A lot of people ask what I do as a funny speaker. Here’s the best explanation.
It started with the baby talk. The proud papa next to me on the plane was flying with his young son. Baby talk to me is like fingernails on chalkboard. I got a back shiver willy just now writing that. This annoyance was then superseded by an eternal game of “Knick-knack-patty-whack”. By the time “this old man played 24”, the old man next to them (me) was about to play “Knick-knack-whack-a-Dad”. I’ve never understood that song anyway. An old man constantly beating on stuff. Is this unresolved conflict with mom? It needs to be addressed.
But I’m getting off point.
It was at the pinnacle of this singing irritation when an aroma wafted over our row 17. It could be 30 years since you’ve changed a messy diaper, but you never forget that smell. And this was an odor of epic proportions. Accented by the fact that we’re flying in a metal tube with no place for this fragrance to go. The woman ahead of me shrieked “Oh My God!”; the man across the aisle broke into a sweat; I thought I was standing in a hog lot.
How a small human can generate something resembling nuclear waste is one of the great mysteries of life. And what had this child eaten? Road kill smothered in rotten cheese whiz?
The father had no choice but to change the little one. Barely avoiding passing out, he quickly extricated this science project from his child, folded the diaper, and then it got really weird. Instinctively he said, “here, hold this”, and he handed me the dirty diaper. That’s right, he handed me the diaper. Here’s something I didn’t know until then: sometimes when you’re asked to do something totally absurd, you’ll do it because you can’t believe you were asked to do it.
So I took the diaper. And I held it.
And I held it some more. I stared at it occasionally, but mainly I just held it.
That’s when the words of Ray Charles resonated in my head. He used to say, “people don’t pay me to sing, I do that for free because that’s fun. People pay me to travel, that’s the hard part”. Just a few hours earlier I had stepped off a stage where the audience had treated me like a king. Now I’m in row 17 with a burning nasal passage and holding a dirty diaper. So it became clear to me. As a funny speaker I don’t get paid to speak or tell jokes. I get paid to hold the diaper.
Mark Mayfield, A Funny Speaker with a Serious Message