Jokes that Reveal Truths.
When I was first getting sober out in Malibu (because I’m fancy), I went to a lot of meetings where there were a lot of really famous people. It’s no secret that Hollywood has its share of alcoholics. What is less well-known is that it also has its share of recovery. I met a lot of big movie stars who are not known as alcoholics, because they’ve been sober for years now and have the kind of lives that sober alcoholics working a program of honesty and accountability have: quiet, productive, and sane.
At the meetings I went to in LA and Malibu, there was a tradition that people celebrating sober anniversaries would speak for a minute about how they did it. At one such meeting, I heard the following joke, told brilliantly and to a rapt audience by a famous person:
A man, sober for many years, is taking an airplane flight, and he’s upgraded to first class for the first time in his life. As the plane is sitting on the tarmac, a stewardess asks the man if he’d like a cocktail prior to takeoff.
“No thank you, miss, I’m fine.” The man says.
Leaning across him, the stewardess asks the same thing of the suited businessman sitting in the window seat, who declines as well. The sober alcoholic begins thinking to himself, puzzled by the other man’s refusal: is he an alcoholic too? Why else would one turn down a free cocktail before a long flight? It seems like it would be the perfect thing to take the edge off. As he turns it around in his mind, he becomes more and more curious about the man. If he’s an alcoholic too, perhaps they could pass the long flight talking about AA, or telling old “war stories” about the drinking days. Finally, curiosity gets the better of him:
“So, are you a friend of Bill?” he asks.
“Bill who?” the man, clearly confused, replies.
The alcoholic realizes that the man in the aisle seat is not a recovering alcoholic, but feels the need to explain himself.
“I’m sorry, it’s just, I’m a recovering alcoholic, that’s why I turned down the free drink. I was wondering if you were too.”
“Well, then, do you mind if I ask? Why on earth would you turn down a free cocktail before a long flight like this, if you don’t have any trouble with booze?”
The businessman in the aisle seat stares at the sober alcoholic for a beat, and then replies:
“Because it’s six fucking o’clock in the morning.”
We laughed. Because it was told well, and because to us, this is a good joke. It describes how we think very well: even in sobriety, we simply don’t understand how normal people relate to alcohol.