Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Staying on the Cutting Edge of Cornpone HumorAn ol’ reliable on the hillbilly comedy circuit is the “bad haircut” joke. I’ve heard it, and told it, many times. Names and places might change with each rendition, but the gist is always the same. Goes something like this:

Uncle Zeke comes down out of the hills for his six-month haircut. After the shearing is complete, he says the barber did a bad job. Downright terrible job, in fact. He gripes and grumbles and leaves in a huff. Back home, it irks him every time he glances at a mirror.

Nonetheless, he returns six months later and flops down in the chair. As the snipping begins, so does the usual banter.

“What ya’been doin’ lately?” asks the barber.

“Travelin’” says Uncle Zeke.

“Really? Where’d you go?”

“Warshin’ton, D.C.”

“See anybody famous?”

“Yep, run into the president hisself. Even got to talk to him.”

“Wow! What’d the president say to you?”

“He took one look and hollered, ‘Buddy, wher’nhell’d you get that awful haircut?’”

OK, so it’s a cornpone groaner. Far be it from me to turn down a cheap laugh.

But it sure beats what transpired at a barbershop in Melbourne, Florida — and I swear on six little dabs of Brylcreem I’m not making this up. I learned about it from Florida Today newspaper and Newsweek magazine.

Seems a masked gunman burst into the place. The guy pointed his weapon at several people, which gave the barber enough time to grab his own pistol and shoot the culprit in the hip, disabling him until police arrived.

As it turned out, robbery wasn’t the motive. Customer dissatisfaction was. Here’s what Melbourne officer Ryan Schorer included in his report: “It was actually related to a prior haircut transaction he was unhappy with.”

Ouch. I guess an unfavorable review on Yelp wasn’t sufficient.

Soon as I read about this incident, I called my longtime clipper (and hunting-fishing sounding board) Hoyt Vanosdale, to see if anything like that had ever occurred to him.

“No,” he replied. “In 54 years of barbering, I can honestly say I’ve never had anybody tell me they didn’t like the haircut I gave ’em. Most folks tell you what kind of cut they want when they sit down. After that, it’s pretty easy.”

Which reminded Hoyt and me of yet another tried-and-true barber gag.

Question: What’s the difference between a good haircut and a bad one?

Answer: About two weeks.

“If that fellow in Florida had just waited a couple of weeks, everything woulda been OK,” Hoyt chuckled. “Now, he’s gonna have to wait a lot longer than that in jail… mebbe long enough to get a bad jail haircut!”

Sam Venable is an author, comedic entertainer, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. His latest book is
“The Joke’s on YOU! (All I Did Was Clean Out My Files).” He may be reached at