The Comedic Value of Baking Soda
(From Lisa Fischer's blog 2/25/17)
One of the most important lessons my dad ever taught me, beyond how to properly grill a cheeseburger and how to make customer service reps cry on the phone, was how to fully commit to a joke. He is not a comedian, but he makes me laugh every day. At times it’s because I’m laughing at him rather than with him, but he doesn’t need to know that. (Dad, don’t read this.) (I probably should have put that warning label earlier.)
I don’t have a lot of memories from my early childhood, probably because I spent all of elementary school getting blackout drunk at the club. Or perhaps it was because I had a still-developing brain and anyone who claims to remember more than a handful of events before their thirteenth birthday is lying to you.
Anyway, I was five years old, playing on the kitchen floor with my then two-year-old brother. By playing, I mean I was likely obsessively poking him in the face and talking at him in the same voice I now reserve for my golden retriever.
My mother had started baking cookies and soon realized that she had run out of baking soda. You might ask why she didn’t check to see if she had all the ingredients beforehand, and I would tell you to shut up and stay in your lane. If my cooking abilities extended beyond the toasting of a bagel, I would probably make the same mistake.
She couldn’t go to the store and leave my brother and I unattended, lest I initiate a game of hide and seek in which I hide her son in the dryer while I eat all the cookie dough. So she sent my dad across town to Stop n’ Shop for baking soda. Twenty minutes later, the prodigal son returned from his mission. Huzzah! He strolled through the front door with pride, holding up a bright red box of baking… powder.
This obviously would not do, so my mother turned him back around as quickly as he came in and sent him to the store a second time. Another twenty minutes passed before I heard my dad’s car pull into the driveway once more. The front door opened and in he walked with a second box of baking powder.
Back out into the suburban Connecticut wilderness he went, on the hunt for that elusive baking soda.
You know the drill. Twenty minutes. Car pulls in. Door opens. Dad enters.
He walked into the kitchen with his hands behind his back. My mother reached her hand out, fully expecting the safe delivery of her final ingredient. Twice was funny, but anything else would be overkill. He wouldn’t dare do it again.
My dad revealed a third box of baking powder from behind his back and placed it in her hands. Without even waiting for my mom to open her mouth to respond, he went out to the grocery store for a fourth time.
At this point in the night, my mom had begun to question whether my dad was making jokes or simply exhibiting the textbook symptoms of dementia. All I cared about was that I still didn’t have any cookies, and was slowly getting closer to eating something off the floor that was either an M&M or an ibuprofen. I had a 50/50 chance and there was only one way to find out.
While I was plotting how to grab the mystery candy without mom seeing, my dad finally arrived back at home with a box of the baking soda my mother so desperately needed. I’m still shocked that she did not burst out in tears from the relief, but she went back into the kitchen and made a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies that I then proceeded to eat 90% of.
Even if my dad had never intended to make jokes and really is just a terrible listener, his stubborn unwillingness to write down a one item shopping list made me laugh harder than I ever have. This was the same day I realized that I wanted to make other people laugh like that, too. Thus, all my objectively bad puns and overly complex jokes can be traced back to a day almost twenty years ago when my father decided he didn’t want to read the label. You can blame him.
(Ed. note: I emailed her father, Matt, & asked if this was true. He said it was!!)