Seth Brown | The pun also rises: The Portu-gal


My girlfriend is planning a trip to Portugal, but this weekend, she had a much more arduous journey to make: Driving to Northampton, Massachusetts.

You might well ask, if she lives in North Adams, why driving to Northampton would be more arduous than flying all the way to Portugal. And the answer is simple:

I was also in the car on the trip to Northampton.

"Y'know, if you go to Portugal, people there will call you the Portu-Gal. It's like a portmanteau"

"It's not a portmanteau. You can't just emphasize a different part of the word and call it a new word."

"Pretty sure I just did. Too bad you're flying there. You know, if you were traveling on a boat, they could call you the Port-ugal."

Driving with me has been described as "arduous", which I presume is because of the ardor of love I inspire. Even if a drive would normally be pleasant and easy, with me it's much ardor.

We were driving to go see one of my favorite comedians, Maria Bamford, who I was very excited to finally see in a live performance. But since we hadn't arrived yet, I figured I should provide entertainment in the meantime.

"You know what they call a Portu-Gal who has sex with another Portu-Gal?"


"A Lisbon."

"...that is terrible. That is really terrible."

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"I'm gonna be honest, I'm a little proud of it."

"Are you done with the terrible jokes?"

"I think so. Oh wait, if you see any waterfowl there, those are Portu-Geese. Okay, now I'm done."

Thankfully, better jokes awaited us. Maria Bamford was brilliant and hilarious. She related a story about going to a funeral of someone who committed suicide, and overhearing someone say, "Suicide when you have kids is the most selfish thing you can do." She said to the person, "I think complaining about someone's death at their funeral is the most selfish thing you can do." And then later she said, "Actually, I think the most selfish thing you can do is write all of this down so you can use it in your comedy"

I don't mean to be yet more selfish by using my poor paraphrase of her observations in my column, but it did make me realize I was perhaps a little selfish to use what other people said in my daily life as fodder for my comedy.

Then again, normally my comments only have an audience of one, and that one isn't always enthusiastic. I figure if I can just tell a terrible joke to enough people, somebody is bound to appreciate it.

"I think I'm going to use our conversation today in my column."

"Is that enough for a column?"

"They don't all have to have a message. Sometimes people don't want to think about politics or have anyone suggest how to be a better person, sometimes they just want to laugh at something ridiculous. And I think our conversation earlier about Portugal and Portu-Gal certainly qualifies."

"But not the Lisbon joke, right?"

"Well, frankly Madeira..."

Seth Brown is an award-winning humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse," and makes bad jokes so often, 'Spain full. His website is


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