Where Will You Be Six Months from Now?

19 May


The late comedian Henny Youngman used to tell lots of jokes about doctors. A favorite is:

My doctor told me I had six months to live. I said, “Doctor, I can’t pay you.” He gave me another six months.”

Henny Youngman — he knew!

Comedians are very exacting when choosing their words, especially in short jokes. They much prefer funny words over unfunny words and will struggle to determine if, say, 66, is funnier than 85. So I find it interesting that Henny chose “six” for the number of months his doctor gave him.

I don’t think he did it because six is funny. I think he did it because when doctors tell you death is near, they almost always put it six months away.

Not to be funny, but have you every heard of a friend or relative who was given four months to live, or seven months to live, or 10 months? I never have.

All this comes to mind because someone I know was given six months to live. Sure enough, exactly six months later he was dead.

Did the doctor really know? Or was he just lucky?

In life, we all have to make quick judgments and guesses. In the field of finance there is a joke (funny only to people in finance) that goes:

Q. Why do economists use decimal points?

A. Because they have a sense of humor.

The point being that nobody really knows anything for sure, but all of us sure can fake it. Those who get it right probably get more credit than they deserve, like maybe Steve Jobs or some military strategists.

Lucky guess?

But we’ve all got to worship earthly gods and I imagine it is more appropriate to worship those who have guessed right than to worship those who have guessed wrong. So hats off to the doc who said “six months” to my friend.

I’ll leave you with this piece of advice:

If your doctor says you have just 10 minutes to live, do everything you can to assure him that his wife and you are just good friends.

Thanks, Henny.

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