31 July 2008

Now That's Funny (A Post In Which Your Blog Author Shares Some of His Favorite Jokes)

"Trying to define humor is one of the definitions of humor."

In spite of this warning from Saul Steinberg, we continue to collect, tell, and analyze jokes. I remember when my kids were about 5 or 6 and intent on decoding the comics. A good joke depends on springing a mouse trap that has been intricately and thoughtlessly set by decades of social convention, released in a single punchline. Explaining these social Rube Goldberg contraptions is guaranteed to eventually drain the humor from any joke or cartoon. Imagine explaining why you are laughing at this cartoon about Doris's husband to a five year old.

Back in the 90s, Esquire reported that the funniest joke of all time was this, from Gary Shandling:

I went to my doctor and told him, "My penis is burning." He said, "That means somebody is talking about it."

More recently, Richard Wiseman headed up a project to use the Internet to discover the world's funniest joke at LaughLab. In spite of Dave Barry's attempt to undermine Wiseman's attempt by having his readers submit and vote for a flurry of jokes that all ended with the line, "A weasel is chomping on his privates!" this joke took top honors:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?". The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"

I have to admit, though, that my personal favorite from LaughLab is the one that scored highest in Belgium:

An Alsatian went to a telegram office, took out a blank form and wrote:
“Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof.”
The clerk examined the paper and politely told the dog: “There are only nine words here. You could send another ‘Woof’ for the same price.”
“But,” the dog replied, “that would make no sense at all.”
Now, Dave TV just published the results of their commissioned research to identify the world's ten oldest jokes. The oldest is reportedly a fart joke, although I would surmise that the oldest joke probably involved actual farting and no spoken words. My favorite in this list of oldest jokes is Homer's, from 800 BC.

Odysseus tells the Cyclops that his real name is nobody. When Odysseus instructs his men to attack the Cyclops, the Cyclops shouts: "Help, nobody is attacking me!" No one comes to help.
Reportedly, one of George H. Bush's favorite jokes is this bit of ingenious word play:

How do you titillate an ocelot?
You oscillate its tits a lot.
Given his father's penchant for such jokes, it is perhaps no wonder that George W. has struggled with the English language since childhood. When asked about his favorite children's book, George W. named the Hungry Caterpillar, a book that was published when George was in his 20s.

And speaking of George, my father, who voted twice for George, told me a blonde joke about 5 years ago. It took me about a minute to realize that it worked much better as a Bush joke and I adapted it, emailed to a couple of dozen friends, and then, about a year later, received it in an email. It seemed an odd victory that the joke had surived so long in forwarded emails. I didn't make it up, but I did make it about George, something that gave me a sense of satisfaction.

Rumsfeld is briefing George on the situation in Iraq. Almost casually, Rumsfeld says, "And two Brazilian soldiers were killed yesterday in Fallujah."
George lets out a gasp, and then drops his head into his hands. He moans. The cabinet looks on silently, feeling awkward about this unusual display of emotion and grief. Finally, looking stunned, George lifts his head and asks, "How many is a Brazilian?"

My wife insists on turning off the lights when we make love. That doesn’t bother me. It’s the hiding that seems so cruel.

Quips like the above from Jonathan Katz are hard to beat, but I do have a weakness for jokes that unfold like small stories, like this:

A young man enters the monastery and is given the job of transcribing scriptures. A few days into his job of copying from a book he asks, “Am I copying from an original?”

“No,” says one of the older monks.

“So, I’m copying from a copy?”

“Probably a copy of a copy of a copy,” he is told. “We leave the originals in a safe place. We don’t use them.”

“Well, has anyone ever compared what we’re doing with the originals?” asks the young monk. “I mean, what if someone made an error that we’re copying again and again?”

All the older monks look at each other, uncertain about how to respond. Finally, they decide to take his question to the head of the monastery, a wise old man who has spent his whole life in the monastery. He hears the question and responds, “That’s a great question. I’ll compare our most recent copies with the originals we have.”

For days he goes back into the secure portion of the monastery to take on this task. About the fourth day, the monks hear him let out with a cry of anguish. They look nervously at each other, uncertain about what to do. The crying becomes louder and goes on for some time. Finally, they decide that they have to go back into the sanctuary to check on the elderly monk. They find him with the original before him, sobbing.

“What is it?” they ask.

“The word,” he sobs, “the word is ‘celebrate.’”

Finally, jokes can themselves become fodder for jokes. I'll leave you with this.

A traveling salesmen was driving in the country when his car broke down. He hiked several miles to a farmhouse, and asked the farmer if there was a place he could stay overnight. “Sure,” said the farmer, “my wife died several years ago, and my two daughters are twenty-one and twenty-three, but they’re off to college, and I’m all by myself, so I have lots of room to put you up.”
Hearing this, the salesman turned around and started walking back toward the highway.
The farmer called after him, “Did you hear what I said? I have lots of room.”
“I heard you,” said the salesman, “but I think I’m in the wrong joke.”


Gypsy at Heart said...

Ron, you know that section in Reader's Digest titled Laughter the Best Medicine? Well I always saved that for last because I loved it so. It was like the cherry on top after reading all the articles. This was a great collection you put up here.

This one:

My wife insists on turning off the lights when we make love. That doesn’t bother me. It’s the hiding that seems so cruel.

was hilarious.

Anyway, here's a few for you back. Have to return the funny favor you know...

The PR man looked at Moses in astonishment. "Moses, baby, you do it like you said - and I'll get you ten pages in the Old Testament!"

An airline pilot getting a medical checkup was asked by the doctor, "When was your last sex experience?"
The pilot said, "1955."
"So long ago?" the doctor asked.
The pilot glanced at his watch and said, "Well, it's only 21:15 now."

Did you hear about the billing clerk who went to a psychiatrist? He kept hearing strange invoices.

slouching mom said...

you will be pleased to hear that maybe six months ago i forwarded the Bush bazillion/Brazilian joke to my family and friends. and i am very selective in what i forward...

Lifehiker said...

I love golf jokes, and one of the best is:

Why does the pro tell you to keep your head down while making your swing? So you can't see your playing partners choking back their laughter...

Ron Davison said...

thanks for adding to the mix.

this is me smiling.

finally - the most common tip explained.

Everyone - my blog has been tagged by blogspot as a spam blog. I can't access it until it is unlocked. I don't know if it was the mention of body parts in these jokes that triggered it or what. I suspect that Dick Cheney is behind this. I'll keep you posted.

Vodka Mom said...

SInce I love to laugh, I'll be visiting YOU more often. (I may also need some depends, since mom's of three kids tend to pee when jumping on the trampoline, and laughing their asses off. )


Jennifer H said...

Vodka Mom isn't wrong.

The Brazilian joke has been made into a greeting card (there's a slight variation in the telling of it). I've sent it to at least 3 people, and kept one for myself. I love that joke!

These are all fantastic. As for the blogspot glitch? My money's on Dick Cheney, too.

Ron Davison said...

Vodka Mom
thanks for visiting R World. I am having trouble picturing you as you jump on a trampoline, sip vodka, and read blogs, though, but I'm glad that in the midst of that you're laughing.

Thank you for joining in with me on the Dick Cheney conspiracy thing. Actually, I guess it is a bit of an honor, to think that he's singled out R World for harassment. It must meant that I’m getting through to George and Dick is afraid that he’ll lose the mind control he’s had all these years. Suddenly, I feel my masculinity returning. I’ve got Cheney running scared. Hmm. Suddenly it's a good day.

Erik said...

my favorite is still the hunting joke. (it's ok to laugh at that, because he was probably already dead anyway)

texasholly said...

I love the woof joke.

That is really amazing to get your joke back in an email. Seriously that is joke rock star status.