The best medicine, the worst comedians

From my vast and objective study of the professions, I’ve concluded the least funny are doctors.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that they can’t have wit, humor, or senses of irony. They can. And some do. But when it comes to thems what can dish out the rib-tickling, side-splitting, pee-in-your-pants stuff, fergit it.

Like I said, not funny.

But in spite of being hilarity-challenged, over the years doctors have given me lots of laughs. Not that they were trying to do it, but I got my yucks nonetheless. I have two fine examples.

Take Dr. Tony Waikman … please.

It all started with my annual physical last fall. When it was over he told me everything looked good, except for one small problem. Actually, it wasn’t one problem — it was 174 of ’em — namely pounds. And it wasn’t small either, since I was now, in the eyes of the Body Mass Index, officially obese.

Obese — a five-letter four-letter word, which is a synonym for a four-letter three-letter word — fat.

In order to drown my sorrows about my new, literally-inflated status, I did what I always do — I wrote about it. And that was that, I thought. But I thought wrong.

A few weeks later I ran into Dr. W. on the streets, and gave him a hearty “Ahoy,” as befits my naval career. In return, he wagged his index finger back and forth and said, “I never said you were fat.”

I was both delighted and disappointed. Delighted that he read my column, and disappointed that after he read it (and after having me for a patient), he still didn’t get my subtle sense of irony and self-deprecation.

So I did the only thing I could — I wrote another column about his reaction, and a pretty funny one at that. At least I got some yucks out of it. I figured almost anyone else would as well, and I was right. A bunch of peeps told me they’d dissolved into hilarity reading it. Only one person didn’t, as I found out when I again met him on the street.

“Wuzzup?” I said to Dr. W.

“I didn’t say you were fat,” he said, minus the finger wag.

“I know,” I said. “You said I was obese.”

“Yes,” he said. “Obese.”

Look,” I said, wanting to put this mishegas to rest. “I taught English for 40 years. I’ve read the OED cover to cover. And I can tell you, with no fear of contradiction, that the most common synonym for ‘obese’ is ‘fat.'”

He shook his head and sighed, as if dealing with some dimwit.

“I did not say you’re fat,” he said.

Frankly, I felt like whuppin’ him upside the head with a hardbound copy of Roget’s Thesaurus. Instead, reason prevailed and I gave him the all-purpose non-answer.

“Yeah, sure, whatever,” I said.

And that put to rest … at least until this column hits the light of day.

The high priest of hip

The second medico who’s starring in this melodrama is Dr. Dan Bullock, and it involves hipness.

This is not hipness in the Lenny Bruce, Jack Kerouac sense, but in a literal one — the hip I had replaced by him three years ago. And now I was in his office for my annual follow-up appointment.

He came in the examining room with a wide open smile plastered across his mug and the first thing he said was, “So, are you still writing for the newspaper?”

The first thing I said to him, with a slight, tight smile on my mug, was, “So I can see you’re not reading it.”

He hemmed and hawed a bit, then regained his sang froid and got on with the business at hand (or in the case, at butt).

He had me walk back and forth, lean hither and yon, sway to and fro; then he looked at my x-rays and pronounced me A-OK, if not USDA Prime.

Then he said, “There’s been a change in hip replacement protocol over the years.”

“Oh yeah?” I said, in rapt amazement.

“Right,” he said. “It used to call for annual exams. But they’ve changed it. So now, after three annual check-ups, your next one will be in five years.”

“Fascinating,” I said.

Without missing a beat — or getting my irony — he went on.

“The appointments are made automatically on the computer, so your next appointment will be for July 30, 2023.”

“Are you for serious?” I said.

“Of course,” he said. “You’ll get your notice just before the appointment.”

“Reassuring,” I said. “But how do you know I’ll be around to get it?’

“Because it’s in the system,” he said.

“Look,” I said, “it may be in the system, but my system might not be in its corporeal form. So I don’t plan anything five years in advance.”

“Well, you could put it in an appointment calendar,” he said.

At that point, if a geranium had sprouted out of his forehead full-grown, I wouldn’t have been any more amazed. I obviously needed to go into teacher mode.

“I guess I could,” I said. “But guess what?”


“I might be pushing up the daisies by then,” I said.

“Pushing up the –“

“Yeah,” I interrupted. “The daisies.”

As he was processing that, I went on.

“And even if I’m on the positive side of the grass, there could be another problem.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, given my organizational skills, I might have no idea under which pile of detritus the appointment book is buried. And if, by some miracle, I did find it, there could be one more hassle.”

“What’s that?”

“That under July 30, 2023 I’d see, ‘Dan Bullock in Lake Placid for hip.’ And have no idea who Dan Bullock is, where Lake Placid is, and what’s a hip.”

Finally, copping to my goofing, he smiled.

Thus encouraged, I went on.

“And worst of all,” I said, “I’d have no idea how I got that huge scar on my dupa.”

“OK,” he said, shaking his head and conceding the mismatch, “we’ll just leave it up to my office computer to take care of the details.”

“Great idea,” I said.

And this left me with both bad and good news.

The bad news is I’ve got a whole five-year wait till my next chance for a laugh riot with Dan Bullock.

But the good news is I’ve got only another month till my annual appointment with Tony Waikman.