Sunday, December 18, 2016

Wendel's Christmas World: Haul out the Holly, I'll Bring the Virus

(I wrote this column for the Grand Island Independent in 2001)

Season's Greetings from Wendel's World.  I've been under the weather over the past
few days, so my Christmas column will be shorter than usual (my gift to you).  I'd
like to share a poem I wrote for the holidays and one that I hope will be preserved
down through the ages, read and re-read as a timeless Christmas classic.  Clement
Moore and Charles Dickens ain't got nothing on me.

A Visit from St.Virus
    by Wendel Potter

'Tis the virus before Christmas and
all through my lungs,
a cold bug is coursing,
it isn't much fun.

The hacking and sneezing
from deep down in my toes 
give a luster to objects
in the path of my nose.

Sniffling and snorting
by the tree is a crime,
and the Good Wife is wondering:
"Is it tinsel or slime?"

I can't get to sleep,
I toss and I turn,
I shake and I shiver,
I freeze and I burn.

So I go to the sofa
and turn out the light,
all this coughing and sputtering,
it's no silent night.

On Advil, on Nyquil
on antihistamine,
on cough drops, on codeine,
on shots of Jim Beam.

These mixed medications
create a strange feeling,
like I've sprung from the couch
and stuck to the ceiling.

Hopped up as I am
on this midnight clear,
it wouldn't surprise me
to see flying reindeer.

Now it's two in the morning
and I fix some hot tea.
I'm getting so bored,
guess I'll watch some TV.

So I grab the remote
and push buttons on the panel,
yet there's nothing on cable
but the damn Weather Channel.

I finally doze off
for a short winter's nap,
then wake with a start,
I've spilled hot tea in my lap!

I'd jump and I'd gyrate
if it weren't for arthritis,
and I'd holler expletives
but I have laryngitis.

I suffer in silence
and wait for my chance
when everyone's up
so I can get some dry pants.

It's one week 'til Christmas,
hope I'm over this virus.
My good wife agrees, saying
"It's beginning to tire us."

Now you're reading this poem
and I feel better perhaps.
Wait!  It's back to the sofa,
I've had a relapse!

Merry Christmas!

Reprinted from the Grand Island Independent
December 19, 2001


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Never A Dry Eye

September 4, 2014

Can we talk?

I always wanted to be a writer.  As a young boy, I entertained my friends with stories I had written.  In high school, I wrote a novel.  Like John-Boy Walton, I just knew it was meant for me to write.

But, unlike John-Boy, I couldn't seem to market my fiction.  Then, the nature of my writing took an unexpected turn.

I grew up in the 1950s and 60s and was weaned on comedians like Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Jackie Gleason.  Then along came a new breed:  Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, George Carlin.  The world of comedy fascinated me as the torch was passed from one generation to the next.

In the 1970s it occurred to me that maybe I should try writing some jokes.  My efforts were somewhat lame, but I kept plugging away.  As I got better with practice, I began mailing jokes to comedians in Los Angeles.  I heard back from virtually nobody. The only formal rejection I even received in the mail was a polite note from Fred DeCordova, the producer of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Then one day, my mom called.  She said she had been watching The Phil Donahue Show, a popular afternoon talkfest in those days.  Joan Rivers' secretary was on the show, along with other "assistants to the celebrities" and someone in the audience asked if Joan ever bought material from freelance writers.  

Joan's assistant, Les Hanson, said that the comedienne did indeed read outside material and he gave the viewing audience her business address.  Mom passed that on to me.

So I went to work and put together a small packet of jokes and mailed them off.  Weeks went by but finally I heard back from Les Hanson.  Joan had agreed to buy one of the jokes I sent.  

"Can we talk here?  I was ugly as a child!  No boy wanted to date me!  It's true!  In high school, I was chosen to play Mary in the Christmas pageant because I was the only girl who fit the part:  I was young, Jewish, and it would take an act of God to get me pregnant!"

That was it.  I was off and running on a freelance association with Joan Rivers that lasted 25 years.

Probably my most interesting moment was when I read Fred DeCordova's autobiography, in which he detailed his years with The Tonight Show.  He told the story about one night when Joan was filling in for Johnny and she told a joke about Marie Osmond and the Pope.

"Oh, Marie Osmond is such a goody goody goody!  The Pope called and told her to lighten up!"

As innocuous as that joke seems today, back in 1985 it was pure sacrilege and the angry telephone response from home viewers jammed the NBC switchboard.  DeCordova said never before or since has a single joke incurred that kind of viewer wrath while he was producer of Carson's show.

I had a good chuckle, somewhat proudly, over that.  I had written that joke.

But  there were some bitter turns along the way.  In 1986, Joan was behind a phone call I received from The Tonight Show.  Johnny Carson wanted to see my material, and soon!  He was about to hire new writers, so I was advised to put some material together and express mail it.  An assistant to the head writer phoned me when they had received my material and said it was on Johnny's desk, awaiting his return from vacation.

Then the bubble burst.  They say that timing is everything in comedy.  Timing became my worst nightmare.  

It was at this time that Joan announced she would be leaving her guest host duties at the Tonight Show for her own talk show on Fox.  Johnny was livid and he wanted nothing further to do with Joan or anyone associated with her.  I made one last phone call to the writers' office at the Tonight Show and my contact there was suddenly very cool, almost unresponsive.

I attempted to land a job on Joan's new show, but was told a staff was already in place.  Come to find out, Fox would not allow Joan to hire her own writers and saddled her with a couple of ex-radio jocks from St. Louis.  

But the highs of writing one-liners were tremendous: seeing my work on the printed page in Joan's books, and hearing the jokes I'd written come free falling out of her mouth on The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and  her Grammy-nominated comedy album.

After all, I was just a Nebraska boy creating jokes part time on a manual typewriter. 

If I may, here's a sampling:

"Liz Taylor!  Is she fat?  Her favorite food is seconds!"

"She put sugar on her Sweet 'n Low!"

"Edgar and I never have sex.  We've been married 20 years and have one child...which is about right, because 20 years equals a score."

"I have no appeal.  I told my husband, 'I want to eat out tonight'.  He kicked my dish on the back porch."

"I have a friend who is such a tramp!  She's been under the sheets more than the KKK!"

"A tramp!  Now she lives in Norway.  Every night she turns over a new Leif."

"This woman has done more work on her back than Michelangelo."

"I am the world's worst housekeeper.  My table setting looks like this:  fork, plate, knife, spoon, fly swatter." 

"And I can't cook!  I have dining room chairs that flush!"

"The other night I made Leek Soup.  I followed the recipe:  'First, take a leek'.  Edgar said, 'This soup tastes funny."

"I know nothing about rock stars.  I thought Neil Diamond was the stone in the Pope's ring!"

"Have you noticed all the male flight attendants we're seeing on the airlines now?  And they're all gay!  On my last flight, I asked the pilot, 'Do you get many gay flight attendants on this airline?'  He said, 'Not unless I buy them dinner and drinks.'"

Joan did me the honor of buying these and hundreds more over the years.  My success with her led me down the freelance road to writing for Phyllis Diller, Jay Leno, and American's favorite Russian, Yakov Smirnoff.

It all started with one joke.  She took a chance on me, and I will be forever grateful.

I have a feeling that there's comedy after death.  I think today Joan was met in heaven by Robin Williams.  

He welcomed her, then shook his head and mused, "Wow!  Isn't it ironic that we died just a couple of weeks apart and both of us because we had our oxygen shut off too long."

And Joan answered, "Yes, but I had to pay a goddamn deductible!"

Joan, when you performed, we laughed until we cried.  Now that you've left us, there's still not a dry eye in the house.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Today's Jokes by Wendel Potter


Well, we're in to November and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  President Obama will once again choose a turkey to pardon.  I'm guessing it will be the Obamacare website.

Turns out the movie, "The Fifth Estate" is the biggest film disaster of 2013.   See, this is the difference between a movie and the Affordable Health Care website.  A movie is a flop when there's no lines and no waiting.

Daylight Saving Time came to an end on Sunday.  Apparently, President Obama turned back the clock on his health care website to 1995.

This was the weekend when Eveready made its semiannual killing on those little 9 volt smoke alarm batteries.

A medical study says that sugary beverages can lead to crippling rheumatoid arthritis....which means that eventually people who drink sugary beverages will be drinking them through a straw.

Actress Michelle Pfeiffer says that when she was 20 years old, she belonged to a cult that believed that sunlight is all you need to survive.  Michelle said she finally left the cult after she nearly died during a solar eclipse.

Justin Bieber stormed off a stage in Brazil after being hit in the head with a bottle.  It turns out it was his mother who threw the bottle.  She wasn't trying to hit her son, she was just trying to get him to take his 8 p.m. feeding.

In Germany, they've discovered 1500 works of art, including masterpieces by Picasso and Matisse,  that were confiscated and hidden by the Nazis during World War II.  The artwork is in pretty good condition except for the fact that the humans in all the paintings have little square moustaches.

.....thanks for reading!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Today's Jokes by Wendel Potter


The NSA has been tapping into phones in Spain.  They discovered something about the Spanish.  Their language is incredibly similar to the one used by most of the people in the U.S. 

A UN panel of scientists says that climate change will pose a risk for future food supplies.  As a matter of fact, it's already getting too warm in parts of Alaska to grow frozen peas.

On Halloween night, President Obama opened the White House doors to trick-or-treaters.  The president was really surprised at how many were dressed like lifeless zombies.  Turns out they looked liked that because they were sick and they couldn't get on to buy insurance.

Have you tried getting on the Obamacare website?  Talk about slow to log on.  It would be faster to get to first base with the Virgin Mary.

It's slow!  It takes longer than it did for Katy Perry to accuse Mick Jagger of hitting on her.

Katy Perry claims that Mick Jagger hit on her when she was 18 years old.  It was probably more like he fell on her.

Lays is introducing chocolate covered potato chips.  Now when Lays says, "Betcha can't eat just one!", they're talking about the whole package.

Chocolate covered potato chips!  Really?  Like salt and grease aren't good enough, let's throw in   a millions grams of sugar!'s been awhile....thanks for stopping by!




Thursday, March 21, 2013

Today's Jokes by Wendel Potter


On Monday, Jay Leno used a St. Patrick's Day joke to refer to NBC executives as snakes. Of course, St. Patrick is well known for driving snakes out of Ireland....and Jay Leno is well known for driving an Irishman out of the Tonight Show.

President Obama is in Jerusalem.  The president didn't expect a lot of warmth from Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he's a little disappointed that the citizens didn't provide him with a donkey and lay palms at his feet.

I'm not saying that the president is arrogant, but someone had to tell him that "Shalom" does not mean the same thing as "Hosanna!"

No word on whether or not the White House Easter Egg Roll is still on.  It's scheduled for April 1st, so all the president really has to do is what he's good at....wait until that day and then holler, "April Fool!"

It was announced today that federal meat inspectors will not be furloughed.  Just when tofu producers thought they were going to corner the market.

Joe Biden addressed members of Congress regarding gun control and told them to "show courage".  His speech writer advised him to say that instead of what Joe wanted to say..."Make my day!" 

Can't you just picture Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry telling some punk with a gun, "Show courage."?


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Today's Jokes by Wendel Potter


I'm sure you know by now that a new pope has been elected.  Pope Francis I.  It took an hour before the Vatican introduced him to the public.  That's because a cardinal from Florida demanded a recount.

The pope is Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and he's from Argentina.  The first thing he did as pope was kneel down before a statue of the Madonna.  He asked her blessing and told her what a wonderful job she did in the film version of Evita.

Pope Francis is not fluent in English.  His primary language is Spanish.  Finally!  A pope who will be understood by the majority of the people in the United States.

Pope Francis appeared a little nervous when he first stepped out on the balcony to greet the throngs of people gathered in the square.  He was concerned that the white cassock made his butt look fat.

McDonald's has introduced a new yoke-free Egg McMuffin.  It's a takeoff on Burger King's hamburgers, which are beef-free.

Happy 134th birthday to Albert Einstein.  Einstein is most remembered by today's young people for his theory,  E=MC Hammer.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Today's Jokes by Wendel Potter


President Obama's State of the Union Address drew a huge response...."What's on HBO?"

Last night,  President Obama was in top form.  His speeches are like a two-speed blender....either stirring or grating.

The president has really grown, really fleshed out as a public speakerAs a matter of fact, not once did anyone in the audience put on their 3-D glasses.

Well, Benedict XVI celebrated his last Ash Wednesday as the reigning pope.  You could tell his   heart wasn't in it.  Twice during the service he referred to the holy day as Half-Ash Wednesday.

Some Catholic churches now offer drive up ashes.  They had that 40 years ago.  It was called rear-ending a Pinto.

There's one church I heard about has three windows.  You drive up to the first one and make your confession, then you go to the second one and get your ashes.  By the time you pull up to the third window, your fish sandwich is ready.

Lady GaGa has canceled all the shows on her tour for the next week because she's sick.  She'll now be known as Lady GagGag.

Comedian/actor Steve Martin has become a father for the first time.  Steve is 67.  Next week, the baby will receive an honorary high school diploma so Steve can be sure to attend the kid's graduation.

Someone hacked into a TV station broadcast and warned Montana viewers that they were under attack by zombies.  Of course the joke was on the hacker because nobody in Montana owns a TV.

....thanks for reading!