FROM THE VALLEY: 'Where everybody knows your name'

Tom Valley

I'm not one who gives new television programs much of a look n' see. I prefer the older ones, which have already proven their entertainment value to me. I watch reruns that I've seen over and over again. That's just how I roll.

One of my favorites is “Cheers.” Every character in that show brought a unique brand of humor to the table. And the writers' ability to play off of that diversity was nothing short of brilliant.

I mention this because I'm going to bounce a few things around today based on the episode in which mail carrier Cliff Clavin decided to try his hand at stand-up comedy. Cliff, by the way, was the epitome of a Monday morning quarterback whose Walter Mitty dreams were perpetually stymied by his inability to "walk the walk."

Clavin, billed as the “Merry Mailman” in his comedy debut, walked on stage in his letter-carrier uniform, complete with bag. He did a bit where he'd make an observation and then ask the gag's tagline “What's up with that?”

“I know a friend,” he starts out, “whose son is going to become a priest. I know where this is going: 'My son the father!' What's up with that?”

The blinding spotlight on his face made it impossible for him to see the sparse crowd as they stood up and walked out, one after another, as he dragged on with his excruciatingly unfunny routine. Everyone, that is, except his compassionate but brutally honest barstool buddy Norm.

After finishing, the house lights came on and the clueless Clavin asked his friend (in his thick Bostonian accent), “Nommy, where did everybody go?”

To which Norm not so delicately replied, “Well, Cliffy, there was a bomb scare.”

When Clavin asked where, Norm pointed back at the stage and said, “Right over there … just about where you were standing.”


But the (literally) funny part was that Cliff's unfunny bit was hilarious. Johnny Carson was the master of getting laughs after a joke fell flat. He'd either step back with his eyes open in a look of horror — as though the audience was turning on him — or he would look quizzically at the microphone, reach up and tap it, pretending it must be off or broken.

The Merry Mailman bit was comical because the disillusioned loser got to live out his fantasy all the while thinking it was worthy enough of a paying audience. He'd become a legend in his own mind and a disaster to those who had witnessed otherwise. It was, like “The Honeymooners,” a satire on the difference between one's overblown subjectivity and the reality of another's more objective view.

Here are some thoughts that I think Clavin could have bombed just as easily with:

“'The Price is Right' — Ever notice that every contestant who makes it on stage is celebrating a birthday? What's up with that?”

“Pencil erasers: How come some of them make three times the mess you're trying to clean up? What's up with that?”

“Renaissance paintings involving nudity are considered art, but modern photography of the same thing is considered porn: What's up with that?”

“The United States: United? What's up with that?”

“Restrooms: You don't go inside them to rest. What's up with that?”

“Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Donald Trump: What's up with that?' (Wink to Cliff L.)

“Real people, not actors: What's up with that?”

“Taped in front of a live audience: What's up with that?”

“'What's up with that' jokes: … what's up with that?”

It's too bad I couldn't get Cliff Clavin or Johnny Carson to read this to you. It would have been a lot funnier.

What's up with that? (Like you didn't see that coming.)

And that's the way it looks from the Valley.

Tom Valley is anxiously waiting for your feedback — or whatever — at: .

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