash. It was made of clear glass, was about eight or ten ounces in volume, and was weighted by a thick glass base — your standard issue beverage glass. Next he would need a drill and a bit. Back in the day, drills in our household weren’t fitted with electrical cords, but were powered manually. So with his very own hands, Dad drilled a very small hole in the bottom of the glass. Afterward, he rewashed the glass and positioned it at the very front of the other glasses in the cupboard, situated so that a person would naturally grab that one first. End of preparation. Ready for Show Time.
When the card friends arrived, Dad could barely conceal his excitement over the practical joke which was sure to play out at some point during the evening. And, as expected, one of the men asked if he could have a drink of water.
“Sure. Help yourself,” he replied. “The glasses are in the cupboard above the kitchen sink.” Then he sat back and waited. Of course, when the hapless fellow re-entered the room with tell-tale drips of water from the “dribble glass” all over the front of his shirt, Dad busted a gut.
Now, all the while Dad was planning his little gag, I wasn’t all that sure it was such a good idea. I mean, I sure wouldn’t want to go to someone’s house and have water dribble down the front of my outfit while getting a drink. But then again, I was a six or seven-year-old who was prone to miss the subtleties and nuances of adult interactions, communication, and humor. Dad’s buddies, on the other hand, were highly amused by his stunt and may have even borrowed the cup for a lark of their own.
Score one more for the King of Jokes.
(*When I got older, I became an inveterate punster myself, which means I’m either a chip off the old block, or a product of “A Child Learns What He Lives”. You pick.)