POP CULTURE  May 8 - May 22, 1995


As veterans of high school speech classes recall, impressing others with a pithy anecdote is lesson #1 in public speaking. Unfortunately, most amateur speakers mangle their opening joke with wearily familiar incompetence. Listeners squirming in uncomfortable folding chairs brace their cramped buttocks for hoary stories everyone's heard years ago. Nervously rustling notes, the speaker titters like a schoolgirl awaiting cheerleader tryout results, then promptly cripples the joke with "No, wait," or "Did I mention that the chauffeur driver only has one leg?" With the snap of overcooked spaghetti ladled with cold sauce, the punch-line finally arrives.

Any comic worth their salty jokes knows that one of the keys to telling a zesty anecdote is timing. Rather than see you, our lackluster and uncreative readers, flounder for the right story to tell at the right time, MELVIN Labs has painstakingly compiled this comprehensive list of two situations and two possible urban myths--one ill-advised and one recommended--that you can deploy in conversation in place of your tired Star Trek blather. MELVIN suggests, nay, heartily encourages neophyte storytellers to practice delivering titillating urban legends in unexpected situations. The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends, Jan Harold Brunvand's fifth collection of urban legends, is your sure source to stories that will ingratiate you to the boss, win the Johnson account, suavely woo the targets of your lust, and loosen up your curmudgeonly in- laws. Remember to choose your stories carefully. As the following examples vividly show, you're advised to avoid victim stories and stick with tales that put you at the center of the action.

Situation 1:

Urban legends cleverly skirt the muddy morass of opening lines that renders countless would-be Lotharios impotent. Not just any urban legend will do. For God's sake, don't tell the "Infamous Toothbrush" story to the lascivious carrot top scoping you from across the dance floor--not even as a friend-of-a-friend anecdote. This legend relates the sorry story of hapless tourists whose belongings disappear from their hotel room. Curiously, the thieves make off with their valuables, but leave their camera behind. After developing the film, the chagrined tourists learn why: The sly thieves used their victims' toothbrushes to do something for which trained proctologists use gloved fingers. Tell this story to the redhead and unavoidably, unpleasant thoughts about the freshness of your breath will pop into her mind.

Better to deliver the "Exploding Airplane" tale. Wow that fiery-headed dreamboat by casually informing her you used to pilot jets for the Air Force. Duly impressed, she'll ask about your most exciting moment as a flyboy. Tersely tell her about the time you were cruising 30,000 feet over the Mojave desert when you spied a rattlesnake coiled by your feet. Did you panic; did you eject? Hell, no! You're brave as well as conscious of all the cash American taxpayers such as her shelled out for your F-16. After checking that your oxygen mask was on tight, you calmly decompressed the cabin and suffocated that slippery serpent. Be sure to mention that you left your medal at home, then ask if she wants to see it.

Situation 2:

As much as you've tried, you just can't win the favor of your significant other's parents. Next time you're over for "mom's" secret meatloaf, break up the monotony of conversation-less chomping and mulching with a spicy urban legend. But don't tell the "Gay Roommate" story. Usually told with anonymous characters, the "gay roommate" centers around a male college student who complains to his friends about chronic rectal soreness and frequent headaches. He wonders aloud whether or not his surly homosexual roommate might have something to do with his problems. To his horror, he discovers a bottle of Chloroform among the other man's possessions---the devious sex fiend knocks him out nightly for moonlight sodomy! Ouch!

Instead tell your in-laws a story that not only shows you're enlightened, but also a hero. Try the "Lessons in Compassion." The morning of your Ethics final, you discover the exam room has been unexpectedly changed. Hustling with your classmates to the new location, you all rush past a raggedy-ass panhandler with his hands outstretched. Untouched, the others stride past, eyes forward, but you stop. That's because you remember the last lecture was sopping with bleeding-heart silliness about being nice to the less fortunate. Suspecting that the beggar's a plant, you spot him a fiver. Sure enough, the instructor informs the rest of the class that because they ignored the panhandler, they failed the final. You get the sole "A" and the lasting admiration of your in-laws. Maybe you're not such a loser after all--just a slippery-lipped liar.

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