MAN OF THE HOUSE

Truly, it's a funny, knock-knock world

"Cows go," he says.

"Cows go who?"

"No, Dad," he says. "Cows go MOO!"

Feel free to use this excellent knock-knock joke at your next conference, cocktail party or bar mitzvah. Seriously, I don't think he made it up himself anyway. I think he stole it. Apparently, he's not as fanatical about all that honesty stuff as his old man.

Yet, little by little, day by day, I am instilling in him a sophisticated sense of humor, which is one way of looking for life's truths. I spend hours a week teaching him about timing, surprise, mimicry, all the tools in comedy's toolbox.

"Great comics," I tell him, "are a mix of confidence and insecurity."

"OK, Daddy."

"Don't oversell your punch line," I say.

"OK," he says.

When we are done with a lesson, I turn him loose on his mother — a beautiful, engaging, semi-menopausal woman with credit-card debt out the wazoo and little hope for the future. (She's also got these really tiny feet, even smaller and more delicate than mine. I think she might be a princess.)

"Knock, knock," the little guy tells her.

"I'm not home," she says.

"Knock, knock," he insists.

"Oh, it's you again," she says.

This little dance goes on for about five minutes, this thing they do with knock-knock jokes. Then his older sister enters — have I told you about her? She's the one who moves out of the house, moves back in, moves out, moves back in. A serial mover. Help, police!

Lately, our little house (formerly a Taco Bell) has become like a bad sitcom starring Kelly Ripa. Just when things settle down a little, in bursts this older daughter and her beagle, Mayhem, who races around the house as if chasing invisible jackrabbits.

"Don't you ever knock-knock?" I ask her.

"Who's there?" asks the little boy.

"Oh, my God," gasps my wife, her head in her hands.

"Daddy, will you help me move?" asks the older daughter.

"Again?"

"Who's there?!!!" yells the little boy.

Sigh.

*


Chris Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes.com. For more columns, see latimes.com/erskine.

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