Friday, January 11, 2019

Speaking of Circumcision, or How Garrison Keillor Stole My Joke

This week during confirmation class we got into the topic of circumcision. It’s always fun to break this news to a room filled with unsuspecting 7th and 8th graders. This year’s class did not disappoint me. Their faces revealed shock, disgust, disbelief, and, of course, embarrassment to hear their pastor speaking so matter-of-factly about something so grizzly happening the male penis. Yes, it’s always a special moment.

And it took me back to an episode from my life that I had forgotten about. I may not be getting all the details correct, because it was so long ago, but this is the way I remember it…

In one of my previous lives I was quite involved in Christian Education events for my denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We were having a regional conference of some sort for educators. I was involved in the planning and all the educator-types from Chicago and Minneapolis were on the scene, as well. For some reason, I either offered or was offered up, I had responsibility for our entertainment one evening and ended up moderating a “Hollywood Squares” game with silly questions that only Christian Educators would appreciate.

One of the better questions I asked was, “What is the one question confirmation instructors are asked that they fear the most?” The answer, of course, was, “What is circumcision?”

It was a cute moment and I might have moved on to the next question, but I saw an opening for a big moment and I went for it.

“You know, I've been reading a lot about whales lately, and do you know how long the male appendage of a blue whale is?” This was before smart-phones, so no one knew the answer.

“Ten feet!" I announced with all the amazement in my voice I could muster. "The male appendage on a blue whale is ten feet long!” Reading the faces of my audience, I could tell that they were more puzzled than impressed. Why is this woman talking about whale penises at a big church event? I suspect they were a little worried about what I was going to say next.

“…so do you know how they circumcise a blue whale?” And now no one in the audience seemed to be breathing… “Well, it takes four skin-divers.”

The room expoded in laughter. They went nuts. Yes, it was a BIG moment.

Fast-forward about a year. I’m driving in my car listening to Garrison Keillor’s annual joke show on “A Prairie Home Companion.” It’s nothing but non-stop, rapid-fire jokes.

And then I heard it. Garrison Keillor says, “Do you know how they circumcise a blue whale?” and the punch line follows, “It takes four skin-divers.”

I nearly drove off the road. “He stole my joke! He stole my joke!” I’m yelling and pounding on the steering wheel.

Obviously, someone from that conference retold my joke and it made its way to “The Prairie Home Companion.” Garrison Keillor may not have known it was my joke, but he stole my joke. Without the lead-in, it wasn’t nearly as funny, but he most definitely stole my freaking joke!

I guess when you release a circumcision joke into the universe, it belongs to the universe.