Looking For A Few Good Laughs...

Continued (page 2 of 4)

I sat between Kite and George Archer, who had won the event a couple of years before. Because Archer is also too tall for the game, he was one of my childhood heroes, though I never expected him to have a sense of humor. But as we sat beneath the stars, Archer surprised me with the following tale of marital bliss:

A guy's wife asks him, "If I were to die, would you get married again and share our bed with your new wife?"
And he says, "I guess I might."
"What about my car?" she asks. "Would you give that to her?"
And he says, "Perhaps."
"Would you give my golf clubs to her, too?" his wife asks.
"Why not?" asks the wife.
"She's left-handed."

Even Archer's wife laughed, but I'm not sure whether that was because of the strength of the joke or their marriage.

Not to be outdone, Kite launched into a dead-on impersonation of Sam Snead telling his famous pussy-willow joke, which involves Mother Nature, who is furious at a golfer whose wild swings have destroyed her precious buttercups. This is a family magazine, so we can't repeat the joke here, but it's sure to be somewhere online--or in one of those 16 golf-joke books.

As if to prove that laughter really is the best medicine, Kite went out the next morning and shot an opening-round 63. (He would win the tournament by six strokes.)

In search of Kite after that round, I convinced the locker-room guard that I really did belong inside, and soon found myself in the company of one of the best tellers of golf's tall tales, Lee Trevino. It was Trevino, you will remember, who tossed a rubber snake at Jack Nicklaus before the playoff for the 1971 U.S. Open (of course, Trevino won).

Years ago, I played a round with Trevino and Willie Nelson at Willie's course in Austin. After missing a relatively easy eagle putt with which I'd hoped to impress Trevino, I resorted to some cheap schtick and began juggling my driver, a tee and a ball.

"That's pretty good," Trevino deadpanned. "You learn to putt and you'll really have something."

When I found Trevino holding court in the locker room, he remembered that round. "Willie Nelson, wow!" he said. "After I stood downwind from Willie, I hit the ball 350 yards!"

Trevino is one of those rare souls who carries the whole bag of golf comedy: one-liners, jokes, stories. He's like the Energizer Bunny of golf humor--he just keeps going and going, leading the laughs, as they say in the business, by cracking up at his own lines:
"How long have you been wearing that girdle?" a reporter asked me.
"Since my wife found it in the glove compartment of my car."

On a roll, he throws out an old nugget:

There's an amazing golf ball that comes equipped with beeps and lights so that it simply can't be lost.
"That's fantastic!" another golfer says. "Where'd you get that ball?"
"Oh, I found it."

(Trevino's telling of this clunker illustrated another truth about humor: What you do with the material--the way you tell it--is always more important than the material itself. Trevino could read the Rules of Golf and make them funny.)

His laugh has hardly faded before he's launching into a story about an aging golfer on his deathbed:

With his last moments on earth, an old man is replaying his favorite rounds of golf in his head. He remembers when he was first married, how he came home from the course one day to the most wonderful chocolate-chip cookies. It'd been years since his wife baked them for him, but as he lay there, gasping for each breath, he was sure he could smell those cookies. Crawling out of bed, he dragged himself down the stairs and into the kitchen where he finds--oh, joy!--his wife with a big platter of his favorite, freshly baked cookies.
With his last bit of strength, he is slowly reaching out for one when she slaps his hand.
"Don't touch those!" she orders. "They're for the funeral!"

Back in Texas, I got in a round of golf with three of the funniest guys I know, Texas musicians all: Willie Nelson, Steve Fromholz and Ray Benson.

Willie had just published a book called, The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes, which begins with the following: "They say writing the first line of a book is the hardest part. Thank God that's over."

Before long, the jokes were coming thick and fast, with Willie taking the pole position:

A couple has played golf every day for 50 years. One day the wife says, "Honey, to celebrate five decades of golf and marriage, let's start off with a clean slate and confess all our past wrongs."
"OK," the husband says. "Do you remember that blond secretary who worked for me 20 years ago? Well, I had an affair with her."
And the wife says, "That's nothing. Before we met, I had a sex change."
And the husband says, "Why you dang cheat! All this time you've been hitting from the red tees!"

Then someone offered up this one:

Two guys are playing golf behind two really slow women. Finally, one guy offers to speed things up and walks down the fairway to tell the women to get a move on. But halfway to the women, he turns around and comes back to his buddy.
"I couldn't say anything," he explains. "One was my wife and the other was my mistress."
"No problem, I'll handle it," his pal says. But after going halfway down the fairway toward the women, he, too, stops. He comes back and says to his buddy: "Small world, isn't it?"

When I got back home, my wife barely mentioned that I was late, which reminded me of one of the classics:

A golfer comes home to find his wife waiting on the front porch with steam coming out of her ears.
"Where the hell were you?" she demands. "Our guests came over, but the yard wasn't mowed, there was no barbecue and you were missing. I've never been so humiliated!"
"I'm sorry," the husband says. "Let me explain. We played golf this morning, but on the way back to town we stopped at a strip joint. I met one of the dancers, and she was so beautiful, and one thing led to another, so I took her to a hotel room for several hours of wild passion. Then I had a quick shower and rushed straight home."
"Don't you lie to me," his wife says. "You played another 18, didn't you?"

In case you haven't noticed, there is no shortage of golf jokes about husbands and wives. A few years ago, I made the pilgrimage to St. Andrews with my wife and 6-month-old baby in tow, plus my golf buddy David Wood, at the time a fellow comedian. When David and I weren't playing golf, we were often sitting in pubs telling golf jokes. To make matters worse, it turned out that babies are not allowed in Scottish pubs, so my wife and daughter were usually on their own. One night when I returned late to the hotel, my wife told me the following joke:

A guy gets up at dawn on a Saturday morning and heads for the golf course as usual. But it's cold and raining, so halfway to the club, he gives up and returns home, where he takes off his clothes, climbs back into bed and snuggles up against his wife. "It's freezing out there," he says.
"Yeah," his wife answers sleepily. "Can you believe my stupid husband is playing golf?"

Taking her hint, I bowed out of the game the next day, dropping David at Carnoustie while we headed off to look at a load of moldy castles. I was thinking about Carnoustie all day and couldn't help but tell my wife the joke about a guy who makes a hole-in-one.

A genie appears and offers him three wishes:
"The only catch," says the genie, "is that whatever you wish for, your wife will receive 10 times over."
"OK," the guy says. "I want to be the best golfer in the world." The genie blinks and suddenly the guy can feel a new golf swing--the grip, the takeaway, the power. "You can now crush every golfer in the world," the genie says, "except your wife, who's gonna beat you like a drum."
The guy is a little bummed about that, so for his second wish he asks to be the world's richest man.
"It's done," says the genie. "But don't forget that your wife can now buy and sell you 10 times over. One wish left."
"OK," the guy says. "For my last wish, I'd like to have a mild heart attack."
My wife didn't laugh.

My search took me next to the watering holes and driving ranges of the world's entertainment capital, Hollywood.

Before I stood down from the world of standup comedy, I spent a number of years in Los Angeles, where the best perk was to play in celebrity pro-ams in exchange for emceeing an evening show. (Of course, the downside of that was whenever I'd show up on the first tee, the other guys in my foursome would ask, "Which celebrity do you think we'll get?")

One of my favorites was the Maurie Luxford Tournament at Lakeside Golf Club, the original home course to Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields, Bob Hope and other stars.

"Golf's a hard game to figure," Hope would tell the audience at our after-dinner show. "One day you slice it, shank it, hit into all the traps and miss every green. And then the next day, you go out and for no reason at all you really stink."

Each year we watched Mr. Hope grow more and more frail, but whenever I introduced him, he'd transform instantly into the comic pro who never met an audience he didn't like. Once he was on stage, the old magic was there.

"Last week Arnold Palmer told me how I could cut eight strokes off my score," he'd say. "Skip one of the par 3s."

The laughter sounded like a bomb going off.

"My opponent said he'd give me a stroke on 14 if I'd give him a free throw. That sounded pretty good until we got to the green, and he picked up my ball and threw it into the pond."

I was no longer sure he could even hear the laughter, but Hope always knew exactly how long to wait before the next joke. This was another favorite:

"An old man came up to me this morning and asked if I wanted a caddie. I said, 'OK,' so he picks up my bag and my partner's bag and runs to the tee.
" 'How old are you?' I asked. And the guy says, 'I'm 94. But this is nothing, I'm getting married tomorrow.'
" 'Why would you want to get married at 94?' I asked.
" 'Who says I want to?' "

The guy with the most jokes might well be Nobby Orens, a Los Angeles travel-agency owner who, just six years after he took up the game, was named "Golf Nut of the Year" in 1999 by the Golf Nuts Society, a group of people who, like myself, obviously have way too much time on their hands.

Nobby's obsession with the game causes him to play more than 150 rounds a year. Once, he played three rounds of golf--in London, New York and Los Angeles--all in a single day. In Alaska, he once played 200 holes in a day.

Meeting at an L.A. driving range, Nobby pulled into the lot driving a car with a license-plate holder that read, "My other car is a golf cart."

"That's nothing," he tells me. "My wife bought me a doormat that reads, 'A golfer and a normal person live here.' "

Nobby's TV remote is shaped like a golf hole and makes a sound like a club hitting a ball whenever you change channels.

Though it's windy and raining with a rare temperature in the 40s, Nobby is in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. He has just come, of course, from a round of golf.

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