Surreal conversation in the hotel bar the other night, when I was accosted by a very drunk lady in charge of a software convention. I said something unintentionally funny, and she followed me outside to the table I was sharing with another writer and her husband. What should have been a brief conversation took a long and winding turn when the husband, for reasons known only to him and his psychiatrist, said that he wrote clown porn. Lots of things go to making a good joke, but surprise is close at the top. I was so surprised by Neal's statement that I laughed out loud. So did his wife. But the drunk lady didn't see it as funny. She could not -- simply could not -- get enough of the concept. She insisted on details. Neal (who for the record does not write clown porn) cited websites and statistics, and the drunk lady got more and more excited, practically climbing into his lap. (His wife smiled and gave a you-go-girl wave.) I got to thinking about the progress and limits of humour. An inspired idea is like a glob of butter on a piece of bread. You spread the butter to enjoy it better, running the changes on the joke, but there's only so much there, and as time goes by the humour begins to get thin and just a little ... mean. I don't mind making fun of drunks, who are almost co-conspirators in the joke, but I was glad when the lady finally left us to return to her neglected software party. Clown porn? I said to Neal. He nodded. Real deal. Costumes, false noses, big feet, XXX rating. A buddy sent me a link. Want me to write it down? I shook my head. I didn't find the idea repulsive -- just bizarre. I didn't know whether to giggle or make a face. I compromised, and had a sip of scotch. All right -- next time we'll do tidy versus clean.
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