Andrew Norelli & Mike Vecchione
Anh’s new yarns

Just a tad antsy!

A mate of mine who is a comedian updated his Facebook status with these words:

anyone know ant jokes? i gotta fill 20 minutes tomorrow

I didn’t really stop to think. If I had, I’d probably wonder why a young guy relatively new to the comedy scene with really only a killer five-minute set to rave about, would be doing 20 minutes.

I say “only a killer five-minute set”. I’m sure he has more material. There’s probably seven killer minutes that I can vouch for – that I’ve seen work and that will work time and again. No doubt he could stretch it to ten. Stuff might play to silence within that ten, but he can be confident in the knowledge that he can come back with something solid should an item not quite work. In fact, I reckon he could stretch beyond 10 with self-confidence, interacting with the audience. It might be the hardest 20 minutes he ever spends on a stage, and he’ll come away from it a better comic than from any of the five-minute killer sets he’s done that always work. Only, none of his stuff is about ants.

Still, I didn’t stop to think. Twenty minutes of ant material is a tough ask.

If I did stop to think, I’d wonder what sort of gig he’s landed. A corporate booking of some sort, surely. Perhaps he’s the comedy relief  during the keynote dinner that opens an entomology conference; maybe he’s one of a number of comics doing animal-related material for a zoo –  but if so, he drew the short straw since ants must be the animals least conducive to comedy. Hard to project character on to them. Can’t anthropomorphise them so easily as you might other animals.

Fact is, I’ve had a bit of experience with ants. And when I think about it, so have certain comedians. Specifically, George Smilovici wrote a book about ants – The Ant Book. It’s almost a joke book. It contains a lot of question/answer set-ups whose answers consist of words beginning, ending or containing ‘ant’ in them. But they’re not that funny. Not only that – all the answers are on the final page, jumbled in a way to make the shape of an ant. All I’m saying is it’s no help to my buddy.

But one of my favourite ‘dad jokes’ is about ants. It‘s a corker – although I wouldn’t risk doing it on stage:

A: What did the Pink Panther say when he trod on an ant?
B: Dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead aaaaant…

Of course, for the joke to work, you need to ‘sing’ the punchline to the tune of the main saxophone melody of the ‘Theme to the Pink Panther’:

(I know, it’s up there with the one about the Lone Ranger taking his rubbish ‘to the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump!’)

I posted the Pink Panther joke as a comment to his Facebook thread, thinking at least he’d have one ant joke.

Another comic offered the Woody Allen routine, in which Woody talks about his pet ant called ‘Spot’.

That reminded me of the Derek & Clive routine of ‘Squatter and the Ant’:

The 20-minute ant routine was starting to develop, even if it wasn’t going to contain anything original in it. Those bug-studiers at the conference were certainly going to get their money’s worth, I thought…

But then I noticed another comment on the thread, by the comedian’s mate:

...Your face?

Wha? How’s that an ant joke?

And then I realised: the status update contained a typo.

The comic wasn’t asking if we knew ‘ant jokes’ in order to fill a 20-minute spot; he was asking us if we knew ‘any jokes’ – (‘yeah, your face is a joke!’) – but had hit the ‘t’ next to the ‘y’ on his keyboard.

Oh well. At least now he has got about ten additional minutes of material – other people’s material, granted – albeit, about ants.

Ah, but – it gets better: the gig isn’t in front of a room full of entomologists – it’s in front of TAFE students. Building students. Somehow I reckon the ant stuff ain’t gonna cut it. The comic knows it, too. His most recent update:

if i am killed tomorrow by angry tradey/brickie tafe students, know that i loved you all.

Oh, but if they’re tradey/brickie students, I reckon he should do Gerard Hoffnung’s ‘Brickie’s Lament’ routine.

Good luck, mate. Whatever doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. Even if you ‘die’ in the process. (I mean, on stage, not at the hands of a horrible tradey/brickie students.)



  • <meisel> people ask me how do I tell the difference between ant and aunt </meisel>
  • “I had an ant farm... Those fellas didn’t grow shit! Plus if I rip off your arms you would look like snowmen.” - Mitch Hedberg
  • How could I forget? Sam Bowring’s icecream bowl.
  • How could I also forget? Insect Nation, Bill Bailey’s musical about the ants enslaving humanity.
  • Another ‘book gag’: A man is standing in an elevator when all of a sudden 15 ants come in. He turns to the ants and says, “Sorry, you can’t all come in here” “Why not?” asks one of the ants. The guy points to a sign that reads, “Tenants only”!

(As pointed out by other comics. Since original comic and initial commentator weren’t named, I’ve included these comments anonymously too.)

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