It’s Monday afternoon. 4:45 p.m. Almost time to lock up and go home for the day. That’s when the phone starts ringing. I know I shouldn’t answer it. So I answer it anyway.

“Yeah?” I say.
“Hey, schmuck!”
I’m a schmuck?”
“Well, if this isn’t Clifford Meth, then I’ve just insulted a perfect stranger.”

It’s Harlan. I tell him he has the right schmuck.

“You told the joke wrong!” he screams. “It’s not: A chicken and an egg are lying in bed and the egg is smoking a cigarette and the chicken says, ‘Well, now that we’ve answered that one.’ It’s the egg! The egg is lying there having a cigarette and says, ‘Now that we’ve got that covered!’ The egg, shtumie!”
“Ah!” I said, feeling like a schmuck. Or perhaps a shtumie.
“And you didn’t get the other one right either!”
“I’m sorry.”
“Listen, kiddo?it’s all in the nuance. If you’re going to tell jokes, you have to learn nuance. Now, have you heard the one about the frog?”

So he told me the one about the frog. But I dare not repeat it because Harlan promised that if I screw it up, he will appear in a puff of smoke and cut off my nose.

Or was it my ear?

P.S. Past Masters will return in three days with Part II of The Walter Simonson Interview.

P.P.S. Christopher Reeve is a hero, despite what John Byrne thinks.

© 2004, Clifford Meth

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