After years of painstaking, round-the-clock research, surviving on a mere twenty minutes of sleep a night, and collaborating with lexicographers, plumbers, and mathematicians, actress and comedian Ellen DeGeneres has crafted a book that is both easy to use and very funny. Here's an excerpt of “The Funny Thing Is...”:
A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR
Hello, and welcome to my new book. Please make yourself at home while you read it: Take off your shoes, loosen your pants, make those funny at-home faces that we all make. Be comfortable. On the other hand, if you’re reading this in a more public place — a plane, a train, a jurors’ box during a trial — it might serve you better to be a little less comfortable. Oh, and if you’re reading this while you’re driving, PUT THE BOOK AWAY! YOU’RE DRIVING, FOR PETE’S SAKE! But wherever you’re reading this book, please remember to turn off your cell phone and that the taking of flash photographs is strictly forbidden.
The fact is, I’d rather write a book than read a book. It’s like reading, only you get paid for it. Otherwise, it has all the same elements. I don’t know what’s on the next page. It’s suspenseful, yet I can control where it goes. It’s like interactive reading. Besides, I’ve already read books. A lot of them. Well, definitely more than seven.
One thing that you should know if you ever get tired of reading books and decide to write one on your own (I would suggest doing this only and I mean only after you finish this book): writing a book is hard work. You can’t just sit there staring at the computer screen and wait for words to magically appear. Believe me — I tried doing that for five months and I didn’t get a single word.
Suddenly, all this talk about “writing a book” is making me feel overwhelmed. I need to take a break. Excuse me.
Okay, I’m back. I went to brush my teeth (just three of them — I never do them all at once). That, by the way, is an excellent way to pass the time. Hygiene is important anyway, as we all know. So take your time and brush, then floss. Flossing is key. You must floss. Don’t even think for a second that you can get away with not flossing. Always floss. I can’t stress it enough. If you get nothing else from this book, I hope you not only think to yourself “I must floss,” but pass it along to loved ones and acquaintances — floss, floss, floss. Now, what was I saying?
Oh yes, Why another book?
Seriously, why? There are so many books already. What could I possibly have to say that needs to be read by millions or at least hundreds of people? Perhaps you’re reading this to get never-before-revealed insights into who I am as a person. If so, here’s a good one for you, right off the bat: If anyone knows me at all, they know I enjoy the smell of a freshly washed monkey.
Or perhaps you’re hoping to learn a thing or two. I have no brand-new words to put out there (unless you count “fuzlart,” which between you and me is a made-up word), no insights on the meaning of life or even how to be content most of the time.
I have been interested in some deeper meaning of this existence for a long time. I assume we all are, judging by the sales of books devoted to helping us find the answers. I have all of them, but I haven’t found one that says anything very different. They all sort of say the same thing.
I suppose I could put down my own ideas of what I think would be at least a good start for happiness, if you’re interested. Oh, you are? Okay then.
1. Be nice to everyone, even though you don’t want to and you may not like certain people. Be kind, friendly, and respectful even if people are not nice to you. That way, you’re not dragged down to their level. Also, there’s nothing that annoys arrogant jerks more than people being nice to them.
2. Floss, every day floss. As discussed. In addition to aforementioned perks, flossing encourages healthy gums and makes your teeth feel secure when they’re eating something difficult like apples or corn on the cob.
3. Try to have some quiet time every day. I know it’s hard, don’t tell me. It’s getting to be near impossible to find silence, what with the TV, radio, kids, leaf blowers, helicopters, traffic, birds, dogs barking, your grammy yelling from the back of the car, “Stop flossing, you’re going to get us all killed!!!” (Seriously, when I told you not to read while you were driving, I didn’t mean you should floss instead.) But try to put time aside to listen to “you.” It’s easy to forget what “you” want, who “you” are, with all the noise. Check in with “you” every day (or at least on New Year’s Eve).
4. Exercise. Any form of movement will do. Stretching keeps you limber, young, and energized. My favorite exercise is walking a block and a half to the corner store to buy fudge. Then I call a cab to get back home. (There’s never a need to overdo anything.)
5. Drink lots of water. I can’t function unless I drink a lot of water. My favorite way to drink water is to put it in a tray, make ice cubes, then put one of those cubes into a big ol’ glass of scotch. Let’s have some now, shall we?
Thinking back (a good thing to do while drinking scotch), I knew I wanted to write this book because I’ve always loved writing, especially cursive. It’s so pretty, all the loops and whatnot. I thought about having this entire book printed in capital letters, so, as the narrator, IT WOULD SEEM LIKE I’M SHOUTING THE WHOLE TIME. I LIKE THE IDEA OF ME SHOUTING INSIDE OTHER PEOPLE’S HEADS. IT MAKES ME FEEL POWERFUL.
You know, it’s hard work to write a book. I can’t tell you how many times I really get going on an idea, then my quill breaks. Or I spill ink all over my writing tunic. No wonder I drink so much! Then I get so drunk, I can barely feed the baby.
That’s what I call myself when I’m drunk, “The Baby.”
Okay, I’m putting the drink down. Back to the happiness list...
6. Know you are special. How do you know that? Because you bought this book. You are already two steps ahead of the losers who didn’t buy this book. They aren’t special. When they finally do buy this book, then they too will be special because they have chosen this book, but you will still be two or three or even more steps ahead. Just know when you buy this book, you’re ahead.
Imagine being the last person to buy this book. I pray that doesn’t happen to anyone. If word keeps spreading about the magical powers of this book, the joy it gives, the wonders, the life-affirming, the life-changing results of reading this book, no one will ever be last. It will be sold forever and ever and that will make me happy.
7. The key to life is balance. Think of a seesaw. On one side is Give, the other side Take. If you just give and give and give, you’ve got nothing left. You’re empty. Which means you don’t weigh anything because empty equals weightless; so Take is just sitting on the ground bored out of its mind saying, “I’m bored, I can’t take anymore of this,” which is a pretty strong statement since that’s what Take’s job is. It is to take. And if Take can’t take anymore, then well, I think you see my point.
And the same goes for taking too much. If you keep taking and taking and taking, you get loaded down. Taking equals heavy. So Give is stranded way up in the air saying, “Hey, I’m way up in the air.” And then Take is like, “So?” And Give is like, “I hate you. All you do is take.” And Take is like, “You’re the stupid poopoohead for giving all the time.” And Take gets off the seesaw to leave and Give goes crashing to the ground and then Take feels bad and rushes over to see if Give is okay and then they hug and start crying and both apologize for being so selfish. So you see, it needs to be balanced.
8. Minimize stress. When I’m stressed out, I get so stressed. When I’m relaxed, it’s a whole different story. I find that life can be difficult. Also, when certain events occur, it can bring on stress. Small things — a car accident, let’s say — can change your whole mood. Everything can be going just fine. You’re at home feeling cozy, watching TV. You suddenly remember you’re running low on ice cream, jump in your Cutlass Supreme, and you’re singing along to some classic Hall & Oates song, and Bam!! Right into the back of some idiot’s car. What are they doing stopped there anyway? It’s a stop sign, not a red light. You’re not supposed to sit there forever. And all the questions start flying at you. Do you have insurance? Have you been drinking? Why are you in your pajamas? Wow, people are nosy. No wonder I rarely leave the house. It’s a jungle out there.
9. Start thinking positively. You will notice a difference. Instead of “I think I’m a loser,” try “I definitely am a loser.” Stop being wishy-washy about things! How much more of a loser can you be if you don’t even know you are one? Either you are a loser or you are not. Which is it, stupid?
10. Don’t look in the mirror...ever.
11. Work, but have playtime. Recess. We lose our play, our fun, all of our joy. We used to say, “Mom, I’m going out to play.” Now it’s, “Honey, I’m going off to work.” We don’t see a forty-five-year-old man saying, “I’m going out to play.” If he did, his girlfriend or boyfriend would say, “What the heck does that mean? No you won’t.” You don’t see a grown-up squatting on the ground with a stick poking at ants. If you do, you cross the street. You walk far away from them. You don’t see adults lying in the grass staring at the sky saying, “I see bunny rabbits.” That is, unless they’re on drugs.
So there you have it, your very own book on the keys to happiness, courtesy of me.
Whew, it’s a relief that’s over. I tell you, writing a book is a bear! Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. But before I say “good night,” let me — Oh, excuse me, that’s the phone. Let me get it, in case it’s important. So, I’m putting you on hold...now.
Okay, I’m back. That was my editor. Apparently they want this book to be more than eight pages. I guess I’ve got a little work to do. Suddenly I’m not so happy anymore. I’d better reread this chapter.
And perchance, floss.
Excerpted from “The Funny Thing Is...” by Ellen DeGeneres. Copyright © 2003 by Crazy Monkey, Inc. Published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.