Mr. Cope’s Cave: If Your Joke Doesn’t Have a Punchline, Nobody Will Know When To Laugh


I don’t suppose you feel like working on our play today, do you?

Our play?

You know. The two-man play we talked about? Remember? Where you make stuff up and tell me about it and we turn it into a Broadway play?

Oh! Yeah. That. I almost forgot. You realize, don’t you, that even if we get a play written, the chances of it making it to Broadway are pretty slim?

Well, Mr. Cope, the way I figure it is, if you don’t have a target to aim for, you’re going to miss every shot.

That’s not a bad way of figuring it, Scooter. Did you think of that yourself? We could put that in the play.

I was hoping you’d say that. And yes, I thought of it myself… sorta. This guy said something like it on a television show I was watching. It was, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re going to miss every turn.” I liked it, but I hate to say things I heard somewhere else, so I changed some words and made it into something I’d never heard before… sorta. 

Good for you. Writers shouldn’t always be using stuff they hear from other writers. It’s like I told Stephen King back when he was getting started on Salem’s Lot

You know Stephen King!?

Oh sure. Steve and I go way back. In fact, I helped him flesh out Carrie. No kidding, he was telling me this story he’d thought up about a mousy high-school girl who gets picked on by the popular kids. But then she goes to Harvard and gets an MBA, eventually becomes the first female CEO of a major Wall Street banking concern, and when she’s as rich as sin, she returns to her home town and buys the beauty salon her old tormentors work at, and fires them all. Then she falls in love with this guy she used to have a teenage crush on who was the old star quarterback in high school but is selling used cars now, and…

This was his original idea for Carrie?

Oh yeah. Can you believe it? He wanted to call it Valley of the Dolts. But I said, “Stevie, that is so boring!” So he asked me how I would change it and I said, “Pal, have you ever heard of ‘telekinesis’?” And the rest, of course, is history.

Wow. I had no idea you knew Stephen King. That’s… that’s really something. But tell me, if you had that idea how to make Carrie such a huge hit book before he did, why didn’t you write it?

Well, see, at that time, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer. I thought I wanted to be an astronaut. Ol’ Jim Lovell talked me into it, see, and I was…

You knew James Lovell!?

Oh sure. Jimmy and I go way back. See, he talked me into it, like I said, and I was scheduled to go on the Apollo 18 mission when…

I didn’t know there was an Apollo 18 mission. I thought that program ended after Apollo 17.

Well… yeah-uh. That’s why I didn’t go. Too bad, too. I would have been the first Nobel Prize winner on the moon.

The first Nobel Pr… hey, wait a minute here! Are you making this stuff up?

Uh, isn’t that what we were doing here? Working on the play?

But you never answered me when…

And say. I just thought of a line we need to get into this play somewhere.

Just a second. Let me get my pad and write it down. I should have been writing all of this down, but you never answered me when…  

Ready? Here goes. “If you don’t have a point to make, everything you say is going to sound pointless.” Pretty good, huh?

Yeah, that’s pretty g… hey, wait a minute here!