I’m often asked this question: “Hey Bill, how do you think up topics for your humor column? After all, you’ve written an essay every single week for the past 16 years, and once in a while they’re kind of interesting.”
Um, thanks. I’m pretty sure “Once in a while they’re kind of interesting” is the high praise that kept Mark Twain motivated.
Anyway, there’s no mystery about it. I just observe what’s going on in the world, and when I think something is kind of goofy, I grab a notebook and jot down ideas. In other words, what I do is pay attention and take notes — a fact that would cause most of my high school teachers to faint with shock.
Finding topics about which to write is not a problem; finding the time to sit down and do the actual writing, however, is a major challenge. Someone once told me when you reach middle-age and your kids move out of the house, you end up with a lot more free time. Well, I must be doing something wrong, because my schedule has never been more hectic.
After all these years, I have dozens of scraps of paper piled up on my desk with potential column topics. Here’s a small sample, and please let me know if any of these sound like they’d make a good column.
- The $5 DVD bin at Walmart makes one thing very clear: Hollywood produces an amazing number of awful movies.
- What I want Santa to bring me for Christmas: the health insurance deductibles and co-pays we’ve paid out this year. We could use an extra 8 grand.
- News story: a wristwatch was auctioned off for $11 million. Even I know that’s dumb, and I wasted 400 bucks on an Apple Watch.
- People who send greeting cards for every occasion make those of us who haven’t sent a greeting card since Jimmy Carter was president feel bad.
- A new study finds that membership in a college fraternity decreases a person’s academic grades but increases his life-long earnings, apparently because you get drunk way too often, but with guys who later will help you climb the corporate ladder. If that were true, I should be a millionaire by now.
- A Pew Research Center study finds that people get lied to approximately 200 times per day, including an average of three lies per conversation. Wow, that seems high, and I work in sales.
- I just found out “gluten-free” birthday cake is not the same as “dairy-free” birthday cake. (I think in my excitement about getting some cake at the office, I confused the concepts “gluten-free” and “vegan.”) Being lactose intolerant, I spent most of the afternoon in the men’s room.
- Regarding the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” aren’t you supposed to have that answered by the time you turn 60?
- Have you noticed that Dunkin Donuts offers very weird donut options, especially leading up to holidays? I think their R&D people smoke some dope, go to CVS, and pick whatever junk food strikes their fancy. “Hey man, this will be perfect: a jelly donut covered in Kit Kat bars, pork rinds, and beef jerky!”
- What percentage of tattoo decisions were made while sober? I’m guessing about 2-percent.
- Is the whole concept of “comfort pets” and “service animals” getting out of hand? Especially now that doctors will approve that someone needs a service boa constrictor, a comfort hedgehog, or a therapy rodent?
Please send an email and let me know if these or other topics might make an interesting humor column. Because after all, “kind of interesting once in a while” is what I want to be when I grow up.