Sunday, January 26, 2020


I've always been a kid at heart, and the other day I proved that I'm an even bigger kid than I thought.

I was browsing in an area store when a  "50% off" sign caught my eye.

The discount section contained mostly leftover Christmas toys. There was a stuffed Rottweiler, which I immediately was attracted to, mainly because I have a real one. There was a puppy that wagged and barked, which was cute. And then there was another animal that sang songs. I stood there playing with each one, probably annoying the poor clerk at the nearby counter. I was certain she'd been subjected to a chorus of those animals singing, barking and talking so many times a day, she probably was ready to stuff them into the trunk of her car and drive them over a cliff somewhere.

Suddenly this furry little teddy bear caught my eye. His tag said he was called "Hello Teddy," and if you squeezed his paw and talked to him, he would answer you because he actually could hear and understand what you were saying.

I was intrigued, mainly because he simply was a battery-operated toy – no computer hookup or app – just a normal-looking teddy bear with a couple batteries in him. I really wanted to try him out, but was a bit hesitant to stand in a crowded store and talk to a teddy bear.  I mean, people already think I'm weird enough, so I didn't need to add fuel to the fire.

But my curiosity finally got the better of me.  I squeezed the teddy bear's paw. Immediately he said, "Oh, yeah!" 

The instructions on his tag then said to greet him with, "Hello, Teddy."  I did.

"What's up?" he answered, in a loud, nasal, teddy-like voice.

There were 10 questions on his list that it said he answered, so I picked one at random. "Are you hungry?" I asked him.

"I'm starving!" he said. "When do we eat around here?"

I couldn't conceal my surprise.  I searched for another question.

"Can you burp?" I asked.

By then, people were beginning to stare at me.

"Uuurrrrrrp!" came the much-too-loud reply from the teddy bear, causing the aforementioned people to look at me as if they thought I’d eaten too many bean burritos for lunch.

"Sing for me!" I said. I was so fascinated at that point, I didn't care who was staring at me.

The teddy bear cleared his throat. " Mi, mi, mi (cough!) – maybe later."

"Sing for me!" I repeated.

"My throat is sore!" he shot back.

Teddy then burst into a chorus of "Old MacDonald."

That did it. I was hooked. I had to have him.  The problem was, he didn’t have any price listed on or near him.  I knew he was 50-percent off, but off what? With his talent, I figured he'd probably cost an arm and a leg, as well as other assorted body parts.  I brought him up to the register.

"How much is he?" I asked the clerk, my expression as hopeful as a child's on Christmas morning.

She scanned his tag. "He's on sale for $9.99."

I couldn't believe my ears. I whipped out a $10 bill.

When I got home, with no one around to stare at me, I eagerly put Teddy through his paces.

"I love you," I said to him.

"Don't get all mushy on me!" Teddy answered.

"I love you!" I repeated.

"You’re so sweet," he said, his voice softening.

Then, although I said nothing else, Teddy blurted out, “Let’s do it!”

My eyebrows rose.  Was “Hello Teddy” some kind of furry little pervert?

I hadn’t even realized I’d called Teddy a pervert out loud until he responded with, “OK, but leave the light on!”

“Behave yourself!” I said to him, which actually was one of the questions on his list.

“I’ve been baaaaad,” he said.  

 For the first time, my two dogs, who love to shred stuffed animals, noticed Teddy. When I made him speak to them, the look of total surprise on the pups' faces made me start to laugh.

Suddenly Teddy also started to laugh and said, “You crack me up!"

I just stared at the bear, wide-eyed.  I was beginning to get the feeling it really could hear me – and I mean really.

Well, my Rottweiler, decided she wanted Teddy…and she wanted him bad.

No place I tried to hide the bear worked. My dog sniffed him out and whined at the cabinet door, the closet door, the bureau drawer – wherever he was, she was there, whining.

"Maybe she senses something weird about the bear,” one of my friends said when I told her about my dog’s obsession.

 Several episodes of the Twilight Zone about dolls and toys coming to life and attacking people in their sleep immediately came to mind.

So Teddy is on the top shelf in the guest-room closet right now. If I look for him tomorrow morning and he's not there, I'm calling an exorcist.

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(If you want to hear Teddy talking  to me, just play the above video!)


Monday, January 20, 2020


Before I started writing my own humor column over 25 years ago, I studied, with rapt interest, the styles of other humor writers. I wanted to see if there might be some common thread or a specific writing technique that made them funny.

Well, it took years of research and the agony of suffering from laughter-induced stomach pains, but I think I’ve finally figured out five basic writing techniques that most humor writers share.  

First of all, there is what I call the “Double As” technique, where the word “as” is used twice in a sentence: “He was as hungry as a toothless man in an apple orchard.” Or “She was as dumb as Lois Lane never figuring out that Clark Kent was Superman.”

Then there is the “so” technique that Johnny Carson was famous for: “It was SO hot out, chickens were lining up in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken and begging to be plucked!” Or “His hair was SO greasy, head lice were seen bobsledding down the part in it.”

Another popular technique is to write a serious-sounding sentence, but to make it humorous by adding a comment in parenthesis: “The secret to my quick weight-loss is that I drank 10 glasses of water every day (and then my bladder fell out).” Or “Our son, who always was in trouble in his younger days, is now in the medical profession (as a cadaver).”

The most popular technique by far, however, seems to be exaggeration.  I haven’t found a humor writer yet who doesn’t exaggerate, though some really go hog wild with it, while others incorporate it more subtly.

Using the exaggeration technique, humor writers have written about squadrons of hawk-sized mosquitoes wearing army helmets and flying in V-formation, preparing to attack, and also about houses so large, the occupants had to hire a taxi just to go to the bathroom. Humorist Dave Barry once wrote that his baby daughter had so much intestinal gas one night, if he hadn’t been holding her firmly at the time of one especially loud, bloomer-inflating blast, she would have propelled herself, missile style, right through the ceiling. 

Then there is the opposite of exaggeration, which is the “understatement” or “shrinking” technique. This technique describes things as being much smaller and less significant than they actually are: “A puddle of spit was bigger than the lake where we rented our summer cabin.” Or “The guy who painted our house charged by the hour and used a brush that had only two hairs on it.”

There are other techniques, but these five definitely seem to be the most popular. 

I’ve noticed that titles are pretty important, too.  Granted, the titles of most newspaper columns are written by the editors, but humor writers who are submitting articles to magazines or even books to publishers, should be able to let the editors know just by the title alone, that what they are about to read is humorous (or is supposed to be).

For example, “My Handyman is Clumsy” might be funnier as, “Meet Thumbless Joe, my Handyman.” Or, “I Hate Housework” could become, “My Roommate is a Giant Dust Ball.”

So now I will attempt to use all five of the aforementioned techniques in only two paragraphs: 

It was raining so hard the night we went to the restaurant, Carnival Cruise Lines pulled up next to us in the parking lot.  We were greeted by our waitress, Lyla, who was so voluptuous, she looked as if she were smuggling two bowling balls underneath her uniform.  She seated us at a table that was no bigger than a deck of cards, and it was so close to the table behind us, when I reached up to scratch my head, I scratched the guy’s head behind me and panicked, thinking I’d suddenly gone bald. 

Everything on the menu looked delicious (especially the smear of gravy stuck on the front and the blob of mashed potatoes on the back). We finally ordered the chicken dinner.  When our food arrived, not only was it as cold as a snowman’s butt, the portion was so small, it looked as if a hummingbird had died on the plate.  After our meal, which we finished in about 15 seconds, we ordered dessert.  My chocolate cake was so sweet, my teeth continued to ache even after I took them out for the night.

Okay, so maybe these five techniques don’t work very well when you clump all of them together instead of spreading them out here and there, but I think you get the idea. 

And now I am going to head off to my dental appointment…or should I say, “My Afternoon with Attila the Driller.”

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at:


Monday, January 13, 2020


I recently learned a valuable lesson:  It’s not a good idea to try to play matchmaker.

Kenny, the son of a close friend of mine, lives in New York. He is in his early 30s, has never been married, is good-looking, has a great job and best of all, has no baggage from prior relationships. He has made no secret of the fact that his ultimate goal is to meet “Miss Right” and get married, but so far, he has been extremely unlucky when it comes to love.

I never understood why some nice young woman wouldn’t be thrilled to have a kind, generous, hard-working, intelligent guy like Kenny for a husband.

Well, I understand now…but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

It all began a few weeks ago when a former co-worker of mine, Ann, who’s attractive and single, said she’d give her right arm to meet a guy who truly respected women, didn’t hang out in bars and wanted something more serious than the proverbial one-night-stand. I immediately thought of Kenny and asked her if she’d like him to contact her. She seemed very interested, but told me to tell him to email her rather than text her or call her, to protect her privacy until she got to know him better.

“You can’t be too careful nowadays,” she said.

So Ann and Kenny exchanged emails. The very next day, Ann called me to ask what kind of weirdo I was trying to set her up with!  I was shocked, to say the least. I had known Kenny for years and he’d never once done anything that could be described as weirdo-ish.

Ann explained that in response to her email, Kenny had written back telling her he already could tell she was his Miss Right, the woman of his dreams, and he couldn’t wait to move to New Hampshire to be with her!

I was stunned. “What on earth did you write to him?” I asked her, imagining some boldly seductive letter, even though I knew it would be totally out of character for someone as shy as Ann.

“I just told him what I did for a living, my likes and dislikes, my hobbies - stuff like that,” she answered. “I know he’s your friend, Sally, but no offense, I’m not going to write back to him. One more email, and I’m scared I’ll find him camped out on my doorstep!”

Kenny was devastated when he didn’t hear from Ann again. And when he called me to ask if I might know the reason why, I had to gently explain that he might have come across sounding just a tad too desperate for a wife, and scared her off.

“I always do that,” he said, groaning. “I guess I’m just too eager to settle down and start a family. But you can bet I'll never act too gung-ho again, believe me!”

Fool that I was, I believed him. So a few weeks later, when a friend of mine happened to mention that her cousin Melanie, a 25-year-old legal secretary who lived in Boston, was looking for a mature, career-oriented guy who wanted a serious relationship, Kenny once again popped into my mind. I gave her his email address.

To my relief, Kenny didn’t scare Melanie away by coming on too strong. In fact, they seemed to hit it off really well.

One night, two weeks after his first contact with Melanie, Kenny called me.

“Thank you SO much, Sally!” he gushed. “Melanie is the perfect woman for me. We’re already making plans to meet, and if things go the way I think they will, I’m going to propose to her. Of course, I want you to be in our wedding party!”

“Whoa!” I said. “Propose?!  You’ve known her only two weeks and haven’t even met her in person yet!  You promised me you’d take things slowly, remember?”

“But I’m really head over heels in love with Melanie!” he protested. “This is the real thing!  Why should I wait?”

Far be it for me to burst his bubble. I figured he was a grown man, able to make his own decisions…no matter what the outcome.

Meanwhile, Ann, not knowing about Kenny’s latest love, decided to give him another chance. She sent him an email, then also sent a copy to me so I’d know exactly what she’d written. It was the type of polite, newsy letter you might write to someone’s mother. The minute Kenny received it, however, he convinced himself  she’d written it because deep down inside, she really “wanted” him.

Excited, he immediately sent a response to Ann, telling her how thrilled he was to hear from her again, how desperately he’d missed her and how much he’d thought about her. Unfortunately, in his excitement, he also accidentally sent a copy of his email…to Melanie.

Once again, my phone rang. “I think I’ve lost Melanie, the love of my life, forever!” Kenny cried to me. “I was just so excited to finally hear from Ann, I wrote a bunch of mushy stuff to her that I really didn’t mean, and I accidentally sent a copy to Melanie, and now she thinks I’m some kind of playboy who sends duplicate letters to lots of women!  What am I going to do?  I don’t want any other woman!  I want Melanie!  I can’t bear the thought of a future without her!”

I was glad he couldn’t see me rolling my eyes. The more he whined, the more I felt as if I were talking to a 14-year-old instead of a guy in his 30s. Still, I couldn’t help but feel partly to blame for his misery. “I’ll see what I can do,” I heard myself saying. “Give me Melanie’s phone number.”

I didn’t call Melanie right away because I figured she’d need a little time to cool off. I also had no idea what I was going to say to her. The first two days, Kenny called me at least five times, asking if I’d talked to Melanie yet.

It took nearly two weeks, but I finally managed to convince Melanie to give Kenny another chance. I made him sound so wonderful, so sincere, he easily could have been nominated for sainthood.  I also told her how completely miserable he was without her, which seemed to please her. When Melanie finally told me she was willing to give their relationship another try, I couldn’t wait to call Kenny and deliver the great news.

“Oh?” he said, sounding about as thrilled as if I’d just told him he was going to be audited by the IRS (I had been anticipating whoops of unbridled joy). There was a long silence on the phone before he finally said, “Well, um, you see, when Melanie got upset with me and I was sure I'd lost her forever, I was so devastated, I contacted her roommate, Dawn, to ask if she would help me try to get Melanie back. The crazy thing is, Dawn and I had a long conversation and found out we have a lot in common, and well...we've secretly been in constant contact for nearly two weeks now. And guess what?  We’re very much in love!  I’ve never been happier. Dawn definitely is my Miss Right! It had to be fate that brought us together.”

I hung up on him. 

And I swear, if I ever hear one more guy complain that women are fickle, I’ll be very tempted to slug him!

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Sunday, January 5, 2020


I’ve always made a habit of doing something new and different every Christmas season in an attempt to establish a new tradition to carry on through the years. But this past Christmas, I didn’t bother to make my usual attempt. I think maybe it was because I realized it was much more fun when my husband (a.k.a. Scrooge’s long-lost son) was alive. I used to take great pleasure in asking him to take me to new and unusual places every year...and then listening to him grumble about them.

One Christmas, I convinced him to go to a street in Laconia where all of the homeowners competed each year to see which one could string up the most lights…and run up the highest electric bill.

The next year, we drove to a house in Raymond where a gazillion lights were synchronized to flash in time to the beat of music that was broadcast over our car radio.

And then there was a mile-long private trail in Massachusetts that was lined with enough lights to signal alien life-forms on their home planets.  That place, however, charged a pretty steep admission fee, which my husband, in his best Scrooge manner, muttered about for weeks afterwards.

But one year, I actually succeeded in finding a holiday attraction we both ended up feeling might be a top contender to become our annual Christmas tradition. Getting there, however, wasn’t easy.

It all began when I surprised my husband by asking him to take me someplace that didn’t involve a display of lights bright enough to burn out his corneas. 

“It’s called Beaver Brook Museum in Mont Vernon,” I excitedly told him. “It has 80,000 square feet of Christmas stuff – over 100 decorated trees, real trains, 40 sleighs, horse-drawn carriages, a covered wagon, an 18th-century village, the largest Christmas animation display in the entire Northeast, and all kinds of Santa Clauses, from tiny to two stories tall!”

His expression told me he’d rather be tied naked to a cactus. “Yeah, I guess we can go sometime,” he said.

“It’s open only on Sundays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, and that’s it for the whole year,” I said.  When he still looked less than enthused, I added, “And the best part is it’s free to the public!”

So the next Sunday, he agreed to take me to the museum.  I eagerly climbed into his van and waited for him to start it.  He turned the ignition key. Nothing happened.  He turned the key again.  Still nothing.

“Looks like the battery is dead,” he said. “And I don’t have any jumper cables.  I guess we can’t go.  It’ll be too late by the time AAA gets here.”

For a moment I actually suspected he’d sabotaged his own van just to get out of going to the museum.  Even though my car was available and we could have used it, my husband always was uncomfortable in it because he liked a “roomy” seat, so he avoided setting foot in it unless it was an extreme emergency…and going to the museum didn’t qualify as an emergency.

Still, I wasn’t about to give up, so I called our neighbor, who was a mechanic. He said he’d be right over with his jumper cables. 

He arrived looking pale and tired.  “I’ve been home sick all week with some kind of bug,” he explained as he hooked up the cables from my car to the van.  As he did, I suspected he probably would have preferred to wrap them around my neck and choke me with them for getting him out of his sick bed.

Finally, my husband and I were on our way to Mont Vernon.  We’d gone only about six miles when he turned to me and asked, “What did you do with my keys to your car – the ones I gave you to start it with when we boosted the battery?”

I smiled stiffly.  “Um...I left them in the ignition.”

“The house keys are on that key ring,” he said. “Did you bring your house keys with you?”

I shook my head.  “I left them on the kitchen counter.”

The next thing I knew, we were heading back home. 

There, in the ignition where I’d left them in my unlocked car, were the keys.  I grabbed them, jumped back into the van and once again, we headed toward the museum.

“You know, I’m beginning to think all of this is an omen,” my husband said. “Maybe we shouldn’t go.”

“Nice try,” I said. “Just keep driving.”

Giant elves on a tractor
The museum turned out to be worth every minute of the trouble we’d had getting there.  The minute we stepped inside the huge, rustic barn, we were transported back to the Christmases of yesteryear. 

There was a full-sized train car, in which children were seated and a conductor in full uniform was reading “The Polar Express” to them.  Santa, with his genuine white hair and beard (no fake cotton beard for this guy), was seated on an elegant throne-like chair and greeting everyone. 

There were mannequins in festive outfits, a giant figure of Santa two stories high and a full-sized helicopter and airplane surrounded by brightly lit Christmas trees – all indoors! There even was a carousel not too far from a huge figure of Humpty Dumpty and a giant smiling hippo-potamus.  The smell of hot cocoa and freshly popped popcorn drifted from the snack bar.

My husband didn’t want to admit it, but he was having a good time. “Look!” he said, pointing at a display of beavers dressed in hats and scarves and using saws and axes to cut down fake trees. “Isn’t that cute?”

I was too busy trying to get a better look at a Christmas-tree ornament bigger than a beach ball, with a whole village, a moving train and flying reindeer inside.
Huge Ornament

I overheard one of the workers telling some visitors, “Everyone who comes here can’t help but leave with Christmas spirit… even the Scrooges!”

I think he was right, because my husband whistled “Jingle Bells” all the way home.

We had found our annual tradition at long last, we decided. We also decided we would go to the museum every Christmas season from then on. There was so much to see there, we figured it would take us at least 10 more Christmases to see it all anyway.

Unfortunately, the very next year, the museum building collapsed and was forced to close its doors because it was damaged beyond repair.

I was devastated when I heard the news. 

My husband, however, seemed unfazed and decided to establish his own Christmas tradition...staying home in his pajamas, curling up on the sofa and binge-watching “A Christmas Story.”

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