Comedians provide my pandemic laughs | Mann Overboard

Bill Mann
Posted 8/5/20

Comedians as source material: A reader asks why I quote so many comics here. It’s partly because they usually have better material than I can write, partly because I’ve followed a few of …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Comedians provide my pandemic laughs | Mann Overboard


Comedians as source material: A reader asks why I quote so many comics here. It’s partly because they usually have better material than I can write, partly because I’ve followed a few of them since I was a judge for the San Francisco International  Comedy Competition while also covering comedy for the Oakland Tribune. 

One of my favorite Bay Area comics is Fred Reiss, who was as good as anyone at foiling boorish, usually drunk hecklers with lines like, “I’d have a battle of wits with you, but I never fight an unarmed opponent.” 

Other Reiss zingers: “I see Domino’s has a new springwear line,” and, “You two guys aren’t happy unless there’s a bait bucket between you.” 

Humor has kept Reiss going: He’s a four-time cancer survivor and wrote a book of funny heckler comebacks called “Insult and Live,” which contains hundreds of zingers. (Order it!) But personal-experience cancer jokes are now most of his act. And if humor can get Reiss through years of chemo (he calls his infusion nurses Chemo Sabe), it can help us through a pandemic. 

— Florida man: Besides Reiss’s insult book, my summer pandemic reading list lately consists mostly of novels by Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen, as funny a writer as is working today. He’s truly an original comic novelist. I’ve just finished his “Razor Girl” and “Bad Monkey.” Both highly recommended. 

— Going Short on laughs: One of the most talented and funny comics around is “SNL” and “SCTV” alum Martin Short, whose engaging comedy tour with Steve Martin is currently on pandemic hold. Short had this great opening line (one I’ve been using on friends) the other night on Seth Meyers’ housebound NBC show: “Your place looks great, Seth,” enthused Short, “since you’ve taken all the Confederate flags down.” 

— And if you’re looking for great pandemic viewing, watch Meyers’ recent Netflix comedy special, “Lobby Baby.” It’s probably the best stand-up I’ve seen on either parenting or marriage. Also: Catch delightful French comedy “Iceberg,” my Amazon Prime viewing pick. 

— Two recent headlines from the New Yorker’s clever Andy Borowitz: “Trump Optimistic About Winning Nobel Prize in Medicine — because of his pioneering work in prescribing the drug hydroxychloroquine.” More Borowitz: “In Major Setback, Court Rules Trump Can Send Troops Only to Cities He Can Identify On a Map.” 

— Middle Age Riot, on Twitter: “Donald Trump Will Never Have a High School Named After Him, So He’ll Have to Settle for a Virus.” Also: “Donald Trump Is Learning The Hard Way That Constant Criticism Is The Inevitable Result of Being The Worst President Ever.” Riot also wonders which flag will be draped on his coffin: “Nazi, Russian, or Confederate?” 

— The Comics Page: I’m glad to see Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” return from a long hiatus. In his absence I’ve found two other single-panel daily toons that are just as funny: The Argyle Sweater (on the Go Comics website, where “Far Side” also resides) and Bizarro (at Comics 

— Ever notice that almost every right-winger professes to be a Constitutional scholar? I passed on law school myself, opting instead for the newspaper business. It ended my dreams of an exciting legal career — in the field of drainage and seepage law. 

— The Life Aquatic Submerged: We’ve been good maskers in this county, so, Gov. Inslee, please let this county advance to Phase Three. God, do I ever miss swimming, and seeing old poolmates like “Jeff.” I’m a disabled guy, and when I’d hobble in and descend the ladder into the Mountain View pool, he’d yell out, “Marco!” To which I’d call back, “Polio!” I am not making this up. 

— More viral humor: Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat quotes one Canadian who’s in the majority of not wanting the border reopened. “We regard the United States right now as the biggest petri dish in the world,” said a B.C. resident. 

More Canadiana: MSNBC contributor David Frum, now safely ensconced in his native Ontario, writes in The Atlantic: “In July as in January, the biggest difference between the United States and the rest of the developed world is that the U.S. has the misfortune of having Donald Trump in charge.” 

— I’ve tried unsuccessfully at North Beach to spot Neowise in the evening sky. Maybe, as the Santa’s-reindeer joke goes, Comet had to stay home and clean the sink? 

(Want to contact PT humorist Bill Mann? Try this: 


1 comment on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Ed S.

Bill, you certainly know your comedy. One might say you are the "Kunta Kinte" of humor. I took your advice and watched Seth Meyers' "Lobby Baby" comedy special. It was one of the funniest, and most moving, comedy speciaIs I have ever seen. Meyers was brilliant. Fred Reiss is also a great comic and I have his book, which is very funny. His cancer battle is nothing short of heroic and inspiring. Sometimes he goes in for a serious procedure and then is back on his surfboard just days later. Your columns are always a refreshing change of pace and always leave me with a smile on my face.

Thursday, August 6