Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

The Gentle Art of Newspaper Humor

A 1920 book by humor columnist C.L. Edson provided advice for the aspiring humor columnist. His biggest advice dealt with when — and when not — to make puns.

Mr. Edson has here laid down a code for the columnist, the first law in which reads: “Do not write Paragraphs with Puns on Names.” He gives as Horrible Examples: “The Russians are rushin’ the Finnish, who can see their finish” and “Austria is Hungary for a piece of Turkey.” Then he tells us that “this is the lowest depth to which humor could descend.” And certainly these Examples are truly Horrible.

Yet there are always exceptions to the rule.

A little later, Mr. Edson admits an exception to his rule — punning is permissible when it is not on a proper name and when at the same time it has what Mr. Edson terms a “news-slant,” that is when it possesses what Augustine Daly used to call “contemporaneous human interest,” when it is absolutely timely, not only up to date, but up to the very last minute. He cites as an instance of this legitimate use of what has been contemptuously called the “lowest form of wit,” this paragraph by Mr. Franklin P. Adams: “Homer Aids Boston to Conquer Giants. – TIMES headline. Yet the universities are abolishing Greek.”

Hopefully Edson would have approved of my timely pun routine in early 2019, punning on the then-current flood of Democratic presidential candidates entering the race.


The Gentle Art of Newspaper Humor (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 9, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

January 7th, 2021 at 5:13 pm

Posted in Humor

Must We De-Alcoholize Literature?

Two months after the 18th Amendment established prohibition, this satire wondered how far the movement would go. Would Dickens and Shakespeare’s references to alcohol be expunged?

The losses would be appalling; Chaucer would be a walking casualty, Shakespeare a stretcher case, and the forces of Dickens would be decimated. Think of Mr. Pickwick bereft of the mellowing influence of punch! He would undergo a complete character transformation. Remembering the Cherryble Brothers, old Fezziwig, Mr. Micawber, Bob Cratchet at his humble Christmas dinner, and a score of others, one asks: “Can a Dickens character realize good cheer without the artificial aid of liquid inspiration?” The sheer capacity exhibited by Dickens’s world for exhilarating beverages suggests the principle of unlimited supply responding to the call of unceasing demand. Other times, other manners, indeed! Expurgate Dickens in terms of intoxicants and about the only unmangled characters will be Little Nell and Paul Dombey.

These fears went unrealized, as written references to alcohol were not removed. Indeed, even the most beloved book nearly a century later, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, would contain references to copious alcohol consumption by the character Hagrid — and that book has an 11-year-old protagonist!

However, what would be later censored in the 2010s were the n-word and the word “injun” in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

In 1919, those words were okay but alcohol was not. In 2019, those words are not okay but alcohol is. Times change.


Must We De-Alcoholize Literature?: How Shakespeare, Rare Ben Jonson, Robert Burns, and Omar Khayyam Will Sound if They Are Revised to Fit Those Sober Days Soon to Come (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 16, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 15th, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Humor,Literature

Nicotine Next! Then Abolish Coffee and Tea!

A month after the 18th Amendment banned alcohol, Gerald Van Casteel satirized the push for banning anything which seemed wasteful or excessive, in the name of morals or productivity: namely, banning sleep.

I now suggest a reform by prohibition far more fundamental. While we are in the mood to prohibit let there be no half measures.

There is one overpowering habit that affects not only the whole human race, without exception, but has grown also upon most of the animal kingdom. I refer to that form of wastefulness known as sleep.

The farseeing reformers who have instituted our midnight cabarets are glimpsing a new dawn, and the child’s objection to going to bed is the inarticulate protest of nature. Edison says he can work with less than half the sleep we ordinarians require. If it were not for the handicap of his sleep-habituated ancestors and environment he would probably not sleep at all. Away with this incubus and let us insist that everybody live twenty-four hours a day! A Society for the Suppression of Sleep offers a great career to wideawake reformers.

As humor columnist Dave Barry wrote in his December 2018 “year in review” column:

Meanwhile Seattle becomes the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils in all restaurants. San Francisco, sensing a threat to its status as front runner in the Progressivelympics, responds by banning food and beverages in all restaurants.

Nicotine Next! Then Abolish Coffee and Tea! (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 16, 1919

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2019 at 11:31 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Vagaries of the German “Michel”

“In Germany, a ‘Michel’ is, freely translated, a fool, a clown, a weak-wit of great physical power when aroused, but wholly dominated by his masters of higher intellect or greater power. You hear it every day and everywhere in Germany.”

So reported A. Curtis Roth, the former American Consul General in Plauen, Saxony, Germany in 1918. He provides this example:

Is any clearer evidence needed of the “boobery” of the race than the conduct of a German in a foreign land? Does he, as a guest, keep quiet and listen, trying to absorb some knowledge of the new country? He does nothing of the sort. Acting upon the principle that everything in the world was created for the German, he howls and blusters, organizes noisy societies such as he knew in Germany, and makes himself a general nuisance.

Or try this:

The Germans in America, while I was still acting for our Government in Saxony… had collected a considerable sum of money which they wished to devote to the relief of German war widows and orphans… Imagine my surprise when I learned that, following a long and serious conference among themselves, the various [German] Town Councils had voted unanimously to decline the money, because it came from America and was tainted, even though it had all been contributed by men of German blood, or men and women born on the soil of Germany. And this was long before America took a hand in the fight!

I don’t believe this stereotype still exists today — unless it does and I’m just not aware of it? The main German stereotype now appears to be that they always talk like this:


Vagaries of the German “Michel” — In Plain American It Means “Boob,” Yet the German Applies It to Himself and Seems Proud of the Title (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 30, 1918

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

July 1st, 2018 at 10:34 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Echoes in Lighter Tone from Washington

Should we be referring to WWI as the stenographers’ war? That’s what one article in 1918 predicted that “future historians” might call it:

And, hurrah, here come the stenographers! They are here from multi-storied city skyscrapers and from country lawyers’ offices; from business colleges and from just-learned-it-by-myself; calm, self-possessed, clear-eyed; helpers of detail — helpless men. Power resides in their right hand and in their left… Therefore, some future historian may call this the stenographers’ war. At least, they know who is running it.

Alas, the conflict eventually came to be known as World War I. One wonders if we just missed out on an eccentrically-named conflict instead, such as the 1739 one between Great Britain and Spain called the War of Jenkins’ Ear.


Echoes in Lighter Tone from Washington: Some Observations on the Military Salute, the Stenographer, and the Temporary Buildings — Wartime Capital Seen in Its Amusing Phases (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 16, 1918

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

June 17th, 2018 at 11:47 am

Foods People Won’t Eat Because of the Names

Muskrat. Field mouse. Dogfish. All are examples of foods that Robert T. Morris, M.D. cited in 1918 as foods many people refused to consume due to their names.

This article leads off by describing how many people wouldn’t eat dogfish, because it brought to mind a dog as much as a fish. According to Wikipedia, by 2018 the species is primarily called a bowfin, although “Common names include mudfish, mud pike, dogfish, griddle, grinnel, cypress trout and choupique.” They should really settle on just one name.

Foods People Won’t Eat Because of the Names: Dogfish Not at All Popular Until It Came to be Called Grayfish — Dainty Morsels from the Muskrat and Field Mouse (PDF)

From Sunday, January 6, 1918

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

January 11th, 2018 at 8:27 am

Posted in Humor,Life

“Are You Uhmuricun or American?”

Why is there so much slang, mispronunciation, and similar linguistic issues among native-born Americans? The writer Clarence Stratton suggests here that the fault lies in democracy itself:

“Our speech suffers because our wrongly interpreted democratic idea makes common people intolerant of anything like authority in everyday matters. The German acknowledges a standard of usage and pronunciation indicated by Hanoverian. In France and Spain academies determine currency and meaning, and the people recognize their decisions. Italians will quote to you the proverb that settles all linguistic standards for them.”

And to anybody in the modern-day red states who believes the New York Times is elitist and looks down on them, this passage from 100 years ago proves this is nothing new:

“The Southerner departs furthest from the norm of good American speech with his drawling utterance, his radical change of accepted sounds, and his entire disregard of certain letters.”

“Are You Uhmuricun or American?” — Language in United States Seems to Educator a Mass of Sounds Which Are Not Worthy of Being Considered Speech at All (PDF)

From Sunday, July 22, 1917

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

July 20th, 2017 at 7:31 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Russia and democracy – nervous bridegroom

This cartoon from NYT Sunday Magazine 100 years ago this week holds up eerily well.

From Sunday, May 13, 1917

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

May 11th, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Humor

Democracy of the Joke And Lack of German Humor Discussed by Leacock

On the very week that America entered World War I, Stephen Leacock explained in an article how one of the Allies’ unheralded strengths in the battle of ideas was their sense of humor, while one of Germany’s greatest weaknesses was their lack thereof:

“Do you know what is the most democratic form of literature? It is humorous literature. For of humorous literature the only test is: Do they laugh or do they not laugh? No King ever posed as a humorist. No King ever was a humorist, that is, an intentional humorist.

And one proof of the democracy of humor is its absence in Germany. Is there any one not a German to whom the German joke appeals? The German joke, like the peace of God, passeth all understanding.

Real humor is universal in its appeal; its popularity extends beyond national boundaries. Mark Twain has been translated into every language, and he is as funny in French or modern Greek as he is in English… Charles Dickens is the property of all the world; we think of him as a great humorist instead of as a man who wrote to amuse the English. But German humor does not cross the Rhine. The world knows German philosophy and German science and German scholarships, but it knows nothing of German humor. And the reason for this must be that there is no German humor to know.”

The best example of so-called ‘German humor’ ever might be this early Steve Carell clip with American comedians as “Germans who say nice things” —

 Democracy of the Joke And Lack of German Humor Discussed by Leacock: Famous Canadian Wit Also Gives His Views on the Perversity of the Russian Verb (PDF)

Published Sunday, April 8, 1917

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

April 10th, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Humor,Military / War

The Funniest Things in the Current Plays

What were the most uproarious lines in theatrical productions from a century ago? Reading most of them mostly confirms my belief that people weren’t funny until the late 1970s or early 1980s.

But this line from Have a Heart by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse was at least somewhat funny, reminiscent of something Woody Allen might have written in his 1970s slapstick comedy days:

“You’re Michael Robinovitch.”

“Robin – Robin – the ‘ovitch’ is silent. In New York we never pronounce our ‘ovitches.'”

The Funniest Things in the Current Plays: Lines to be Heard Just Now in New York’s Theaters Which Have Succeeded in Getting Heartiest Laughs from Audiences (PDF)

Published Sunday, April 1, 1917

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

April 5th, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Humor,Theater

Three Stories a Year Are Enough for a Writer

When I was in late elementary school, my grandfather got me a book collection of Ring Lardner’s “You Know Me Al” comic strips, about the hijinks of a major league baseball player and his teammates. The comic strip was published in the 1920s, several years after the original fiction short stories that made the lead character famous. To be honest, I never thought the comic strip was that funny. The fact that Ring Lardner ranked Elinor Glyn (who?) above Mark Twain among humorists alive in 1917 might explain why.

Three Stories a Year Are Enough for a Writer: Ring W. Lardner, Humorist, Who Makes Fiction Out of Life for Baseball Players, Thinks Fewer and Better Short Stories Needed (PDF)

From Sunday, March 25, 1917

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 31st, 2017 at 7:01 am

Posted in Humor,Literature

Russia cartoon – “World: Gracious! What does this all mean?”

This cartoon from 1917 about Russia could just as easily have run today.


“World: Gracious! What does this all mean?” (PDF)

From Sunday, March 18, 1917

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 27th, 2017 at 7:01 am

Posted in Humor

What Can an Actor Do When He Retires?

From October 29, 1916


What Can an Actor Do When He Retires?: E.H. Sothern Answers in Humorous Vein the Question So Often Asked, Using as Interlocutor the Ghost of Gamaliel Ratsey (PDF)

The famed (at the time) actor E.H. Sothern had recently retired from the stage in 1916, which was of course the only real form of acting for anybody who spoke words, since the first film with sound The Jazz Singer wouldn’t come out until 1927. Sothern penned an essay in which he answered the title question of “What Can an Actor Do When He Retires?” through a fictional conversation he has with the ghost of Gamaliel Ratsey, a famous thief and criminal of the Shakespearean era who was hanged in 1605 but not before he famously once robbed a troupe of Shakespearean actors.

The article’s subtitle calling the piece “humorous” is definitely subject to interpretation. You can see that the photograph of the author certainly doesn’t make him look like the life of the party, although to be fair people smiling in photos was a rare if not nonexistent phenomenon back then. Perhaps the funniest line in the article describes Ratsey’s introduction:

The visitor produced out of the void two huge horse-pistols and leveled them at my head.

“Get up!” said he, “and play me a scene or I’ll blow your brains out.”

This kind of invitation is vastly persuasive.

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

October 26th, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Entertainment,Humor

Who Was The First Man — Or Woman — To Make A Joke?

From September 3, 1911


WHO WAS THE FIRST MAN — OR WOMAN — TO MAKE A JOKE? Some Familiar Specimens of Modern Humor Traced to Classic Greek and Roman Sources (PDF)

This article has some great 2500 year old jokes. Like this one:

Archelaus, asked by a talkative barber how he would like to be shaved, replied: “In silence.”

Oooh! Snap! Here’s another:

One day Aristippus asked Dionysius for money. “But,” said Dionysius, “I’ve always heard it said that a philosopher never has need of anything.” “We will discuss that point, Sire, but first give me some money,” Aristippus said. The request acceded to, the philosopher immediately ejaculated: “Now you see, Sire, I have need of nothing.”

A couple more:

There was a stranger in Sparta who prided himself on his skill in standing for a long time on one leg. One day when he was showing off his little trick, he called to a Spartan: “Hey! You can’t do this.” “No, but every goose can,” was the quick rejoinder.

Diogenes, when asked what was the most suitable hour for dining, said: “If you are rich, when you please; if you are poor, when you can.”

Oh, that Diogenes. He also had a routine he called “Seven dirty words you can’t say at the Parthenon,” but it’s been lost to the ages.

Leave a comment

Written by David

August 29th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Humor

“In Two Hundred Years There Will Be No Poets Nor Authors”

From July 23, 1911


“IN TWO HUNDRED YEARS THERE WILL BE NO POETS OR AUTHORS”: Thus Predicts Victor Auburtin, and the Cause, He Claims, Is Democracy and Utilitarianism. (PDF)

It’s only been one hundred years since this prediction was made, so it’s premature to say it hasn’t come true, but so far I think Victor Auburtin is a bit off.

“I believe that art is dying, and fo this belief I shall speak in the present work. Art is dying of democracy and utilitarianism. It is dying because the soil it needs has been built over — the soil of simplicity and superstition. I believe firmly that in 200 years we shall have no more artists and no more poets. On the other hand, we shall surely have machines, duly patented, by which may be turned out sixty plaster copies of the Apollo di Belvedere in a single minute.”

These are the opening words of a highly characteristic work just published by one of that galaxy of young Germans whose names have become known throughout the civilied world through their association with the Simplicissimus — the humorous weekly which by many is regarded as the most effective enemy so far encountered by the upholders of German bureaucracy, militarism, “junkerdom,” and reaction.

The entire run of the German satirical magazine Simplicissimus can be found at

Leave a comment

Written by David

July 19th, 2011 at 11:30 am

Posted in Art,Humor

In The Good Old Days Of Harrigan And Hart

From June 11, 1911


IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF HARRIGAN AND HART: The Death of Edward Harrigan Brings Back to the Older Theatregoers Recollections of the Most Famous Comedians of Their Time in New York. (PDF)

Around the same time that Gilbert and Sullivan were working together in Britain, Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart formed America’s first musical theater team. Harrigan died on June 6, 1911, prompting the Magazine to take a wistful look at Harrigan and Hart’s era in theater.

The passing of Edward Harrigan is more than the death of a good man and a capable actor. It marks the end of an epoch. With his death the fact is emphasized again that the New York which saw the birth of those who are to-day hardly more than beginning to turn gray is forever past. With it has gone a set of social conditions, a cycle of old jokes, and an era of good fellowship. Compared with the 70’s and 80’s when Harrigan and Hart were in their prime, New York to-day is almost as foreign as Hongkong. New times, new people, new ideas — even a new conception of humor.

Leave a comment

Written by David

June 7th, 2011 at 10:30 am

A Man Who Has To Read 10,000 Jokes A Month

From February 19, 1911


A MAN WHO HAS TO READ 10,000 JOKES A MONTH: “F. P. A.,” Who Also Writes Jokes Himself, Gives The Times the Confessions of a Professional Chestnut Gatherer — How He Keeps Sane by Reading Darwin. (PDF)

In the 1920s, Franklin Pierce Adams was a member of the famed Algonquin Round Table. He made his name as a columnist for various newspapers where, under the simple byline F. P. A., he wrote humorous jokes and poems, often lampooning popular verse of the period. In the 1930s, he named his column “The Conning Tower”, the term used to describe the observation tower on a submarine. The idea was that from his own tower, he could make observations on the world he saw. Adams accepted submissions from readers, and he published pieces from Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, James Thurber, Eugene O’Neill, and E.B. White.

As far as I can tell, Adams never worked for the Times. When this article was written, his columns may have appeared in the New York Evening Mail and in a feature called “The Spreading Chestnut Tree” in Everybody’s Magazine. But that didn’t prevent them from publishing this in-depth look at the up-and-coming humorist:

Last Monday, when all Manhattan Island and some other parts o the Nation were holidaying, a reporter from The Times found his way into the sanctum of America’s greatest jokee, (i.e., one to whom jokes are made.) His name is Franklin P. Adams, and he keeps the wolf away from his door by reading the jokes that are sent to Everybody’s Magazine in the hope that they will ultimately blossom on “The Spreading Chestnut Tree.” The wolf, apparently, has a sense of humor.

Jokes, a thousand strong, were heaped about Mr. Adams when the reporter entered — by appointment — for an interview on “The American Sense of Humor.”

Mr. Adams slipped a joke into Darwin’s Origin of Species, and, closing the volume with a reluctant sigh, tossed it upon a heap of humor.

Thus begins the interview, which I recommend downloading to read in its entirety. He describes jokes that he gets from prisoners and from children, the differences between jokes from men and women, and how he can tell the difference between a good joke and a bad joke.

Here he describes some of the letters included with submissions he receives:

“Another habit they have is the effort to be facetious in the letters that accompany their jokes. The most usual form is a play on the word ‘chestnut.’ Each one pulls it off as though he had lit on something brand new and very funny. ‘Here are some chestnuts that should be picked,’ ‘chestnuts ripe, but not wormy,’ are a few samples of this lame-duck humor. You can guess how an introduction of this kind keys me up with joyous expectation of the accompanying jokes.

“But in the letters that make no effort to be funny, I find some good laughs. How’s this.”

Mr. Adams fished out of his desk a painfully inscribed epistle:

Dear Sir: Inclosed you will find, under my pen name of Herr von Hornberg-Boenningheim, the MSS. of three half-dozen sets of humorous paragraphs, viz. Nos. 49 to 66 of a collection of seventy half-dozen sets, of 420 paragraphs in all. In order to make quick sales I offer these at the nominal price of $2.50 a set, or $6.50 for the three sets, if taken together. I can furnish more such sets if desired at the same merely nominal price. However, I make this offer on the stipulation that you make your decision, or choice, at once, and, in case you desire to retain them, send me the price thereof within one week’s time or otherwise return the rejected sets of humorous paragraphs at once. Hoping to hear from you within the appointed time, or perhaps receive orders for additional sets. I am yours very truly, A— T—.

“Needless to say,” continued Mr. Adams, “his entire ‘three half-dozen sets of humorous paragraphs’ did not assay 1 per cent of the unconscious humor in his letter. A mild and quite common variation of this letter is the statement, usually accompanying some very poor jokes: ‘I have lots like the inclosed and would like to become a regular contributor.’


“There are a lot of people who seem to think it necessary to call my attention to the fact that they have inclosed a joke. Here’s a sample:”

Gentlemen: As I have on hand some very good short stories, some jokes and funny sayings, I thought it best to write and explain to you that they are just the thing for The Spreading Chestnut Tree. I shall be glad to accept anything you wish to give for them. Truly, T. B.

“When I looked over his ‘jokes and funny sayings’ I agree with him that he’d be glad to accept anything I’d give for them.”

I guess when you have to go over so many joke submissions, you get bitter about comedy. Still, it’s a very interesting interview. This one is a downloader.

Leave a comment

Written by David

February 18th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Entertainment,Humor

The Woman, The Banana Peel And The Damage Suits

From November 27, 1910


THE WOMAN, THE BANANA PEEL AND THE DAMAGE SUITS: Mrs. Anna H. Sturla, Who Has Mad a High Record for Accident Cases, Will Have to Prove to the Court She Hasn’t Been Faking. (PDF)

Here we have a detailed accounting of each instance in which Anna H. Sturla reached a monetary settlement after a slip-and-fall “accident.” There were so many instances, it looks like greed got the best of her as she pulled this scam over and over until she was eventually caught.

I love how the article pits Sturla against her mighty foe, banana peels:

She was in the ladies’ cabin [of a ferryboat], she said, when a banana peel, that old bête noir of hers, again tricked her and caused her to fall on the floor.

She maintained that her mishap was due to a small paper bag, from one corner of which protruded the fatal banana peel…

The company paid her $150.

Not six months went by after that before Mrs. Sturla was once more in trouble with these arch-foes of hers, banana peels. One of these slippery gentry, according to her, was soon all ready for her on a boat of the Union Ferry Company, proceeding to the foot of Futon Street, Brooklyn. As the boat was entering the slip the miserable peel saw its chance, got under one of Mrs. Sturla’s feet, and caused her to fall to the deck.

She got $200…

Fifteen days later — March 19, 1908 — she again came to the fore with a claim for injuries in an accident. This time the culprit, she averred, was the Lehigh Valley Railroad. According to her story, she was riding one of its trains, bound for Buffalo, when she slipped on something (she gave those lurking enemies of hers, bananas, the benefit of the doubt) and fell forward. After being helped to her feet by a male passenger she saw him, she said, pick up some — banana peels!

Yes, there they were, ever vigilant, ever on the alert to trip her…

It might be assumed that by this time those grim old foes of hers, banana peels — that Yellow Peril of her life! — would have decided to rest on their laurels and persecute her no more.

Far from it!

One of them, according to her, was in her path on May 19th, 1908 — only eight days after her Fort Lee Ferry mishap — while she was shopping in the store of R. H. Macy & Co. It threw her, as usual. She was taken to the Herald Square Hotel, close by, and stayed there a couple of days. The owners of the store settled with her for $150.

Banana peels, of course, are also the scourge of many cartoon characters and vaudeville performers.
Do kids today even know that banana peels are hilarious?

I always thought banana peels were used as props to slip on in old comedy routines because they were cheap and easily obtained. But it turns out that banana peels on the sidewalk were a real problem at the turn of the last century.

Today, slip and fall insurance scams are frequently caught on video, so don’t even think about it.

Leave a comment

Written by David

November 26th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Humor,True Crime

Some Good Stories That Bring A Laugh With Them

From November 6, 1910


SOME GOOD STORIES THAT BRING A LAUGH WITH THEM: Robert Rudd Whiting Makes a Collection of Tales and Anecdotes in Which many Old Friends Combine with New Ones to Entertain the Reader. (PDF)

If you’re a fan of Reader’s Digest‘s “Life in These United States” feature, you’ll love this collection of humorous anecdotes collected by magazine writer Robert Rudd Whiting. Here’s a sample:

A big, husky Irishman strolled into the civil service room where they hold physical examinations for candidates for the police force.

“Strip,” ordered the police surgeon.

“Which, Sor?”

“Get your clothes off, and be quick about it,” said the doctor.

The Irishman undressed. The doctor measured his chest and pounded his back.

“Hop over this rod,” was the next command.

The man did his best, landing on his back.

“Double up your knees and touch the floor with your hands.”

He lost his balance and sprawled upon the floor. He was indignant but silent.

“Now jump under this cold shower.”

“Sure an’ that’s funny,” muttered the applicant.

“Now run around the room ten times. I want to test your heart and wind.”

This last was too much. “I’ll not,” the candidate declared defiantly. “I’ll stay single.”

“Single?” inquired the doctor, puzzled.

“Single,” repeated the Irishman, with determination. “Sure an’ what’s all this funny business got to do wid a marriage license anyhow?”

He had strayed into the wrong bureau.

If your sides don’t hurt too much from laughing, pick yourself up off the floor and enjoy another one:

The new minister in a Georgia church was delivering his first sermon. The darky janitor was a critical listener from a back corner of the church. The minister’s sermon was eloquent, and his prayers seemed to cover the whole category of human wants.

After the services one o the deacons asked the old darky what he thought of the new minister. “Don’t you think he offers up a good prayer, Joe?”

“Ah mos’ suhtainly does, boss. Why, dat man axed the good Lord fo’ things dat de odder preacher didn’t even knew He had!”

Wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes. Here’s one more:

James McNeill Whistler and a friend, strolling through a London suburb, met a small boy. Whistler asked him his age.

“Seven,” the boy replied.

“Oh, you must be more than seven,” said Whistler doubtingly.

“Seven,” insisted the boy, rather pleased at being taken for older.

Turning to his friend, Whisler said, “Do you think it possible that he really could have gotten as dirty as that in only seven years?”

I know what you’re thinking: How can I find more of these gems? Well, I have good news for you. The stories published in this article are part of a much larger collection that Whiting published under the title Four Hundred Good Stories, which you can download for free from Google Books. Bring a copy with you to Thanksgiving dinner and I’m sure you’ll be the life of the party.

Leave a comment

Written by David

November 5th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Humor,Life

The Unconscious Comedian In The Third Row

From August 14, 1910



The story begins:

How would you like to go to the theatre expecting to sit next to a friend, find the seat occupied by a stranger whose face was oddly familiar, have your friends visit you between the acts, and gaze curiously at your companion, and then find out the next day that —

Well, the experience of no less a celebrated first nighter than [playwright] Paul M. Potter is the best answer to this hypothetical question. Furthermore, Mr. Potter, who admits the joke is on him, declares that the incident actually took place as described.

What follows is an anecdote that comments on class differences in 1910 as Potter tries to figure out who the fellow sitting next to him is, and how he knows him. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it did make me think about how differently this event would play out today.

Leave a comment

Written by David

August 13th, 2010 at 9:00 am