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Volume CXXXII, Number 14
February 7, 2003

Humble humor from the state of Maine

Robert Skoglund, otherwise know as the Humble Farmer, entertained a large crowd last week. His jokes, which can be heard on National Public Radio, received many laughs from the audience. (Jason Long, Bowdoin Orient)

A small, gray man in a blue striped shirt and red suspenders walked onto the stage. His jean trousers spoke of rural areas where old men still sat in rocking chairs on their porches. His personage hinted at places where the biggest gossip to tell was about the new neighbor in town who didn't do all the things normal folk did and did some things quite differently. The man's adopted persona was The Humble Farmer and his business was making people laugh.

First thought: this comedian seems out of place, or, at least, out of time. Second thought: he must be a dirty old man if he's prepared to make a bunch of college students chuckle. In a way, both thoughts turned out to be true. Laughter is often the result of seeing something unexpected or incongruous with reality. In terms of typical college atmosphere, this man was the very essence of incongruity.

He did not swear. He carried a hanky in his pocket. His sexual jokes were often the equivalent of exchanging a "nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more" with the audience. He lovingly referred to his wife as the "almost perfect woman." And, to top it off, the trusty old village idiot was rolled out several times in his narrative-a particular man by the name of "Winky."

In short, The Humble Farmer was the equivalent of a kindly, gray haired, grandfather who likes to tell jokes and hear people laugh. Strangely enough, on a Friday evening, with the weekend debauchery to come (or already having begun), this man out of time proved just the ticket to put a few homespun stitches in the side. In short, he was irresistibly funny.

He started off by sharing a secret of his trade with the audience. Pulling out a small pad of paper from a pocket in his jean pants, he flapped it at the audience. "I write everything that I hear that might be funny down in this little note pad," he said, "But, it's funny, 'cause in New England, I am always writing stuff down, but in Florida I never have the chance to pull it out and write something down. People just don't say funny things in Florida."

The evening continued from there. His dry wit remained dry despite tears of laughter from the audience and his timing never faltered. Perhaps the most touching aspect of the evening was the fact that this prince of wit enjoyed hearing the audience laugh just as much as the audience enjoyed his anecdotes.

Robert Skoglund, as The Humble Farmer, airs every Friday night on National Public Radio. Skoglund is also a renowned humorist and speaker. His home is in St. George, Maine where he encourages anyone passing through to drop in for a cookie.

For more information on The Humble Farmer, visit www.thehumblefarmer.com.

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