Kids' jokes are on you

Kids learn a lot at school. Unfortunately, a lot of it has little to do with what's being taught in the classroom.

Turns out the playground is a breeding ground for aspiring comics. Check out the gag my kindergartner brought home:

CLAIRE: "Hey Dad, what's under there?"

ME: "Under where?"

CLAIRE: "You just said underwear!"

(Dad is duped.)

Her brother, only 3, has tried to appropriate this bit, but he doesn't seem to get the joke. Still, what his delivery lacks in precision it compensates for in enthusiasm.

DREW: "Hey Dad, what's under there?"

ME: "Under where?"

DREW: "Your underwear!!!" (Drew laughs until his spleen nearly bursts.)

A wholesome classic such as the "I just made you say 'underwear'" gag is a welcome change from some of the terms the kids bring home from school and day care.

Any off-color terms the kids say must have been learned from their friends, of course. They never would hear any vulgarities from their father. That is, unless they listened to my frustrated rants as I attempted to extricate toys from their packaging on Dec. 24. With all the twist-ties and shrink wrap, child toys are more secure than a nuclear missile silo. And almost as expensive.

But back to the point. And rest assured, nine loyal readers, that I have one.

Kids tend to bring home colorful vernacular from the playground. Most of these terms involve crude slang for one's rear end. A favorite among the Bromley kids is "itchy itchy butt crack."

A phrase like this tends to surface at inopportune moments. You know, like that moment right after the church children's choir finishes its anthem, but before the applause starts. If a kid is looking for big laughs, there's no better time than that to cut loose with a loud reference to the derriere. As any comedian knows, a stern look from the choir director is a small price to pay for some big-time yuks.

I'm all for the kids expanding their vocabulary. It's just that I wish they would master new words more likely to serve them well in their careers later in life. Phrases involving butt cracks won't be of any use to them unless - heaven forbid - they become humor columnists.

Or stand-up comedians, maybe. Perhaps one day Claire will ascend to stardom as half-soused nightclub rabble laps up the knock knock jokes that she today considers the height of comedy.

CLAIRE: "Knock knock."

ME: "Who's there?"

CLAIRE: "Little old lady."

ME: "Little old lady who?"

CLAIRE: "I didn't know you could yodel! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!"

If that one doesn't get the crowd rolling in the aisles, she can bring out the heavy artillery:

CLAIRE: "Knock knock."

ME: "Who's there?"

CLAIRE: "Interrupting cow."

ME: "Interrupt...

CLAIRE: "MOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Yep, my little girl is currently awaiting a call from "The Tonight Show."

Her outlook for a career in comedy is better than her brother's. As a 3-year-old, Drew is to patience what Madonna is to restraint. He just can't wait to get to the punch line.

DREW: "Knock knock."

ME: "Who's there?"

DREW: "MOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

The unintentional comedy of a botched delivery is what makes kid humor entertaining for grown-ups. What makes us laugh isn't the corny material, but the way the deliverers crack up after the punch line, convulsing on the floor, powerless to contain the force of their own hilariousness. Parents abide the tired old jokes and gags because we would do just about anything to hear our kids laugh.

You could search the world over and never hear a sweeter sound than a child's laughter, no matter whether you look over there, over here or under there. What's that you asked? Under where?

I just made you say "underwear."

Columnist Ben Bromley double-dog dares you to submit favorite kid jokes to bbromley@capitalnewspapers.com. A former Lillie Suburban Newspapers editor, he now writes for the Baraboo News Republic.

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