Well, syndicated humor columnist Mark Bazer is here to prove you wrong. In the wake of Dave Barry's retirement, Bazer has stepped in to fill the humor column void with his own particular brand of mediocrity.
To read Bazer's column is to experience the same subtle discomfort you get from watching a bad comic, one who almost knows the rhythm of a joke, but not quite; one who mistakes randomness for absurdity; one who thinks he has a funny idea but never bothered to bring along his punchlines.
You read it, and it's not quite train-wreck bad. It's not so bad it's good. It's just mediocre enough to be terrible. You read a sentence, wait for a joke, and the beat ends without giving it to you. If a real joke is like a rollercoaster--with the setup being the long ramp up and the payoff being the huge drop on the other side--then Bazer's jokes are like a rollercoaster that takes you up and then levels off forever.
Take his recent column offering humorous travel advice:
Let's talk about your summer travel plans. Whether you're finally going to take that long-anticipated romantic jaunt to Paris to sip wine at outdoor cafes while gazing out at riots, or just are thinking about loading the kids into the car for a cross-country tour of this nation's highway system, you'd be wise to start your vacation-planning now. Airfares aren't getting any lower and hotel rooms are filling up, at least according to several relatives with whom I spoke at a family get-together this past weekend.
Here to help you plan your summer fun are me and my advice!
There's the standard lame joke, with a twist too unreal to be relatable and too boring to be silly:
• First off, wherever you decide to go, never feel pressure that you have to "see everything." Some of my best vacations have been spent entirely in my hotel room trying to figure out how to work the safe-deposit box.
The lame joke with the pointless, rhythm-killing addendum:
• Lake Geneva, in Wisconsin, is a wonderful place to get away to for the weekend, especially if you like saying, "Look, another fudge shop." Oh, wait, I'm sorry: fudge shoppe.
The confusingly written jokes, which demand that you expend all your energy deciphering clumsy syntax:
• Before you leave for your destination, print out directions to all the Chili's restaurants in the area. Remember the old saying: "It's the unprepared traveler who has to eat at the family-owned restaurant featuring unique menu items, fresh ingredients and local flavor instead of at Chili's."
• At least a month before your trip, buy a guide to the place you'll be visiting. It's a great way to learn what a person who, odds are, is nothing at all like you thinks is worth seeing.
• When flying, don't forget the old honeymoon trick. If you're a frequent flier on a particular airline and notice that a young couple has received a free upgrade to first class because they're on their honeymoon, you may be able to convince the airline supervisor that you're more deserving of those seats.
• If you're feeling guilty about vacationing at a luxury resort in a poor country, pretend that your life and the lives of everyone you've ever encountered are actually just part of another person's dream and that that person just happened to dream for you to vacation there.
The jokes that mock American intolerance and xenophobia:
• Keep in mind: Everybody in the world speaks English, if your headlock is tight enough.
• If you yearn for a taste of French culture but have been boycotting France for the past several years, then stop boycotting France!
And the jokes that promote intolerance and xenophobia:
• If you're traveling to any Asian country and plan on ingesting, watching others ingest or in any way handling chickens, please do not come home. Thank you.
• Disney World is not just for families with children. It's also for older adults who have opted never to have children and who want to confirm they made the right decision.
And of course, the substitution of random, nonsensical stupidity for absurdity, irony, cleverness, or any kind of real comedic logic:
• If you're traveling to a major European city such as Barcelona, be on the lookout for pickpockets. They're everywhere, so do NOT just stand around in public places waiting for them to rob you. Instead, to help improve America's image abroad, voluntarily -- and politely -- hand over your wallet to anyone who looks suspicious.
• Sometimes it's fun to make a vacation out of exploring your own city or town! Of course, to really get the full effect, you have to first fly to another city; then fly back home, pretending you're flying to a brand-new place. Then, when you're done with your hometown vacation, fly somewhere else; then fly back home again, but this time treat it like you're flying home.
• Finally, I want to go on record as being against a disturbing trend that has been endorsed by several of my travel-writing competitors. I understand perfectly well the desire to take a trip without your children for a change. That said, it is never appropriate to put Scooby-Doo masks on your kids and leave them at your local kennel. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. And happy travels!
Part of what makes reading Bazer so uncomfortable is the constant feeling that you've missed something. After each paragraph, you double back, certain you glossed over the part that would make it matter. It's frustrating because you feel like you're skimming no matter how closely you read.
But the point is, he believed in himself. He worked hard and kept at it. He wanted to write a humor column so badly that eventually he convinced someone that he could. And then Dave Barry retired and it was Mark Bazer's day to shine.
Kids, someday this could be you.