85. My Stock Of Old Jokes

85. My Stock of Old Jokes

One of the definable stages in the human aging process is when one’s children (in my case, two generations of them) know already all the punch lines of one’s favorite jokes, and smile or laugh politely when you tell them again--they have heard them too often already. I have reached that stage, and am now ready to release my old favorite jokes to everybody, instead of keeping them stored up for occasional use by myself. From here on, I will have to try to think of funny lines called up by the situation of the moment, instead of recalling a favorite joke from the past. So, here we go. I will write these out by categories.

Favorite Jewish joke. Woody Allen, is it at the beginning of Annie Hall? tells his favorite Jewish joke: it is Groucho Marx’s line, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member!” My own favorite is “An Old Yiddish Riddle” which I found, browsing in the library, at the beginning of a 1941 novel by Robert Paul Smith, So It Doesn’t Whistle. I copy it out exactly:
OLD MAN: What is it that’s green, hangs on the wall, and whistles?
YOUNG MAN: I don’t know. What is it?
OLD MAN: A red herring.
YOUNG MAN: But it isn’t green.
OLD MAN: So you can paint it green.
YOUNG MAN: But it doesn’t hang on the wall.
OLD MAN: There’s a law saying you can’t hang it on the wall?
YOUNG MAN: But it doesn’t whistle.
OLD MAN: Nu, so it doesn’t whistle.

Favorite Irish joke:
There is a name for a special kind of Irish funny line, but I can’t remember it. Once at a dinner party someone mentioned the name, and I told mine, not realizing that it is the one everybody knows: polite and awkward laughter. It was:
Tourist in Dublin, to policeman: “How do I get to MacGonigle Street?”
Policeman (after thinking for a while): “You can’t get to MacGonigle Street from here--you have to start from someplace else.”

Favorite elephant joke:
These were very popular for a short time, especially among children, back in the 1960s was it? They take a question-and-answer form. Here is one:
Q. How do you make a sculpture of an elephant?
A. You start with a block of stone and carve away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.

Favorite racist joke:
This is one you can’t tell in most company because it’s objectionably racist and sexist, but funny anyway. A man from South America is trying at a dinner party to explain why he doesn’t have any children. “My wife, you see,” he begins in his imperfect English, “she is…she is unbearable.” The guests look at him blankly, and he thinks and tries again: “I mean, my wife, she is…inconceivable!” Still getting blank and baffled looks, he thinks for a while, then looks up and says, triumphantly: “What I mean to say is, my wife, she is impregnable!”

I will skip my favorite talking dog joke, which takes too long to tell (it ends with the dog saying “What’s the matter, weren’t those the right answers?”), and also the original (?) shaggy dog joke, which also goes on for a long while, ending with “Yes, but not that shaggy!” On to:

Favorite Endless Joke:
Gordon Cyr used to tell this one. It concerns Quasimodo, the bell-ringer at Notre Dame Cathedral. He decides to retire, and advertises for a successor. (Narrator spends much time walking around in small circles, being Quasimodo ascending the spiral staircase to the bell tower.) A man with no arms turns up to apply for the job, pleading that he can run at the bell and hit it with his face. Q., on his strong pleading, lets him do this, but on the second try, the man backs up too far, falls over the balcony railing to his death below. Q. descends (narrator walking round and round) to the square before the cathedral, where the body lies, where a crowd has gathered and where a policeman asks him: “Do you know this man?” “No,” Q. answers,”I don’t know him, but his face rings a bell.”
During the laughter that ensued, Gordon would go on to the equally drawn-out sequel: Q. advertises again and the man’s brother, also lacking arms, turns up with the same plea. He, too, backs up too far on his second attempt and falls to his death. Round and round goes Q., down to the square, where again the policeman asks: “Do you know this man?” No,” replies Q., “I don’t know him, but he’s a dead ringer for his brother!” End (finally) of joke.

Favorite Whatever

A woman dreams that she has composed a poem so perfect in its wording, so profoundly true in its meaning, that she is immediately recognized as the greatest living poet, her poem learned and chanted by everybody. Partly waking, she finds a pencil and bedside pad of paper and scribbles it down. Next morning she remembers the dream and hastens to look at her incomparably great poem. It reads:
Hogamus higamus
Men are polygamous
Higamus hogamus
Women monogamous.

Favorite Slightly Improper Limericks
I’ll skip the really improper limericks I know, concluding instead with a pair that are only slightly improper, the Skinner-Tupper limericks.
An Englishman traveling in the U.S. hears a limerick that strikes him as very funny, and he resolves to remember it so as to tell it to his friends when he gets back to England. It goes:
There was a young fellow named Skinner
Who invited a lady to dinner.
At a quarter to nine
They sat down to dine—
At a quarter to ten it was in ‘er—
Not Skinner—
The dinner!
The Englishman did his best to memorize this, and when he was back in England at a dinner party, spoke up (This should be done with an English accent, which I can’t do well):
“I must tell you a truly amusing limerick which I heard while I was traveling in America. If I remember it correctly, it goes like this:
There was a young fellow named Tuppah   
Who invited a lady to suppah.
At a quarter to nine
They sat down to dine—
At a quarter to ten it was up ‘uh—
Not Tuppah,
Not the suppah,
But some fellow named Skinnah who got in there somehow!”

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