Coffee addicts: Just say joe |

Coffee addicts: Just say joe

Barry Smith

While attending the HBO Comedy Festival a few months ago, I noticed something: Jokes about drugs, and even subtle references to drug use, always got a laugh.

Before I continue, let me make it clear that I am in no way advocating laughing at drug-use jokes, I’m just telling you what I saw.

During one very late-night performance, a certain big-name celebrity was chatting with another lesser-known celebrity. When asked what he did that evening, the big-name celebrity, not necessarily famous for debauchery, said that he went to a party, had a few beers, stopped back at his hotel room for a minute to [brings his pinched fingers to his lips and pantomimes sucking on a tiny cigarette] and then came here to the chat show.

And the crowd went crazy, hooting and howling and laughing it up when he did that fingers-to-the-lips thing.

Again, I’m not criticizing drug-use jokes (and am in fact getting ready to make one myself), but at that moment I looked around the room and felt that I could say with some certainty that everyone in attendance either smoked pot at some point in their lives, knew someone who did, and/or was actually stoned at that moment. So what’s the big deal? Why is it still that funny, even though everyone is so connected to it? Nobody laughed when he said he had a few beers, because we’ve all had a beer at some point. Big deal.

I realized that it was the simple fact that pot is illegal that makes it so funny.

At that moment I had a Twilight Zone thought – what if, 70 odd years ago, coffee had been made illegal instead of cannabis? It isn’t really that far-fetched – any more far-fetched than the fact that alcohol is legal and pot isn’t. But it seemed profound at the time, maybe because it was late at night … and I was stoned. (“Thank you, you’ve been a great crowd.”)

So, close your eyes with me and imagine life in the USA where cannabis is as readily available as your corner shop latte, but if you get caught with coffee you go to jail, dirt bag. OK, now open your eyes so you can continue reading.

* The subculture fashion would include T-shirts and pendants and hats emblazoned with a single coffee bean. When rappers appeared in music videos wearing shirts with coffee beans on them, the censors would have to blur them out.

* An excerpt from the pamphlet, “How To Tell If Your Kids Are Using Coffee,” by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): Look for warning signs like posters of Juan Valdez or Joe DiMaggio in their overly clean and organized rooms, excessive urination and the use of slang like, “Let’s go grind one,” “Wanna get alert?” and “It’s 720, Dude.” “720” is supposedly police code for “milk foaming machine in use” and has been adopted by “Brewers” as slang for “time to partake in coffee.” This is often proposed at 7:20 a.m., as the coffee addict prefers his fix shortly after waking.

* Attempts at passing coffee law reform in order to ease overcrowding in prisons would result in a certain segment of society screaming, “What about the kids?” Because this is what this segment of our society likes to scream, no matter the issue, rather than offering any kind of actual valid argument.

* When people mailed illegal shipments of coffee, they would wrap it in marijuana to cover the smell.

* High school kids would make French presses in shop class, but would have to disguise them as bongs.

* The government would spend millions of dollars on a study that proves coffee is a gateway drink, known to lead to the use of green tea, yerba matte and chai.

* Somewhere in Nevada there’s a guy who is still in jail because the cops found a single coffee bean on the floorboard of his van back in 1974.

* The film “Midnight Expresso” tells a sobering tale of a young man caught trying to smuggle Turkish coffee into America. It was the stains on his teeth that gave him away.

* During comedy shows, all the performer has to do is pantomime sipping from a little cup (with the pinky extended) and everybody howls with laughter.

Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at