The Hawkeye Experiment

By Beth Bartlett

It’s not something I would ever voluntarily do again. But I did it.

Remember the episode of M*A*S*H when B.J. bet Hawkeye he couldn’t go without telling a joke for 24 hours?

I did it. Replicating Hawkeye’s task was one of the scariest and hardest things I could imagine. Humor is my armor and my coping mechanism.  It’s my Prozac, my Muzak and my LSD. When other kids were reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I was reading The Neurotics Handbook. I snuck out to the living room to watch George Carlin, Steve Martin and Elayne Boosler on late-night talk shows, stayed up late every weekend for Belushi and Radner on SNL. I wrote parodies of songs, movies and television shows. If I were stricken by cartoon lightning, you would be able to see knock-knock jokes engraved on my skeleton. Yes, I am made from funny bones.

Considering my influences, it was only natural to turn to 1970s television for my experiment.  I would go 24 hours without making a joke, throwing out a pun or cracking wise in any way. Staying true to the episode, I could only tell one person: my BJ Hunnicutt of choice was fellow smart aleck Angie Mansfield. I figured she wouldn’t tempt me with too many straight lines, because she knew not being able to make a joke about BJ would be tortuous enough.  I would also continue normal, everyday interaction, including Twitter and Facebook, but I stopped short of flying to Korea and performing surgery.  

Surgery might have been easier. 

As we walked the dog that morning, my husband remarked that our Black Lab isn’t really a hellhound; he’s more of a darn-it dog. I smiled and allowed the dog to head-butt my kneecap so the pain would distract me from a snappy comeback. 

I turned on the TV. “Hot Booties!” exclaimed an overexcited pitchwoman.  I sobbed.  Reading tweets from Discover Magazine should be fairly safe, right? No, not when they’re discussing the audible cracks heard in penile fractures. Before I could stop myself, I nearly sent a reply mentioning AFV crotch hits.  

“Go read the news,” I told myself. “It’s always depressing.”  Apparently I forgot about the tiny (okay, life-size) Jon Stewart living in my head. A certain talk show host calling a law student by a nasty slur? “Sir, you are no Chevy Chase, but Jane Curtain could still kick your butt,” started to pop out of my mouth, so I slapped my hands over my pie-hole and just hummed “Werewolf of London.”

I bit my tongue during “Two and a Half Men,” and scalded myself with tea water when my husband talked about his day, because he has sea monkeys for co-workers. 

At 12:01, I limped to the door, stuck my head out and yelled “THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!” before my head exploded. Thank goodness laughter is the best medicine; Dr. Benjamin Franklin Pierce will help me heal while I bolt on a breastplate woven from the finest snark.

Beth Bartlett is a freelance writer by day, a humorist by night, and a caffeinated procrastinator by mid-afternoon. She is recovering from her joke-free ordeal by injecting massive doses of ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ directly into her brain. Once rehab is complete, she’ll go back to blogging, so drop by and visit www.plaidearthworm.com, find out if the stars are laughing behind your back at www.wisecrackzodiac.com, or get your geek on at www.puregeek.me.


  1. I'm so proud to be the BJ (teehee) to your Hawkeye. Great column-- I never could have managed it. O.o

  2. I wouldn't have lasted a minute.

    Well done, Hawkeye!

  3. Well played Ms. Bartlett, well played . . . This is pure gold hilarity.

  4. Still laughing ... and cringing at "audible cracks heard in penile fractures."

  5. I cannot imagine doing that. SRSLY. I don't think it's possible.

    *tosses a banana cream pie in Beth's face*

    No, I mean it. I'd curl up and die. Or something worse.

    *sends in a teeny car full of clowns*


  6. Thanks, everyone! *scrapes pie off face* Mmmm...bananas.

  7. ROFL! You rock the funny. Even when you're trying not to.


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