The Key to Comedy

We all love surprises. Well, maybe not. At her wedding, a bride got a set of monogrammed towels with the name Mary embroidered on them. “Only trouble is,” she said, “my name isn’t Mary. Not even close. It’s Sarah.

Another couple received a 20-pound box of—are you ready? Bacon. I’ll bet that made them squeal. How do you write a thank you note for bacon?

Surprises are a staple in comedy. They’re called paraprosdokians, a simple statement that ends with a surprising twist. Like,

“Where there’s a will, there’s a lawyer.” This is the staple of any good comedian.

“As a child, I had a medical condition, so I had to eat dirt three times a day. It’s sure a good thing my older brother told me about that condition.”

Or, “If I could take just one thing to a desert island I probably wouldn’t go.”

Groucho Marx famously said, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

You want to make people laugh? Surprise them.

Dave Hagler knows about surprises. An umpire in a baseball league, Dave was pulled over for driving too fast. He told the officer, “I’m sorry. “I’m normally a very good driver.” The officer said, “If you don’t like the ticket, take it to court.”

The baseball season arrived and Dave was umpiring behind home plate. The first batter was—guess who? The policeman. Stepping into the batter’s box, the officer recognized Dave and frowned. Somehow, Dave smiled and said, “You’d better swing at everything.”

Surely the greatest surprise in all the world is grace. Not karma, where the sum of our actions determines our fate. But grace, where we don’t get what we deserve.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith,” says Ephesians 2:8,9. “And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

When I think of surprises, I think of the birth of our third child 51 weeks after his sister. Or the grand mal seizures my wife experienced for years. Yet through it all, God’s grace always accompanied those surprises, bringing assurance of eternal life and better things ahead.

Grace changes everything. Speaking of change, here’s one more paraprosdokian: Change is inevitable. Except from a vending machine.

Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway, the host of Laugh Again, is an award-winning author and speaker, known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life.

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