Retired physician fills chalkboards with puns to provide smiles during pandemic

Maddie and Emily are peering across the street at what appears to be a pair of puns written on a couple of chalkboards.

“If a king mattress and a queen mattress have a baby, what’s it called?” Emily says, reading the first joke before laughing at the punchline. “An heir mattress.”

Next to that joke, which is sitting on an easel, is another tied to a tree.

“The queen just knighted the first cow in history,” Maddie reads. “He is Sir Loin!”

While Maddie chuckles, Emily is bent over belly laughing.

I ask if she actually found the joke that funny. She is laughing too hard to answer. So, we’ll come back to Emily.

But first, Megan — who lives next door to the chalkboards on St. Charles Street — says traffic has increased since the jokes first appeared. Perhaps people are stopping to read ones like, ‘What’s an elephant’s favourite vegetable? Squash.’”

“People will run by. Stop. Laugh. And keep moving on,” Megan says.

Suzanne is one of those people. She says she’s changed her walking route so she can pass by puns like, ‘What did Cinderella say when her photos didn’t show up? Some day my prints will come.’

“I don’t know if they’re comedians living in in there,” Suzanne says. “But [the jokes] are all really good.”

The woman who’s been posting the jokes on the chalkboards in her front yard — more than 100 since the pandemic began — is not a comedian. Danica is a retired physician.

“A couple years ago, I would have had a different role in this whole crisis,” Danica says. “At this point people’s emotional wellbeing is what’s paramount for me.”

Danica is concerned about people of all ages, especially the five to seven-year-olds that she has been doing Zoom meetings with as a Scouts leader. She always begins her meetings with jokes like, ‘What did the fish say when it ran into the wall? Dam.’

“It stretches their emotional muscles a little bit,” Danica explains. “We laugh together. Take a pause. And then I ask how they’re doing and they come back with things that are a little closer to their heart.”

Whether you are a child who’s concerned that your mom has lost her job because of COVID-19, or you are an adult feeling anxious about the ‘new normal,’ Danica says the jokes seem to help.

“It’s the corny jokes that are so bad you kind of groan,” Danica says. “Its almost like that groan represents the loss of that other negative tension that we’ve been carrying.”

Which brings us back to Emily, still doubled-over laughing.

“They’re so funny,” she says, catching her breath and wiping away a tear. “I love a good pun!”

Especially when you’ve had one of those days.

“I was feeling pretty bummed,” Emily says. “These jokes perked things up!”

Like bees that shoot rockets, aka “buzzookas” — according to the latest pun — the jokes blast away bad feelings and lift our moods higher.   

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