Oxymoron (ox-y-mo’-ron): Placing two ordinarily opposing terms adjacent to one another. A compressed paradox.

Jumbo shrimp. I’m not laughing. I never laughed. It stood alone. You couldn’t blend it into a one liner—you had to elaborate. You had to explain, and then you got the laugh. Usually, after the explanation and the first laugh, you do a string of oxymorons: alone together, grow smaller, climb down, small crowd. Still not funny.

Which reminds me, there’s a small crowd tonight at “Rocco’s Ha Ha!” Rocco’s is probably the only comedy club for 500 miles around. Rocco was exiled from the Jersey mob for making a pass at “Tony Bags’s” wife. What was the pass? “You look really nice tonight Mrs. Bags.” You could hear the revolvers cocking. Rocco looked terrified. He said “I didn’t mean nothin’. It was a compliment. I was just being nice.” “Maybe too nice,” said Tony as he reached into his suit jacket. Rocco started begging. “Shaddup!” Said Tony, one inch from Rocco’s face. He pulled a wallet from his suit coat and counted out 20 $100.00 bills. “You’re goin’ to West Virginia to run the comedy club I recently “inherited” from Man Mountain Manny, the has-been wrestler who bet on himself too “Manny” times—get it? “Manny times, ha ha!” Tony gave Rocco the money and told him not to expect any more— he had a life sentence at to club—room and board, and that was it. Tony put me in charge of watching over Rocco, so I was headed to West Virginia too.

The club attracted the worst comics in the Western Hemisphere. I especially hated the guys with the dummies on their knees, cracking jokes about their wood, and each other’s mothers. And then, having the dummies sing “Strangers in the Night” while the ventriloquist drank a glass of water. I found out the ventriloquist had a tube covered with tape on the side of his head that he poured the water down. The tape was the color of his skin, so you couldn’t see the tube. I found this out when I hit a ventriloquist a couple of times in the face after his set and the tube fell off. He wouldn’t talk when I asked him how his drinking-singing thing worked. So, a whack on the face was justified and necessary.

The audience who showed up was terrible. The club held 60 people. We would average 5 men, fresh from the coal mines, still wearing their hard hats with the little spot lights on them. They got drunk and threw small lumps of coal at the acts they didn’t like, which was all of them. One night, I found Rocco in the storeroom with a gun to his head. If he shot himself, I’d take over & probably get a pay raise. I told him if he really had to do it, he should jump into an abandoned coal mine shaft. I heard from Tony the next day: “The rat has deceased.” That was code, but not very good code. Now, I was in charge of Rocco’s Ha ha! Out of respect, I didn’t change the name. I knew the club didn’t have to succeed—it was a money laundering operation. I should’ve realized that in the first place, but I didn’t. But, I was going to make some legit money anyway. I was going to do stand up comedy. It was easy, I would steal jokes off the internet— but not just any jokes. I would do jokes about coal!

My debut arrived. Our five miners were nearly passed out. I stepped onto the stage. I started:

A group of guys covered in coal dust walks into a bar. The barman says “Sorry, we don’t serve miners.”

I was going to try walking on hot burning coals but I got cold feet.

I’ve just seen a paleontologist sitting in a bar talking to a piece of coal. He must be carbon dating.

I applied for a job extracting coal but they said I didn’t have the right experience. Never mined.

Neil Diamond was originally called Neil Coal until the pressure got to him.

We couldn’t decide whether to have a coal or a gas fire and we ended up in a heated argument.

I keep a collection of coal for sedimental reasons.

I thought about a job mining coal but then I realised much of it would be boring.

The miners woke up (more less) and started laughing and applauding, except for the jokes with scientific terms in them. The next night, the club was full. I just kept telling the same jokes over and over, but nobody cared. This went on for about a month, and then, I got a call from Tony: “The laundry is drying.” That was code, but not very good code. I had to stop the comedy. I had been a miner success, but I had to get back to the other funny business.

Coal Jokes: https://punsandoneliners.com/randomness/coal-jokes/

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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