Everybody wants to be funny. Sadly, funny doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some people need help. I’m going to give you a few little things I do that are really funny. I’m laughing just thinking about them. These particular bits are designed specifically for use in the retail sales sector. Practice them at home, then try them out on a cashier and be amazed at how funny you feel. I’ve done these myself countless times. I know they work. And. They’re easy.
Let’s start with a simple one. If I have a twenty and the bill comes to something between five and ten bucks, I offer the twenty and earnestly ask, “Is this enough?” Oh yeah. That’s a good one. And, this is a situation that comes up all the time, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice and perfect it.
Less frequently, the bill comes to exactly five dollars. I love that. In this situation, I’ll throw down a five dollar bill and say helpfully, “I have exact change.”
After you’ve tried these a few times, you’ll be ready for something a little darker – irony – which will make you feel both funny AND smart. We all know how ridiculous the prices are at airports. So, next time you’re in an airport, try this. Buy a coffee. When the cashier says “That’s five dollars,” you say, “That’s very reasonable.” Oh man. That’s funny. But not immediately. It takes a bit of time to work, because, you know, five dollars for a small cup of bad coffee isn’t reasonable at all, so saying that it is “very reasonable” seems odd, until you think about it. That’s how irony works. It creeps up on you.
Here’s another way to deal with high prices. I was out with my wife buying chocolate for Easter. If it were up to me, I’d just buy those cheap, foil wrapped things that are mostly wax. My wife is a little fancy, so we were at some kind of chocolate boutique. We bought a few items. The cashier added them up: “That’s forty five dollars.” Now, you’re thinking, I could just have pulled out “That’s very reasonable”. Yes, that would work here. But, even better, after a slight dramatic pause, I said, “All of this chocolate… for ONLY forty five dollars?” Don’t overdo the mock amazement. Understated is funnier. This can be adapted for things other than chocolate, but it works best if what you’re buying is really expensive in a place that caters to rich people. Irony is hard to explain.
Years ago, when I was in university, every day I would buy a muffin. Usually blueberry bran, but other kinds of muffins, or even other baked goods, like danishes, would work, I assume. It’s best not to over analyze comedy. Anyway, while standing in the queue for the cashier, I’d start to eat the muffin. When I got to the cashier, she’d tell me the price, “That’s a dollar fifty”. I’d hold up the muffin, look at her and say, “but this one has a bite out of it”. Oh man that’s funny. If you do this one, which I highly recommend, leave the line hanging there, but only briefly. Then pay. Cashiers are busy people with stressful jobs. They enjoy a joke, especially one of high quality like this one, but they have customers waiting. It’s about you, yes, but not ALL about you.
I do this next one at my butcher shop every week. It has a cultural twist to it – it wouldn’t be funny in some countries. So, like, this one is grad school level funny. Dave the butcher will ring up the order, “That comes to eighty five forty seven,” says Dave. “I’ll give you fifty bucks,” I say quickly. Get it? We don’t haggle with the butcher in Canada – at least not at the retail level. We’re not in Morroco. Dave knows this is funny. It’s enough that he knows.
Or, any time a sales clerk asks, “How will you be paying for this?”, say “Can I owe you?” Again, an earnest facial expression adds immeasurably to the funniness of this one. You might add, “I’m going to be coming into some money very soon,” but only if you’re feeling confident. Usually, less is more. I don’t know exactly what that means, but it seems appropriate advice in comedy as much as in anything.
Now, my favourite. You know how, when you go into a liquor store, there are often good-looking young women offering free samples of some new and funky booze product? Yes? Well, this is what I do when I encounter one. “Hi, how are you?” she says smilingly, “Would you like to try our new product X?” and she holds up a little plastic glass. “No,” I say, “I don’t drink.” This is funnier if you’re pushing a big shopping cart full of booze, obviously.
That’s it. Now go. Be funny. Like you’ve always wanted. Don’t thank me, or give me any credit. Just knowing that the world is a funnier place is reward enough for me.