Mark Peters, from his Best Joke Ever column at McSweeneys
…But for Louis’ Best Bit Ever, I’m going with a thing from Oh My God I was lucky enough to hear in person last year in Chicago. In contrast to his poor childhood—when his mother bought salt-less Saltines—Louis’ current building is ritzy, with “a pretty courtyard with flowers and a fountain with little marble boys pissing.” After an aside about pedophile fountain sculptors, Louis describes hanging out in his courtyard soon after moving in the building—and not looking very presentable. A spiffy-looking neighbor gave Louis the stink eye, suggesting he was some sort of wandering hobo or other filthy interloper. Then the neighbor came over, as Louis felt glee at the prospect of being in “a confrontation where I’m not wrong at all.”
As the accusatory neighbor confronted Louis, our hero tortured the perky neighbor in various ways, denying his residence and capitalism itself, before the neighbor turned to the doorman for help in kicking out this trespasser. Then the neighbor/jerk learned the truth—Louis really lived there—and his face contorted into “a cocktail of anger and confusion.” At that moment, Louis achieved a moment of true, orgasmic, spiteful, Larry Davidian bliss. After a final smackdown of the neighbor, Louis summed up the story: “He didn’t say anything after that, because, uh, well, the whole thing didn’t really happen.”
Wow. Now that’s a punch line.
It turns out the story was true as far as sloppy Louis hanging out in his courtyard and getting the evil eye from a posh neighbor—but our unreliable narrator made the rest up in his head. Louis claims, interestingly, that, “It’s not true, but it’s as true as anything that does happen.” And he makes a classic admission: “It’s hard to lose an argument when you’re both people, and it’s taking place in your brain.” The final punch line to the bit is that the neighbor ended up welcoming Louis to the building and is now his friend George, underling the absurdity of the fake confrontation and the jerkishness of Louis’ brain.