Puns worth a groan

Comedian Robert Berry wants to make you laugh and boo with his new book of jokes

Check out Robert Berry at 8 p.m. Wednesday, August 16, at Punch Line, 2100 Arden Way. Tickets are $15. For more information, go to www.retrocrush.com.

Here’s a joke by local comedian Robert Berry, and it might make you laugh, chuckle, groan or even shake your head.

“I’m creating a TV show where I get really cute, adorably fluffy animals that are dead, and I try to figure out what it is that killed them. It’s called Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwtopsy!”

The point is you had a reaction, and that’s what Berry likes most about one-liners. They evoke a response.

“These days, people aren’t encouraged to heckle. You’re supposed keep your mouth shut. But it’s this fun, old-school experience when people start groaning and booing your jokes—it’s like almost a loving boo,” Berry says. “It turns out, people end up laughing more as a result.”

If you really like this joke, it’s featured in Berry’s new book, Robert Berry’s Big Book Of Jokes, an honest- to-goodness joke book, the kind that Berry recalls purchasing quite a few of as a child—some brilliant, some terrible, all of them fun. One that particularly sticks out from Berry’s childhood is 101 Hamburger Jokes.

His book has some food jokes too, but he doesn’t stay on any one topic for too long. It’s organized into sections: comic books, dance music, Trump, movies, Huey Lewis. Much of this came from revisiting seven years of his Twitter posts and finding many gems.

“Through the years I went back and looked and thought, Wow, I’ve got eight different jokes about Huey Lewis. Why does that happen?” Berry says.

There are even some longer-form jokes and a few essays in the back half of the book that are well-worth the read. Local comedian Cory Barringer, a big fan of Berry’s absurdist one-liners, enjoyed all of it.

“As delightful as the jokes were, the essays stole the show for me. I came for the jokes, I stayed for the essays. But I also stayed for the jokes,” says Barringer.

Despite Berry’s pleasure in your reaction to his jokes—groans or belly laughs—he wants to make it clear: He’s not writing bad jokes. For the most part, those reactions are responses by our defenses, he says.

“I’m not afraid to throw a silly pun out there, but there’s a lot of jokes that make me laugh like crazy, and I want to get them down and share them,” Berry says.

This book is a great celebration of Berry’s roughly five years of seriously pursuing comedy. Before doing stand-up, he’d do everything from reading funny poems at literary readings to cracking jokes as a performer for the Trash Film Orgy film festival.

“Sometimes people see your act and they buy a CD, and not play it. I find that people are bringing this [book] in their bathrooms,” Berry says. “I’m proud of it. If someone bought it from me, they’re going to keep it. They’re not going to throw it away ’cause CDs aren’t good anymore. It’s something different.”