John Foster: Here’s to getting the first, and last, laugh

Are you born with a sense of humor? Can you develop a sense of humor?

I am perplexed by these two questions.

In my case, I think I was born with a sense of humor but developed a greater sense as I matured.

I learned a valuable lesson in the third grade when we were to write a letter to a family member describing our summer vacation.

I wrote about my time with the Malones in Huron, Ohio, and the small farm that they had. This letter was written to my Aunt Helen.

As I read the letter before my classmates, I talked about gathering eggs in the henhouse, playing in the cornfield and climbing in the hay loft.

As I go to the end of the letter, I noted I hadn’t signed off.

So, I started doing a mental coin flip.

If this letter is to my Aunt Helen, do I end it with “Your nephew” or “Your niece”?

The more I thought about it, the more confused and panicked I got.

So, I did a mental coin flip and I ended my classroom reading with, “Your niece, Johnny”.

The class erupted, but my teacher gave me an A and congratulated me on using humor to embrace the audience.

It was a valuable lesson that I still use today.

In many talks or presentations, I’ll poke some fun at myself and get the audience relaxed, which puts them at ease and basically disarms them.

In high school band, Mr. Brown was chiding the alto and tenor sax section for not playing with enough energy and passion.

I was moved to shout out from the percussion section, “You need more sax appeal!”

Years later, when my wife and I introduced our two young daughters to him, he asked if either of them were playing musical instruments and scowled at me before saying, “I hope not drums!”

He remembered.

Sometimes these thoughts come quickly.

Years ago, as we were dining out, the waitress stopped by our table and noticed some leftovers. She asked, “Do you wanna box for them?”

I replied, “No, but I’ll wrestle you for it.”

She walked away before she responded with a chuckle.

Recently, a little girl walked up to me at a Veterans Day event. We honor guard members wear our service caps adorned with military pins and such, and I think she saw stars.

I told her, “While I might be a major disappointment, I am not a general!”

Other times, a greeting can be a commentary.

Often, when folks say, “Hey John! Good to see you!” my response is, “It’s good to be seen!”

I have run across several “last words” of sorts and noted quotes from celebrities and others.

Drummer Buddy Rich, when asked by nurses before going into surgery, “Is there anything you can’t take?” replied, “Yeah, country music.”

When asked if he had a last request for death by firing squad, convicted murderer James W. Rodgers responded with, “Bring me a bulletproof vest.”

There was the time that Bob Hope’s wife asked him where he wanted to be buried. Hope replied, “Surprise me!”

(Years ago, when discussing after death options, I told my wife to have me frozen and then put me in the ground with a piledriver.)

The great comedian W.C. Fields, when asked why he was reading the Bible, replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.”

Are you old enough to remember “Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club”? This was a show that was on radio and television for 35½ years. It originated out of Chicago, eventually on ABC.

This show aired on one of the first radio stations I ever worked at, WMAN in Mansfield, Ohio, and the last segment always had “the last call for breakfast.”

So here’s the last call for this column.


John Foster anchors “All-News-in-the-Morning” weekdays on 1010 WCSI-AM and 98.1 FM. You can read his weekly blog at and monthly in The Republic. Send comments to [email protected]