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Surely You Jest This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

As I step up to the plate, I take one quick survey of my crowd. Each bleacher seat is filled with a teenage boy. Some sit two to a seat with a friend kind enough to share. They yak about girls, sports and school, lazily picking away at sticks of string cheese or gnawing on bagels too big for their mouths. I turn slowly and focus my eyes on the pitcher. The spherical object he adjusts in his hand behind his back is the perfect sentence. My timing is going to have to be perfect. He winds up and releases. I lower my shoulder and swing for the fences. Boom … my punch line.

The kids at my lunch table roar with laughter, rocking back and forth holding their stomachs. Tears appear in the corner of a few eyes. Gasping for air, they start to collect themselves, but fail when another uncontrollable burst of laughter erupts. It's a remarkable sound. It's a sound I constantly crave and pursue. I can't suppress the toothy ear-to-ear smile that creeps on to my face. Nice one, Mitch. Sadly, it is inevitable that within a matter of minutes, they will completely forget who and what put them in such a pleasant mood.

The life cycle of a joke is a despicable one. At first, its originality and spontaneity are matchless. The pure brilliance and wit required to meld a masterpiece so fine is incomprehensible. But over the course of a day, the joke is retold, reformatted, and regurgitated until what's left couldn't possibly have ever been funny. I guess you had to be there. As always, the credit eludes me.

I like making people smile, but I love making them laugh. Nothing is more satisfying to me. Ever since I can remember, I've been cracking jokes and doing whatever it takes to get people to giggle. If I need to flat-out ­embarrass myself in front of a group of friends, I'll do it. The reward is always worthwhile. If I'm not having a good day, I'll go out of my way to make someone else's better with a silly joke or witty remark. Seeing them walking away with a grin, in turn, makes me happy. It's win-win.

Despite the initial impact, my effort often goes unnoticed. It might look easy delivering the punch line or making a sly retort, but more work goes into it than you'd think. You have to be constantly prepared, in the right state of mind, and most of all, on time. Timing is crucial. That extra intentionally awkward pause might change a mediocre joke into a sidesplitting one. Telling jokes is an art. And while not everyone can appreciate the skill it takes to perform, they certainly enjoy the finished product.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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