Tag Archives: funny

Hairspray: A Weapons Grade Presidential Candidate

Copyright 2016 Bil Lepp

Let’s just say, hypothetically, a can of hairspray was running for President, giving a whole new meaning to Head of State.

Where does hairspray even come from? The answer to that question is a bit surprising. Hairspray is the child of insecticide. During WWII the military needed a way to effectively control mosquitoes to help prevent malaria.  Bug spray in aerosol cans was developed.  Somebody figured out after the war that hairspray could be delivered via aerosol cans and its popularity took off in the fifties and early sixties.

It was the bestselling beauty product through the fifties and sixties due to “updo” hairstyles. Sales declined in the late sixties because folks started wearing their hair down. Darn hippies. In the seventies hairspray declined further due to the environmentally devastating chemicals used in aerosols.  Again, darn hippies.  Then, interestingly, the product resurged in the eighties.

Hairspray isn’t designed as a propellant, but it is a volatile product.  If you misuse hairspray it can be a dangerous weapon.  Flames are a byproduct of misuse.  Even if hypothetical Candidate Hairspray were to make the claim that he is not responsible if people misuse it, hairspray remains dangerous.  All it takes is one hairspray devotee with a destructive bent and, blamo.  Hairspray would be a weapons-grade candidate.

Hairspray flare-ups can be caused by escaping gas coming into contact with open flames or heat sources.  A can of hairspray leaking even just a little gas can cause a conflagration.

“…a stored hairspray container can explode or catch fire under certain circumstances. A corroded hairspray can, for instance, may weaken at the seams until gases leak out of it, igniting when they make contact with a heat source,” explains ehow.com contributor William Norman.  Thus, if Candidate Hairspray had any corrosive properties whatsoever, and if he wasn’t tight around the seams, and if he were in a heated environment, he could produce a fiery calamity.

The ingredients in hairspray are so highly volatile and flammable that they are ‘classically’ used as fuel in potato guns, states the author of the Hairspray Wikipedia page.

The potato gun is one of the most underrated inventions in the history of humankind.  There is no better method to send a spud several hundred yards. As a child of the eighties I have seen the havoc hairspray can reap on both humans and the environment. Perhaps hairspray’s one noble use is potato propellant.  But how many potatoes really need propelled, and what would the political value of potato hurling be?

What would Candidate Hairspray stand for?  Hairspray is used to control unruly hair. Hairspray advertisements contain phrases such as “firm hold” or “strong hold.”  Hairspray is designed to manipulate hair into maintaining a specific shape or form that will not be moved by wind or heat or humidity.  Do we want a candidate that creates a firm hold on our political system? Or do we want a candidate who can change a little if political winds shift, a candidate that allows a little freedom?

Scientists and laypeople debate the effects hairspray has on the environment. EPA rules regulate the chemicals in hairspray to reduce its negative impact on the Ozone layer.  But many people think that hairspray contributes to smog. Smog obscures the view, making things brown and hazy. Smog has also been linked to asthma and other lung problems.  Asthma has been listed as the number one reason kids miss school.  I doubt that hypothetical Candidate Hairspray would admit to deliberately trying to obscure the view and make it hard to breathe. Certainly Candidate Hairspray wouldn’t intentionally thwart education. Nonetheless, these are some of the side effects of hairspray.

No, I don’t think Candidate Hairspray would be a good candidate. I find myself gravitating towards the presidential candidates who seem to spend the least amount of time on their hair. This might seem a superficial position from which to judge a candidate, but come on, how many of us really base our votes on a true understanding of the issues?

On non-haircut days I reckon I spend a maximum of eight seconds on my hair.  No blow drying, no product. After that I have plenty of time to address any problems that arise, both foreign and domestic.

The front runners of both parties are doing their part to keep the hairspray industry booming.  Whether they use hairspray made by American or foreign workers I don’t know.  In either case, neither of the front runners’ hairdos ever moves much.  In summation, when the president gets under the rotors of Marine One I want to see hair move.  I don’t want someone with Ken Doll hair running the country.  It ain’t natural.


A Strong Foundation of False Information

From The Charleston Gazette
Sunday, January 11, 2015
When our kids were small we took them to Hersey, Pennsylvania. The whole town smelled of chocolate.

It was raining. As we drove past a construction site I noticed a huge, wet pile of dirt, maybe 20 feet tall. It looked like chocolate.

I told my kids, “See that? That’s a big pile of raw chocolate. That’s what they make the candy out of.”

“Can we eat it?” they asked.

“Sure,” I said, and pulled the car to the curb.

My wife intervened. She said, “Children, don’t believe everything your father says. Of course you can’t eat it. Raw chocolate is toxic. Besides, it tastes like dirt until they add sugar.”


“If you don’t believe me,” she sighed, “go ahead and try it.”

“But you said it is toxic,” my son argued.

“Up to you,” my wife shrugged.

The car idled in the rain. Exhaust swirled from the rear of the car and over the windshield.

“Maybe next time,” my son decided.

I pulled away, satisfied that we had filled our children’s heads with quality nonsense.

It is the right and privilege of a good parent to provide a strong foundation of false information to their children.

And when your kids get too old? You can fool the neighbor kids.

My wife has a friend with children much younger than ours. We’ll call those children Prudence and Rowen. Prudence and Rowen were at our house looking at a chart depicting the geological strata of the Earth. We homeschool so we have stuff like that on the walls. It is a cartoony chart and each layer — Pleistocene, Paleocene, Mississippian — is represented by a different color.

I told those kids that each of those layers denoted a different flavor. I explained that in Utah there is a huge strip mine and that that is where Jell-O comes from. Orange from Oligocene, lime from Jurassic, blueberry from Cambrian.

My wife intervened.

She said, “Don’t believe everything he says. Jell-O comes from rainbows. There are specially equipped airplanes that fly through rainbows and scoop up the flavor crystals.”

My son piped up: “Don’t believe anything they say. Jell-O is made from gelatin which is rendered from animal products such as pig skin and cow bones.”


Sometimes the truth is the best answer.

Besides, lying to children can backfire. Once we told the neighbor kid that his parents found him under a rock. My own parents have been telling me this for years. We got an angry call.

On that note, while you may think it is a good idea to teach your kids how to light matches and build fires, in case they end up in a survival situation, it is not a good idea to teach the neighbor kids how to light fires. Their parents, apparently, do not want their children to survive emergency situations.

When my wife was a child, her parents took her and her sister to the Smoky Mountains. They were from the flatland and had never been in mountains before.

As they ascended, my wife’s sister said, “Oh, my ears just popped.”

Her mother said, “Oh, my ears just popped.”

My wife was chewing gum. Never having been at altitude, she had no idea that your ears pop as the pressure changes, nor did she know that the act of chewing gum keeps your ears from popping.

She said, “My ears have not popped. What will happen if my ears don’t pop?”

“Your head will explode,” her father said.

That’s just good parenting.

Eventually your kids will be out on their own. Across the breadth and spectrums of this world there are people who want to fill the heads of others with bunk and flotsam.

Parents who spend time deliberately exercising and expanding their children’s drivel detectors are enabling those children to better assess and synthesize information in the future.

Of course, none of that has anything to do with lighting matches. But I sleep easy at night knowing that if the hammer falls, my kids’ heads won’t explode, they will be able to add sugar to dirt to make chocolate, mine rainbows for Jell-O and build a fire to stay warm.

I Met Dave Barry or I’m Funnier Than Beriberi

copyright Bil Lepp 2014

I met Dave Barry.  Well, I met a guy with a nametag that read Dave Barry.  So, I either met THE Dave Barry, A Dave Barry, or just some guy wearing a Dave Barry nametag.  I hope I met the writer Dave Barry.

I read a thing about how Kinky Friedman showed up at a Texas writer’s event and put on Larry McMurtry’s name tag, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet Kinky Friedman in Dave Barry’s name tag.

I’ve had brushes with fame before.  Madonna flipped me off.  Gene Simmons pushed me out of an elevator.  And Steven Tyler spit on me, but not all of my celebrity encounters have gone as well.

Here is my evidence that I met Dave Barry, the humorous writer. I was at a book festival, I was in Miami, the guy looked like Dave Barry, and he was funny.  Evidence against: he was just standing there, not writing.

My father-in-law once told me, “I think you are funnier than Dave Barry.”  Or maybe he said Lewis Grizzard.  Or maybe he said, “Funnier than beriberi.”  But I think it was Dave Barry.  It sure suits this piece better if he said Dave Barry.  Praise from relatives is, well, relative.  We need to consider the source.  Had my mother told me I was funnier than Dave Barry I might not be so impressed.  She used to tell me I was cute, and then upgraded to handsome.  Neither of those turned out to be true.  However, fathers-in-law tend to be less effusive with praise to their sons-in-law then mothers are to their own children.  And I have a great father-in-law.  I know this because he says stuff like, “You are funnier than Dave Barry.” Or did he say Larry David?  Whatever he said, it was a compliment.

The thing about compliments is that they aren’t always true.  I am not funnier than Dave Barry.  Barry is not just funny, he is consistently funny.  Year after year that guy is funny.  Anybody can be funny once, but Barry just keeps dishing it out.  He is a dedicated writer.  That guy has written more books than I own.

I was in the Green Room at this event.  I am, by the way, so low on the Author totem pole that I had been at the event for two days before I was even told there was a Green Room.  The crowds parted, and there was a guy wearing a Dave Barry nametag.

I said to my buddy, “That’s Dave Barry.”

My buddy said, “Who?”

I said, “That guy over there.”

My buddy said, “No, who is Dave Barry?”  I punched him.

People tell me occasionally, “You sound like Jeff Foxworthy.”  They don’t say, “You are as funny as Jeff Foxworthy.”  Not even my mother has said that.  Just that I sound like him.  Sometimes I drift off to sleep dreaming of a scene in which a person has just told Jeff Foxworthy that he sounds like me and Jeff says, “I sound like who?”

Green Room etiquette establishes a sort of “Gushing & Fawning Free Zone.”   I know this because people in Green Rooms never gush and fawn over me, so it must be a rule.  But I couldn’t help it.  I went over to the guy in the Dave Barry name tag and gushed and fawned.  I flattered and prattled in a concise and succinct manner.  I began with how I read him as a kid, then as a young adult, then explained how my children now love him as well.  This kind of nattering helps remind those we admire of exactly how old they are.  I wrapped up my babble in under thirty minutes.

But I wasn’t done!  I ran from the room, secured a copy of my own book, a children’s picture book of all things, and then presented it to the guy in the Dave Barry nametag.  I explained, “I have enjoyed reading your stuff, I hope you enjoy reading mine.”  And then I added.  “I’m sure this is just what you want.  A picture book to lug around all day.  You don’t have to keep it.  You are welcome to leave it on the coffee table as soon as I turn my back, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to put one of my books in the hands of one of my heroes.”  And the guy in the Dave Barry nametag laughed a real laugh.

Here is why I hope I met the real Dave Barry, funny writer guy.  He was incredibly gracious and exceptionally kind.  Not all our heroes turn out to be nice.  The guy in the Dave Barry nametag said, “No, no.  In fact, will you autograph it for me?”  And, as far I can tell, he did not leave it on the coffee table.

And if I met a guy who just happened to also be named Dave Barry?  Well, he was a heck of a guy too.

Night of the Living Christmas Tree

More Bad Advice for Good Parents copyright Bil Lepp 2014

If you celebrate Christmas, or if you merely want to scare children regardless of your belief system, may I suggest the following:

  1. Take your children to the Christmas tree buying place.
  2. Explain that the rootless trees are dead, but that the trees with their roots girded in canvas are ‘live trees’.
  3. Buy a live tree. Put it in the trunk.
  4. Talk about the scary movie “Night of the Living Christmas Trees”, in which live trees maul people.  You’ll have to make this up, but if you’ve made it this far in the process, I whole heartily trust your imagination and discretion.
  5. Halfway home start saying things such as, “Did you hear that?” “Did that noise come from the trunk?”
  6. Put the tree in your living room.
  7. Discuss carnivorous plants such as the Venus Fly Trap, Cobra Lilly, and Bladderworts- although you may want to save Bladderworts for an entirely different conversation.
  8. Warn the children to be careful around the tree.
  9. ‘Find’ rat, cat and bird skeletons in the tree.
  10. Tie fishing line to various branches and animate the tree as the children are decorating it.
  11. Enjoy the holidays!                                copyright Bil Lepp 2014

The Demise of Cursive

By Bil Lepp Copyright 2014 as seen in June 2014 www.funnytimes.com/

The most ridiculous rational I ever heard for cursive came from my second grade teacher.  She said, “Cursive makes it so that you can write without ever lifting your pen.”  She made it sound as if lifting your pen was an exhausting exercise, as though we were writing with jackhammers.  Technology has a tendency to make things smaller and lighter, but was there really a time when pens were so heavy that no one wanted to lift one?  And what about all that extra ink wasted by not picking up your pen?

“Young people today are losing the ability to write cursive,” the old people of today say with the same sad inflection used to lament the loss of native languages or the ability to cure ham.

Let us not mourn cursive.

If our culture hinges on a handwriting style then we have made some serious mistakes as a culture.  Furthermore, each new generation has the innate ability to deduce what tools and customs practiced by the previous generation need to be put to sleep.  My generation knew the slide rule was done for, this generation recognizes the futility of keeping cursive on the breathing machine.  Time’s up.  Send some flowers and move on.

Nobody reads handwritten stuff anymore anyway, except maybe the postman when he is trying to decipher a handwritten address, but nobody writes letters anymore, so the point is moot.  Indecently, this whole not writing letters has led to the crumbling of the other apparent pillar of our cultural identity…The demise of the Thank You note.  It must be hard to be old and care about stuff.

My wife and I could not employ the ‘spell what you want to say so the kids don’t know what you are talking about’ trick after both kids gained a certain intellect.  However, we can still write in cursive if we want to keep secrets.  The kids just look at the loops and swirls with mouths agape and eyes aglaze as if my wife and I were reading ‘possum entrails.

By the by, my grandfather used to gripe all the time about my generation not being able to read ‘possum entrails.  His grandfather used to grouse about the next generations inability to determine the weather by the bark on trees.  That guy’s grandfather used to get all snarky about the younger generation’s insistence that the nomadic life was stupid and that people should switch to agriculture.   And, of course, that guy’s grandfather would get all grumbly when people drew on the walls of his cave, and his grandfather laughed when the next generation thought walking on two feet was better than walking on four.

Somewhere in that long progression, one generation figured out that if a fella was to make a couple of marks on a scrap of papyrus he would be more likely to remember everything his wife asked him to pick up at the grocery.  And, you know as well as I do, as soon at that generation began writing things down the generation before them said, “Writing? Bah, in my day we just remembered stuff.”

And so it goes, people first communicated simple messages with grunts and gesticulations, then they created a spoken language and passed on information in an oral fashion, then they figured out how to write, then some prankster invented the impressively heavy pen so another bozo went and thought up cursive and calligraphy, and now the young folks send complicated, detailed, revolution inspiring messages around the globe in a matter of seconds using only their impressively muscular thumbs….even though they can’t write without lifting the pen.  Actually, they can’t even lift a pen because the rest of their fingers have atrophied due to neglect and disuse.  It does not seem that we have lost much in that transition.

Bil Lepp: Elephant Gerald in Concert

By Bil Lepp
For the Sunday Gazette-Mail

When you are a child, you are at a disadvantage because you have a limited vocabulary. Everything you hear has to be processed through the relatively few words you know. This leads to grievous, or hilarious, misunderstandings.

When my daughter was very young, had assembled a rudimentary vocabulary and had pounded her first shaky piton into the wall of understanding Time, she grasped the notion that not everything happens Today.

However, the only other day she could both comprehend and articulate was Yesterday.

Thus, she asked questions such as, “Are we going to Grandma’s house today or yesterday?”

Being the sort of parent that I am, I responded, “Yesterday.”

She was happy with the answer because she knew she was beginning to understand the world. Or she is a Time Lord.

When I was about 5 years old, my mother said to me, “Oh, I’m so excited. Someone gave us tickets to go see Elephant Gerald.”

I had no idea who Elephant Gerald was, but I loved elephants.

I had elephant stuffed animals, elephant trinkets, posters of elephants, elephant bedsheets.

My favorite book was “Babar.”

Mom said Elephant Gerald was a singer and that there would be music. Mom said Elephant Gerald had sung with Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

I was impressed.

I only knew who one of those guys was, but I knew that you had to be important to sing with a count, a duke and the first man on the moon.

Plus, this elephant had a name. How many other elephants were important enough to have a name?

Babar and Dumbo were the only elephants I knew by name. Horton, too,

I wondered how elephants even played music.

At the time I thought trombone players were the greatest musicians in the world because I fully misunderstood the mechanics of the instrument and I thought they were swallowing the slide.

But how would an elephant play an instrument? Or did they just use their trunks like trumpets?

Could they stick their trunks out to the side and have another elephant play it like a flute?

Or, better yet, did an elephant come on stage in a kilt, stick his trunk in his own mouth, and then blow really hard while squeezing himself, thus causing bagpipe like sounds to emit from other places?

I was 5 years old. It was a reasonable, almost intoxicating idea.

The big day arrived.

My mother told me to go get dressed. She had laid out an outfit for me, but I had a better idea.

I had a three-piece suit. I had collected it myself. I knew that to have a three-piece suit one needed pants, a vest and a jacket all made of the same material.

I had recently acquired a denim vest. This, along with a pair of Toughskins and a blue-jean jacket, completed the three-piece suit.

I went upstairs and my mother just said, “No.”

We went to the symphony hall and took our seats.

I was so excited. The lights dimmed, the music started, the curtains opened, and what I took for the opening act came on stage.

She was a Rubenesque, middle-aged, African-American woman. She sang a song about a knife named Mack.

When she finished I asked my mother, “Where’s the elephants?” She said, “Shh.”

Every time the lady on stage finished a song, I asked my mother, with increasing urgency, “Where’s the elephants?”

My mother’s shushing became more and more insistent. Then the lady sang “A Tisket, A Tasket,” people stood and applauded, then the lights came on.

The show was over.

I was distraught. I began to sob like only a child can. I was wracked with tears, gasping for air.

“What is wrong with you?”

“I … wanted … to … see … the … elephant!”

“What elephant?” my confused and exasperated mother asked.

“El … e … phant Ger … ald!”

And she burst out laughing in the way that adults do when a child has utterly misunderstood the world.

“No, no, baby, not Elephant Gerald,” she howled, gasping almost as hard as I. “Ella Fitzgerald!”

Sometimes I think, perhaps naively, that most of the problems in the world today occur because we, as individuals and as communities, simply don’t bother to take the time to understand other people.

We hear someone say something about themselves, their culture, their religion or politics, etc., and if we do not have the vocabulary to understand what they are saying, we simply dismiss and marginalize them.

If we would make the effort to learn a few new words or stretch our minds around some new concepts we might be able to smooth some things out in this world of ours.

It is easier to hate than to learn, easier to shun than try to understand, but there comes a time when we have to accept that trombone players don’t swallow the slide.

But I’m still holding out for the elephant in a kilt.

Bil Lepp, of Charleston, is a full-time professional storyteller and the author of four books and nine audio collections. He may be contacted via http://www.leppstorytelling.com.

– See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140531/GZ05/140539921/1116#sthash.NisD31Oi.Xd0UyZtc.dpuf

Unsafe? Legalize It!

copyright 2014 Bil Lepp
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Of all the bills the West Virginia Legislature passed this session, I think the most important is the ban on owning exotic animals such as tigers. Thank the stars above the state managed to enact this legislation.

It is clear that the state is determined to follow a new rule: If it seems unsafe, legalize it!

Owning tigers may seem exactly the sort of unsafe practice the Legislature would legalize, even require, but if that is your line of thought you are not thinking like a West Virginia elected official. Studies show that pets are beneficial to physical and mental health. The simple act of petting a cat makes us feel less lonely and lowers blood pressure. If petting a normal size cat lowers your blood pressure a little, it stands to reason that petting a tiger would lower your blood pressure even more. And we can’t have that. Recent polls show West Virginia is the most depressed state in the Union, and lawmakers don’t want to squander that notoriety. Our legislature is determined to keep us sick, addicted and depressed.

Meth makers, however, can rejoice. You are the darlings of the conspiracy to keep us sick and sad. If everyone in West Virginia is hooked on meth, unemployed, in poverty and depressed then sustaining an inept state government will be so much simpler. If we are depressed and high we will be more apt to believe the root of our problems are federal regulations aimed at clean water and clean air, rather than zillion-dollar companies who want to make a few bucks.

As a voting population, we West Virginians must be high to think our industries are overregulated when the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, the 2011 natural gas pipeline explosion, and the Freedom Industries chemical spill all happened, at least in part, because of lack of inspections and lack of governmental oversight. “Dude, oops,” seems to be our state government’s default response to industrial disasters and the drug problem.

They are hoping we are too high to notice, or too sick to get out of bed to do anything about it.

I do applaud the West Virginia Legislature for taking away the rights of individual municipalities to make decisions about gun laws. We clearly cannot trust our local governments to keep us safe. After all, right here in Kanawha County, some officials thought funding the library was a good idea. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and funding has been drastically curtailed. A literate population is a healthier population, and we can’t have that. How can we possibly allow county officials who want kids to read to also make gun laws?

I am a gun owner, but I have never felt the need to take a gun to the rec center. I guess I need to reconsider that choice. But if I did take a concealed gun to the gym, where would I put it? I wear shorts and a t-shirt when I work out. Where would I conceal my gun? If I have to put my gun in a locker, that negates the whole purpose of bringing it. I’m gonna have to mull this one over.

Do I really think there is a conspiracy in West Virginia to keep us unsafe and get us all high? Of course not. The pharmaceutical industry’s effort to keep medications containing the pseudoephedrine used to produce meth available over the counter are purely altruistic. Big Pharma is truly, deeply, concerned for all the billions of West Virginia cold sufferers who just might not pull through if they have to rely on readily available cold medications that cannot be manipulated by meth manufacturers. Mississippi and Oregon, two states that have passed laws requiring prescriptions for meth making medications, have suffered a staggering number of cold related deaths, half the populations moved to Texas, and both states are facing financial ruin. Oregon has gone so far as to adopt legislation to be annexed by British Columbia. If only Big Pharma had done for those states what they have done for West Virginia. Thank you Big Pharma. I know you never once thought, “What? Really? We make a lot of money from people who buy our legitimate products to produce highly addictive and destructive illegal drugs? Dude, oops.”

In parting, I have a final word for exotic animal owners. You either need to become part of the conspiracy or figure out a way to use your animals to make drugs. If there was a chance your critters were going to leak toxins into the environment, or be ingested for the purpose of getting high, of if you could conceal you giant beasts for the purpose of self-protection, you would become immediately invisible to the West Virginia Legislature. And then, if one of your critters did something wrong you could just say, “Dude, oops.”

Lepp, of South Charleston, is a professional storyteller. Read more at leppstorytelling.com.
As seen in the Charleston Gazette http://www.wvgazette.com/Opinion/OpEdCommentaries/201403180192