Kalamazoo, Michigan (CNN) - Aspiring comedians, take note: When in doubt, seek humor in unlikely places.
For Mitt Romney on Friday, that meant telling a joke about his father's gravesite, one of several quips he tossed off in a free-wheeling town hall forum in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
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The GOP candidate sparked laughter throughout his Western Michigan University event, and comfortably fielded sober questions on issues ranging from his China policy to a woman who questioned his integrity.
Romney began his speech by pitching the good value on gravesites in Brighton, Michigan, explaining that his parents were buried there.
He said his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, announced one day he had picked out a gravesite in Brighton – to his family's initial confusion.
"We didn't live in Brighton," Romney said, poking fun at his father's frugality. "It's like, how did you pick Brighton, Dad? 'Well – best price I could find in the whole state.'"
"So if you're looking for the best deal on a gravesite, check Brighton," Romney said to surprised laughter. "They've got a good spot – you're near the former governor and the former first lady!"
Later, when asked whether he would fund planetary exploration as president, Romney said he would study different options. Then he ended his response with another wisecrack about China's planned moon mission.
"Some people say, 'Oh, we've got to get to the moon, we've got to get there in a hurry to prove we can get there before China,'" Romney mimicked. "It's like, guys, we were there a long time ago, all right? And when you get there, would you bring back some of the stuff we left?"
In between the humor, Romney answered serious questions. He acknowledged rising gas prices were largely driven by international supply-and-demand, but said he would encourage domestic drilling as president.
And a woman asked the former Massachusetts governor whether voters could trust him given his reversal on the issue of abortion rights.
"Why should we regard you as a man of high standards and integrity when you have flip-flopped on your position regarding the sanctity of life? You turned your back on your Mormon religion's pro-life stance," she said.
While Romney admitted: "I was pro-life," he immediately assured the audience he has since changed his position and has long opposed abortion rights.
He invoked a Republican idol to describe other conservatives who had come late to the cause.
"Ronald Reagan was pro-choice before he became pro-life," he said.
As he wrapped up the forum, Romney followed a comedian's central tenet and left the crowd laughing.
The candidate told the audience he was being signaled by a staffer to wrap up.
"I won't make the sign of the cut-off because there's a lot of cameras around here and that'll be used against me down the road, just like Michael Dukakis's hat in that tank," Romney said in reference to an embarrassing and indelible image that damaged a former Massachusetts presidential candidate. "There's some things you just cannot do in politics anymore."