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Madeleine Begun Kane


Ms. Legal Person returns by popular demand with advice for the holiday season. "Your free help was worth every penny," wrote one satisfied reader. "Do you have malpractice insurance?" wrote ... oops, wrong letter.

Okay, enough with the accolades and on with your questions.

Q: I just got a Christmas card from somebody I hate. And another from someone I don't even know. Do I have to reciprocate?

A: Yes. You're required to send a card within ten days. Otherwise, you can be imprisoned pursuant to the Hallmark Profits Enhancement Act.

Q: Don't I have any other option?

A: Yes. Try a mutual fund with greeting card stocks.

Q: I made a Christmas wreath out of eucalyptus leaves, berry sprigs, muslin, yarn and colorful votive candles.

A: Very nice, but how can I help you?

Q: Well, it looked great for a couple of days. Then it caught fire and destroyed everything I own.

A: I'm sorry to hear that. Next time you might consider using pine cones and potpourri.

Q: That sounds just lovely. But what I really want to know is, can I hold Martha Stewart liable?

A: Probably not, though you should ask for a subscription refund.

Q: They hung mistletoe in my office, and I'm highly offended.

A: Why?

Q: It's sexual harassment.

A: I see. Has anyone ever kissed you while you were standing under the mistletoe?

Q: No.

A: What about when you weren't standing under the mistletoe.

Q: Certainly not.

A: That's what I thought.

Q: Every year I get stuck doing all shopping, cooking, cleaning, and gift wrapping, while my husband watches football and plays with the kids' new computer game.

A: Ooooooh, which game?

Q: QIN: Tomb of the... Wait, I don't want to talk about computer games; I want a divorce.

A: Then I'll need to know more. Does he help trim the tree or take care of the liquor?

Q: Oh, he takes care of the liquor all right.

A: Any other problems?

Q: Yes. Within hours he's broken half the gifts, and he makes me return them on the 26th.

A: Are malls involved?

Q: Yes, of course.

A: Sounds like cruel and inhuman treatment to me.

Q: My birthday falls right before Christmas and I always get short-changed. Do I have any legal recourse?

A: You suffer from Badly Timed Birthday Syndrome. Fortunately, last year's Anti-Discrimination and Mental Health Care Reform Bill included the Birthday Rehabilitation Act. It allows you to petition any federal judge to modify your birthday by no more than 30 days.

Q: That's great news!

A: You need only prove that your birthday coincides with a key holiday, causing pain and suffering and depriving you of your fair share of attention and gifts.

Q: Wow! Can I also modify my birth year?

A: How old are you?

Q: 37.

A: I'm afraid not. But you're free to lie like everyone else.

Q: Every year our best friends invite us over for New Year's brunch and make us watch home videos and help dismantle their Christmas tree.

A: Ah ha! Tortious Invitatious Falsious Pretentious.

Q: That sounds serious. What can we do?

A: Bring your own home videos and last year's fruit cake.

Q: My in-laws came for Christmas last year and didn't leave until July. What do you recommend?

A: Move and don't leave a forwarding address.

Q: It's too late for that. Any other suggestions?

A: Hire a bouncer, file suit in Landlord/Tenant Court or ...

Q: Or what?

Q: Play an endless loop of "Little Drummer Boy."

Q: I want to sue Santa and I need your help.

A: You may have jurisdictional problems. Most process servers refuse to go to the North Pole.

Q: But this is important. Poor Chrissy's been devastated ever since Santa refused to let her sit on his lap.

A: That's terrible.

Q: She hasn't barked or wagged her little tail in a week.

A: Chrissy's a dog?

Q: Right and my Jeannie's still hysterical from the beard incident.

A: Beard incident? Is Jeannie a dog too?

Q: Of course not. She's a three year old who lost her faith in Santa Claus when his beard got loose and landed on her head. Now she thinks Santa isn't real.

A: Santa isn't real.

Q: Oh.

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