Del. Joel Chasnoff couldn't have been more serious Monday if he had tried, and perhaps that was his problem.

All the Montgomery County legislator wanted to do was to set up a new office of state humorist, but his colleagues in the House apparently thought it was some sort of joke and refused to go along.

They voted down the idea-- twice.

"The purpose," Chasnoff said in trying to explain why the state needs an official humorist, "is to exemplify and bring attention to constructive uses of humor."

But members of the House just didn't get it.

When the bill came up for a vote, the only person to say anything was Del. Thomas Chamberlain (R-Baltimore County) who asked incredulously, "Are you really serious?" The House voted 60-35 to defeat the bill.

A little while later, Del. Jerry Hyatt (D-Montgomery) asked that the House reconsider its previous vote on the humorist bill, declaring, "I'm not kidding."

Chasnoff said there were a lot of positive uses for humor, such as in helping to resolve problems or helping the terminally ill.

"We could use someone along the lines of a Will Rogers or a Mark Twain," he said. But, the bill was defeated a second time, in a 68-to-39 vote.