I Did It For The Story: The Powerball And Why There’s Benefit To Doing Things That Seem Like A Bad Idea

I decided to play the Powerball this past Saturday. And while, yeah, I did hope to win, I understood that I probably wasn’t going to win. I’d have better luck with Comcast customer service than I would with the lottery, but that didn’t stop me from playing.

I played because it was something a lot of people were doing and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be able to talk to other people and be able to say, “Yeah, I didn’t win either.” It’s a shared experience.

Screenshot from 2016-01-12 00:23:22

My tickets for the Powerball lottery

As it turns out, shared experiences can make good comedy—especially when you don’t win the jackpot. After spending 100 bucks for 50 chances to win, I was able to match three of the “powerball” numbers. That was good enough to net me a prize of 12 dollars.

Where does the comedy come into all of this? First of all, the shared experience means that others can relate to my struggle. There’s nothing worse than getting on stage, telling a joke, and having the audience look at you with a blank stare because they can’t relate and don’t understand what you’re talking about. I can go on stage, say “hey, I played the Powerball on Saturday,” and people will think hey, me too!

The next part can get tricky: Now it’s time to find the humor in the situation. Not winning the jackpot actually helps my cause. Numerous stories about people winning the lottery show that other people can be resentful of lottery winners, so we don’t have “our millions” working against us. That is good. We lost; we share the audience’s frustration.

So where is the humor? I start by looking for what was odd about my playing the lottery. First, we have the 12 dollar payout—not exactly the 900 million. The contrast is a good jumping off point, and there is more than one direction to go with this: I could be overly proud of my winnings, I could decide to invest the 10 dollars I get after tax, I could contact the local news organizations and ask if they want to interview me.

The next thing is spending 100 bucks on 50 chances to win. Why did I spend so much? To get better odds. Really? The odds of winning the jackpot is about 1:300,000,000—so 50 tickets increased my odds to about 1:6,000,000. Oh, yeah, those odds are so much better…

There’s also the really long line I waited in to buy my tickets. (Everyone else and their mothers were buying Powerball tickets as well.) There isn’t necessarily humor in that without doing some digging, but I do know that no one won the jackpot, which means convenience store employees are sputtering various curse words to themselves. The contrast between the optimistic customers and the jaded employees is a good place to look for humor.

If you take anything away from this post, take away one humble man’s opinion that sometimes you’ve gotta live a little and share experiences that other people are going through. Share in other people’s struggles and you’ll find possibility for humor, which is it’s own reward.



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