Margo at age 4 when she thought her dad was still funny.

This summer I won a Georgia Press Association Award (Thank you! Thank you!) and when I found out I enjoyed a quiet, proud moment alone. I take a lot of time and care with each one of these little essays so to be recognized felt pretty good. And perhaps I should have relished this feeling for longer than the ten seconds I afforded it because when I told Margo I won an award she derisively asked, “What for?”

I explained it was for third place in the humor writing category and her razor-sharp observation was “so you didn’t really win then.” My tender thought bubble was swiftly pierced with angst-riddled, pre-teen wit. Maybe the wrong Sullivan has a column? But it did occur to me that there is something quite meta-funny about the concept of placing third for humor writing. First place just wouldn’t carry the same comedic weight. So, take that, Margo!

Over Labor Day Weekend we were sitting in traffic, and we had a world of music at our fingertips with XM radio but since Margo was in the car you better believe the channel was locked on Hits 1. I can’t keep up with all the collaborations. It’s like if you don’t team up with other artists are you even trying to make a good song?

To pass the time I decided to rename the collabs because perhaps the greatest contribution my generation has made to society is the branding of celebrity pairings with cringeworthy nicknames. “Benifer” and “Brangelina” leap to mind but I don’t know if the practice has been applied to musicians who team up for maximum star wattage.

The first song featured Lizzo and Cardi B. This one was sort of a layup, I mean “CardiBlizzo” is right there staring us all in the face! Not even my best stuff but Kristen exploded with laughter so I figured I might have something here… Margo was non-plussed though: “Dad, that’s not even funny.” When the kids were younger if a joke missed the mark, I could just tickle them and the result would be the same but nowadays it seems the bar has been raised, or entirely relocated to an unknown place.

I was certain I could do better though, and Margo’s hostile veneer would crack. Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj teamed up, as they do. I offered up “Minaj A Grande” which in hindsight I admit, sounds a bit risqué. I can assure you it is a work of pure nonsense though as I have no idea what their songs are about. Either way, it didn’t matter. To Margo, that one was even less funny than the first. Maybe she’s laughing on the inside? Or maybe she’s slowly absorbing the wit and wisdom she will one day come to love and cherish. Or maybe not. Either way, we moved on.

When Justin Bieber partnered with The Kid LAROI I decided to go full-on-middle-aged-dad with “That Bieber Kid” thinking this might land for some with its so-not-funny-it’s-funny sensibility. Not Margo though. At this point she was begging me to stop. And I would have. I might have. If only Drake and Travis Scott didn’t jump on this runaway train. Since all of Drake’s songs seem to be a series of him saying ‘Eh, something something something, Eh…’ I thought it would be just about perfect for this duo to be named “Eh, Travis.” I mean, that’s a good name, right? Feel free to play along at home!

By this point the front row of the car is giggling wildly and the back row is ready to unbuckle and drop a flying elbow. I was reminded of years ago when Margo was teething, and we found her gnawing on the corner of the wood coffee table and we were simultaneously horrified and amused and someone older and wiser than us said, “Wait till she’s twelve.” 

Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan is an award-winning columnist who writes about family life and thinks everything is at least a little funny.