Ken Levine's adventures in New Zealand

by Toby Manhire / 23 February, 2012
The renowned comedy writer and blogger goes down under and delivers some tips for tour guides.
By Ken Levine is a blog by, believe it or not, Ken Levine. His site, picked by Time as one of the 25 best blogs of 2011, draws a little on his current career, as a baseball commentator, and a lot on his former life as a TV comedy writer, for which his credits include M*A*S*H, Cheers and Frasier.

“Levine's posts are serious, funny, sarcastic and contemplative — sometimes all at once,” enthuses Time.

Earlier this week Levine shared the missing scene from the new Clinton biopic – the one set in “the Clinton bedroom right after Bill confessed to Hillary that he had been sleeping with Monica Lewinsky”.

In recent weeks, Levine has been pootling around New Zealand and Australia, as a guest speaker on a cruise ship. After making the obligatory jokes about sheep and Hobbits, Levine describes his day at the Wellington Sevens:

This is what I call a spectacle! Everyone comes dressed as if they’re going to the West Hollywood Halloween Parade. I drew more attention than a guy in drag wearing a Hooters’ outfit because I wasn’t wearing a costume.

All your favourite Flintstones, sheiks, satyrs, Fruits of the Loom, hairy nuns, brides, men in bunny suits, angry babies, storm troopers, M&Ms, pixies on steroids, Santas, Vikings, 300-pound Barbies, Ronald McDonalds, and Zulu warriors were there in full-force.

He seems to have been less impressed with Auckland – or, at least, by the guided tour.

He drove us through suburbs. Big whoop! That’s like having one day to see Los Angeles and going to Reseda and Pacoima.

And – everybody cringe now:

The guide announced that the population of Auckland reached 1.5 million last week and then added, “I’m pleased to say it was a birth not immigration.”

It seems Levine has had his fill of tour guides. Where typically he dispenses advice to would-be screenwriters, from Auckland he posted some advice for the people who point things out to tourists. Specifically, what not to do:

Don’t laugh at everything you say. Had a guide yesterday who occasionally did say something funny but killed it every time by chortling like an idiot after every punchline. Amuse us, not yourself.

Don’t try to be funny every second ... Don’t be constantly “on”. You’re not hilarious. You’re desperate.

Don’t wind up before the joke. Or, as we like to say – telegraph it. Our guide in Hobart was genuinely funny. Every so often she would just slyly slip in a zinger. We drove by a McDonalds’ and she said, “Over there is the American Embassy.” Jokes are funnier if you don’t see them coming.

Puns may be clever but they’re rarely funny. And worse than no laughter, you run the risk of groans. Save puns for pithy prose or titles of blog posts.

If you do a joke about a subject and it doesn’t get a laugh, don’t do six more on the same subject.

And finally, don’t steal material from Robin Williams. First off, it’s already been stolen and second – you won’t be able to do it as well.

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