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Opening Arguments

A laugh or two

Well, let's stop being so serious. A while ago, there was an online poll to determine the funniest joke of all time. It was British, so some of the finalists might seem a little strange by our standards. But the winner made me laugh, and I'd probably put it somewhere in the top 10:

A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"

But the jokes I remember laughing the hardest at are silly ones that would probably have fit more in vaudeville than on "The Daily Show." Two examples:

A man walks up to a little girl standing next to a dog. "Is your dog friendly?" he asks. She replies that of course it is, so he reaches down to pet the dog and immediately gets bitten. "I thought you said your dog was friendly," he said. Replied the girl: "That's not my dog."

Doctor tells a patient he has a fatal disease. "I think I'd like to get a second opinion," the patient says. "OK, you're ugly, too."

I started thinking about jokes a few days ago when I saw a tribute to the "Taxi" TV show on the TVLand network, which included a clip of the memorable (to me, anyway) scene at the DMV, in which Rev. Jim tries to find out, "What does a yellow light mean?" (here's the video on YouTube). As funny as it was, I realized, it was only a variation of "Who's on First" -- still the funniest comedy routine of all time. And as long as we're doing comedy, here is the final scene of the last "Newhart" show, the absolute best series finale of all time.

God, I love YouTube.


Bob G.
Fri, 05/11/2007 - 5:14am

Agreed on the TAXI scene...and who's on first....

Then again, in years past you had the likes of:

Nipsey Russell
Jackie Mason
Norm Crosby
Moms Mabley
Henny Youngman
Burns and Schreiber
Stiller and Meara
Steve Allen
Sid Caesar
Imogene Coca
Jack Benny
Burns and Allen
Bill Cosby
Jackie Vernon
Jonathan Winters
Shelley Berman
Shecky Greene
Bob Newhart
Ernie Kovacs
Allan Sherman

And with ALL these comedians...I don't recall ANY "blue" language or controversial material...just good laughs (mostly at ourselves).

I miss those days.


RiShawn Biddle
Fri, 05/11/2007 - 6:00am

There's nothing wrong with 'blue' or risque comedy so long as it's done well. Think of Redd Foxx's 'rent party' albums or that of Slappy White. Foxx's toasts -- especially one about kissing a girl and ending up breaking his glasses (how? don't ask) -- remain funnier than most of the 'clean' comedy being performed today.

And when you add in Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle's work on his eponymous show and Robert Schimmel, you begin realizing that dirty comedy can be really funny if done well. Rock proves that you can be foul-mouthed and funny if you have a rigorous philosophical point to make; Chappelle knows how to hit on racial differences without using the 'n' word; Pryor was just purely masterful; Schimmel can tell sex jokes all day long that have you rolling on the floor -- and can do so with minimal cursing.

And that's the problem: Telling a dirty joke requires sophistication of the mind -- both for the comedian to tell it and the audience to understand it -- and an ability for the jokester to get the point across without going far into the gutter. Most comedians these days lack the former and the same is true for most audiences; a night at Mortys or Crackers down here in Indianapolis is a fine example of all this. As a result, the comedians aren't equipped to do the latter.

And that lack of sophistication is evident in many areas of life today, as cultural and media institutions dumb down the product in order to serve those who are either culturally or intellectually incurious. Not that mass media or cultural institutions have ever been overly sophisticated -- think the Book of the Month Club -- but as seen in the Marvel Comics of the Stan Lee era, there was at least an effort to feign a little worldliness and thoughtfulness.

Of course, that battle between elevating up minds and dumbing them down is probably the reason why publications such as The Economist and shows such as "South Park" and "The Simpsons" remain popular. Thinking people have to have something to read and watch.

Leo Morris
Fri, 05/11/2007 - 6:12am

Redd Foxx has one of the great lines of all time, no less funny for being strangely true: "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone."

RiShawn Biddle
Fri, 05/11/2007 - 6:25am

Goes well with my own personal line: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but ugliness is universally recognized.

Meanwhile, here's an all-time great Redd Foxx one-liner -- with not a dirty word in (immediate) sight: "What's the difference between a peeping Tom and a pickpocket? A pickpocket snatches watches."

Mon, 05/14/2007 - 9:42am

There sure are a lot of "Aristocrats " here in Fort Wayne, arent there? and our most recent- Paragon of virtue "John" Randall Tobias. Dick Inskeep, before he dicks you, like his defamer tabloid "dicked" me...

Tue, 05/15/2007 - 5:02am

Two of my quick-hit favorites:

A naked blonde walks into a bar. She says, "OW!"

A bear and a rabbit are taking a shit in the woods. The bear says to the rabbit, "Does shit stick to your fur?" The rabbit says, "No." So the bear wipes his ass with the rabbit.

tim zank
Tue, 05/15/2007 - 4:14pm

Roach, nobody "defamed" you..You gotta admit you kinda bring it all on yourself.

Bob G.
Wed, 05/16/2007 - 4:51am

Doesn't "defame" mean by definition that one would have first HAD some sort of "fame" to begin with????