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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity






"The trouble with eating Italian food is, five or six days later, you're hungry again." George Miller



Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Philosophy of Humor 

Editor's 1-Minute Essay: Humor

JFK: Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner, 1960

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road? - answered by historical figures





Oliver Markus Malloy, Bad Choices Make Good Stories: Finding Happiness in Los Angeles: “I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.”

Ronald Reagan, 1994: As he left the world stage, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, he said goodbye to a colleague by joking, "There's one good thing: Every day I meet new people."

Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: "In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."

George Bernard Shaw: “The English are not spiritual people, so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity.”

Ronald Reagan, 1981: The President quips at a surprise birthday party, a reference to the White House as a combined workplace and residence, a reminder of his father's business in Tampico, IL: "I'm back living above the store again."

Space.com: "There is no doubt there are worlds out there beyond our own cabal of planets, but even if you've got the heaviest of foot on the accelerator, plotting a speedy route to the stars is not easy... Jordin Kare, a technical consultant on advanced space systems based in Seattle, Washington [says]... 'I suspect the only way we're likely to send humans to the stars is if robots go first and find a planet we can live on'... [but] there's another way to send people to the stars, not by sending them physically but by sending them as information on a laser beam. The first stage is downloading your brain into a computer, then have a copy emailed to Alpha Centauri, where pre-positioned nanotech robots build you a new body. 'You wouldn't even notice the 4.3 years you spend in transit. Of course, if the email bounces, you're in trouble.'"


now, dogs, they take care of their own


Barney Fife is a masterpiece-expression of Don Knotts's comic-genius. Barney is bumbling and incompetent yet self-assured; easily offended and overly sensitive, but ready to display bravado; not-too-bright, but this does not stop the unwarranted and ready arrogance; yet, the good-natured persona of Don shining through, Barney is loved by all. There are many funny scenes that have stayed with me forever, e.g., Gomer's "citizen's arrest" of Barney; and the one about Barney and the 20 dogs that invaded Mayberry. Barney loads them into the squadcar and deposits them in a cow pasture. Having returned to the office, Barney is pleased with himself - until the distant clamor of an impending electrical storm forces him into a heavy session of guilt and soul-searching about the welfare of the mutts. I love his rambling, justifying self-talk:

"Now, dogs, they take care of their own. Not like giraffes, you know - selfish giraffes! lookin' out for number-one! runnin' around! gettin' strict by lightnin'! Now, dogs, they take care of their own."

Convincing no one with this blather, least of all himself, he suddenly bolts from the office, and in the next scene we find him mobbed by the yapping pack of sopping, wet-dog-smelling canines. Another classic snippet is when Barney bets Andy that he can repeat, verbatim, the Preamble of the Constitution - all he needs, Barney assures his boss, is just a few hints to get him started. Andy begins with, "We ... the people," graciously attempting to prime-the-pump of Barney's memory; and, with each clue, Barney repeats the cues, but with a hubristic expression that says, "I knew it all the time." This process continues, with Barney in deep denial, blustering his way through each phrase of the Preamble, not remembering a single word on his own - until the climax, the very end, Andy offers: "the United ... the United" - Barney can't even come up with "United States of America." This, however, doesn't stop him from claiming victory with that characteristic curled lower lip and smug arrogance. If I had to choose a single scene from the many, this little skit, I think, was one of Don Knotts's greatest moments.



The Andy Griffith Show: Opie Flunks Arithmetic (1965):

Aunt Bee: [The grocer told her that] Einstein was a dropout!
Barney: Well, that was some time back, Aunt Bee - it was a little easier to get by then. And besides, who knows how far he might have gone if he hadn't been a dropout.


Archie Bunker: "I gotta letcha know - and I say 'dis very sinseriously."

George McFly to Lorraine Baines, Back to the Future: George reads from a prepared script his 4-word message to a nodding-in-agreement, serious-faced Lorraine who finds deep meaning in: "I am your density, Lorraine."

Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, the movie: "My momma always told me - never put off 'till tomorrow somebody you can shoot today."

Richard Forkun: "If a man speaks in a forest, but there's no woman around to hear him - is he still wrong?"

Will Rogers: "Don't gamble. Take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it."


primitive vegetarians returning from the kill


Mark Twain, A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling: "For example, in Year 1 that useless letter 'c' would be dropped to be replased either by 'k' or 's', and likewise 'x' would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which 'c' would be retained would be the 'ch' formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform 'w' spelling, so that which and one would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish 'y' replasing it with 'i' and Iear 4 might fiks the 'g/j' anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez 'c', 'y' and 'x' - bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez - tu riplais 'ch', 'sh', and 'th' rispektivli. Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld."

Wernher von Braun: "Crash programs fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month."


'I did know that, but did you know...'

 Star Trek: Next Generation, episode "Starship Mine"

One of the great comedic moments, Data and Hutch going at each other with small talk.



Benjamin Graham, father of value investing and mentor to Warren Buffett, liked telling this story: An oil prospector died and found himself at the entrance to the Pearly Gates. St. Peter greeted him with the troubling news that although the prospector was qualified to enter heaven, all the spots reserved for oilmen had been taken. There was no room for him. After thinking for a minute, the prospector asked if he might say just four words to the present occupants. That seemed harmless to St. Peter. So the prospector cupped his hands and yelled: "Oil discovered in hell!" Heaven's great gate burst open, and the oilmen rushed for the Devil's headquarters. St. Peter was so impressed that he invited the prospector in. "No," replied the prospector, "I think I'd better go along with the rest of the boys. You never know, there just might be some truth to that rumor."

Winston Churchill: At a dinner party young Winston, who at the time had a moustache, was seated next to an impertinent older woman, a friend of his mother: "Young man, I care neither for your politics nor for your moustache." He reassured her, "I see no earthly reason why you should come into contact with either."

Groucho Marx: "Some people claim that marriage interferes with romance. There’s no doubt about it. Anytime you have a romance, your wife is bound to interfere."

Winston Churchill: Making light of the need to follow absolutely the rules of grammar, Churchill focused on dangling prepositions: "That is something up with which I will not put."


Bob Clampett
1913 - 1984

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s the cartoon was a popular supplement of feature films, and many of the legendary animators such as Bob Clampett were in their prime. The cartoon was experiencing a golden age. From 1941 to 1948 Warner Bros. animation was largely tempered by the spirit of Bob Clampett, a sense of the fast and unrestrained. During this period Clampett's brilliance was the equal of any in American film history. A playful, idiosyncratic man, Clampett - the creator of Tweety Bird and other loveables - often injected an element of childlike innocence into his art; one of his favorite bits was to have a character stop and chirp: "I'm only twee-and-a-half- years old." Clampett was the right man for his time. His aggressiveness and lack of restraint fit the mood of the country during the World War II years. (That's All Folks! The Art of Warner Bros. Animation by Steve Schneider)

"well, ain't dat sweet, kinda gets ya right here"


humor by Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (paraphrased): "There was a young man who enlisted in the War of 1812. He was bidding farewell to his sweetheart who had embroidered on his  bullet-pouch the slogan, Victory Or Death . Well, the young man thought it over for a few moments and then said, 'Ain't that a little strong? Couldn't ya write, Victory Or Be Crippled ?"

Abraham Lincoln (paraphrased): Telling a story during the Presidential campaign regarding the divided electorate: "Two ladies who were Quakers were overheard in conversation: 'I think Judge Douglas will be President!' - 'Why dost thou think so?' - "Because Judge Douglas is a praying man.' - 'So is Abraham Lincoln a praying man.' - 'Yes, but the Lord will think that Abraham is joking.'"

Abraham Lincoln (paraphrased): "[General] McClellan doesn't know the difference between a chestnut horse and a horse chestnut."

Abraham Lincoln (paraphrased): "Tell [General] Hooker to stop sending me urgent messages datelined: 'Headquarters in the Saddle.' The trouble with Hooker is that he's got his headquarters where his hindquarters ought to be!"

Abraham Lincoln (paraphrased): Asking, around the table, all of his cabinet ministers for their opinion on a matter, and receiving a unanimous negative response, in the face of his own steadfast purpose: "Well, gentlemen, it seems that the 'ayes' have it."

Abraham Lincoln (paraphrased): "That reminds me of a story: about the man who was walking a country lane with a pitchfork over his shoulder. Just then a mad dog rushed out to him from a farm house and attacked him. So the man had to kill the dog with the pitchfork. The angry farmer said, 'Why did ya kill my dog?'  - 'Well, why did your dog attack me?' - 'Well, why didn't ya fend him off with the blunt end?' - 'Well, why didn't your dog attack me with his blunt end?'"

Abraham Lincoln (paraphrased): "Telegraph this to Major General Sheridan in the field: 'Suspend execution of death sentence in this case and send record of trial to me for re-examination.' If a man had more than one life, I think perhaps that a little hanging wouldn't hurt this man; but as he has only one, I think I will pardon him. A. Lincoln.'"

Groucho Marx: "I was married by a judge - it should have been a jury!"

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Q speaking to Worf, episode Deja-Q: "Eaten any good books lately?"

Dave Barry, Dear Mister Language Person: Q. Like millions of Americans, I cannot grasp the extremely subtle difference between the words "your" and "you're."  A. Top grammar scientists are often confused by these two words, which are technically known as "bivalves," or words that appear to be identical and have hinged shells. The best way to tell them apart is to remember that "you're" is a contraction, which is a type of word used during childbirth, as in: "Hang on, Marlene, here comes you're baby!" Whereas "your" is, grammatically, a prosthetic infarction, which means a word that is used to score a debating point in an Internet chat room, as in: "Your a looser, you morron!" Q. What about "yore"? A. That refers to "the days of yore," when there was a lot of yore lying around, as a result of pigs.

Baer & Gensler, The Great Mutual Fund Trap: "... the dumbest ideas of human history: The Children's Crusade; invading Russia in the fall; and, day-trading."

Unknown: "Humor is truth intoxicated."

Lord Birkett, Observer, 1960: "I do not object to people looking at their watches when I am speaking. But I strongly object when they start shaking them to make certain they are still going."

Jay Leno: “With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?”



"The Hatrocks And The Gruesomes" (January, 1965)
Fred must deal with Jethro Hatrock and an old family feud.

  • Editor's note: Maybe it's a nostalgia thing, but this clip seems very funny to me. The title alone is too much.

Dave Barry: "There was a major collapse in the credit market, caused by the fact that for most of this decade, every other radio commercial has been some guy selling mortgages to people who clearly should not have mortgages. ('No credit? No job? On death row? No problem!') It got so bad that you couldn't let your dog run loose because it would come home with a mortgage. The subprime mortgage fiasco resulted in huge stock market losses, and the executives responsible, under the harsh rules of Wall Street justice, were forced to accept lucrative retirement packages."


Four Stages of Life:

1) You believe in Santa Claus.
2) You don't believe in Santa Claus.
3) You are Santa Claus.
4) You look like Santa Claus.

David Astor: "Don't invest all your money in just one or two stocks. I know a man who put all his money in just two stocks -- a paper towel company and a revolving door company. He was wiped out before he could turn around."

Benjamin Disraeli: The British Prime Minister was asked by a newly-minted House of Commons member as to whether he should actively participate in floor debate. Disraeli, appraising the young man, responded, "No, I think it would be better if you did not; better if the House wondered why you didn't speak than why you did."

C.S. Lewis: "I asked [my publisher] ... to be allowed to write ... anonymously, since ... I [would] make statements of such apparent fortitude that they would become ridiculous if anyone knew who made them. Anonymity was rejected ... [but my publisher] pointed out that I could write a preface explaining that I did not live up to my own principles! This exhilarating programme I am now carrying out."


moonlight becomes you…

One of Jonathan Winter’s best one-man comedy skits was “Amateur Talent Contest.”

Winters opens by presenting himself as emcee at a small-town county fair talent show. With mild insults to the audience, he bumbles his way forward. Addressing a retired military officer in charge of the Legion Hall, whose facilities had been commandeered for the show: "I'd like to thank Captain Smith - there he is in the audience - (deadpan) No! don't come up!" This was a very funny line.

He introduces three acts, all quite humorous, but the third is my favorite. A young fellow from the community sings “Moonlight Becomes You,” off key, monotone, and with awkward out-of-sync gestures. But I think it’s the fidgeting and the nervous side-glances of the inexperienced performer that make this memorable.

Jonathan was a master of “physical humor" as his facial expressions said everything.



61*, the movie: a member of the press corps whispers to a colleague regarding the aged and gaunt appearance of the baseball commissioner: "...dis guy died an' nobody told 'im"

Introduction to “The Cello Song,” The Piano Guys Live: “Tonight, I’m on stage because my father never gave up on me… He said I’d never play Carnegie Hall; well, I showed you! (laughing) He never said that, he was always way positive.” Editor’s note: This little switcheroo caught me totally off-guard, and I laughed out loud. See my "1-minute essay" for discussion on the nature of humor.

Lily Tomlin: "No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up."

Graeme Skeet: an old college mate from England: "Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder"



Before there was Sesame Street, there was Sherri Lewis. Few were as entertaining for children as this most attractive and fun-loving lady.


Johnny Carson's advice on keeping safe with sharks: "Do not leave Kansas City; and always use the buddy system: if you meet a shark, give him your buddy!"

Concerning Wikileaks and Julian Assange, Governor Mike Huckabee (Dec 7, 2010): "If we want to keep our nation's secrets 'SECRET,' store them where President Obama stores his college transcripts and birth certificate."

Father Robert Benson, channeled testimony from the Other Side, laments how people easily label anything they do not understand, but fear, as demonic: "We, who have come back from these beautiful realms to tell you something of our life and our lands, are oft-times called emissaries of the devil. What the Churches would do without their great friend, the Devil, it is hard to know."



humor by Stephen Wright

I bought some batteries... but they weren't included... so I had to buy them again.

I invented the cordless extension cord.

In Vegas, I got into a long argument with the man at the roulette wheel over what I considered to be an odd number.

Right now I'm having amnesia and deja-vue at the same time. I think I've forgotten this before.

I got pulled over by a cop, and he said, 'do you know the speed limit here is 50 miles per hour?' So I said, 'oh, that's OK, I'm not going that far.’

"Did you sleep well?" "No, I made a couple of mistakes."

I hate it when my foot falls asleep during the day because that means it's going to be up all night.

I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn't park anywhere near the place.

When I was crossing the border into Canada, they asked if I had any firearms with me. I said, "what d'ya need?"

I moved into an all-electric house. I forgot and left the porch light on all day. When I got home the front door wouldn't open.

When I turned two I was really anxious, because I'd doubled my age in a year. I thought, if this keeps up, by the time I'm six I'll be ninety.

I went to a general store. They wouldn't let me buy anything specifically.

When I was a little kid we had a sand box. It was a quicksand box. I was an only child... eventually.

I busted a mirror and got seven years bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five.

The other day I ... no wait, that wasn't me.

I have a microwave fireplace in my house...The other night I laid down in front of the fire for the evening in two minutes.

I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.

Power outage at a department store yesterday... twenty people were trapped on the escalators.

Winny and I lived in a house that ran on static electricity... If you wanted to run the blender, you had to rub balloons on your head. If you wanted to cook, you had to pull off a sweater real quick...

I know a lady who tried to rob a department store... with a pricing gun... she said, "Give me all of the money in the vault, or I'm marking down everything in the store."

The Stones, I love the Stones. I watch them whenever I can. Fred, Barney.

The guy said, 'Hi, I'm Mr. Jones, the student loan director from your bank. It seems you have missed your last 17 payments, and the university you attended said that they received none of the $17,000 we loaned you. We would just like to know what happened to the money?' I said, 'Mr. Jones, I'll give it to you straight. I gave all of the money to my friend Slick, and with it he built a nuclear weapon...and I'd really appreciate it if you never called me again.'

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

Borrow money from pessimists - they don't expect it back.

I used to be a bartender at the Betty Ford Clinic.

I'm writing an unauthorized autobiography.

I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, "Hey, the sign says you're open 24-hours." He said, "Yeah, but not in a row."

After they make styrofoam, what do they ship it in?

I saw a subliminal advertising executive, but only for a second.

I bought my brother some gift-wrap for Christmas. I took it to the Gift Wrap department and told them to wrap it.

I have an answering machine in my car. It says "I'm home now. But leave a message and I'll call when I'm out."

I installed a skylight in my apartment. The people who live above me are furious!

I used to be an airline pilot. I got fired because I kept locking the keys in the plane. They caught me on an 80 foot stepladder with a coat-hanger.

I bought some powdered water, but I didn't know what to add.

I spilled spot remover on my dog. Now he's gone.

I saw a bank that said "24 Hour Banking", but I don't have that much time.

I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time."  So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.

I was going 70 miles an hour and got stopped by a cop who said, "Do you know the speed limit is 55 miles per hour?" "Yes, officer, but I wasn't going to be out that long..."

The other day, I was walking my dog around my building... on the ledge. Some people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths.

Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?

My girlfriend and I went on a picnic. I don't know how she did it, but she got poison ivy on the brain. When it itched, the only way she could scratch it was to think about sandpaper.

I have a map of the United States... actual size. It says, "scale: 1 mile = 1 mile." I spent last summer folding it.



Hollywood Squares game show




Q. Do female frogs croak?

Paul Lynde: Only if you hold their little heads under water long enough.


Q. The Guinness Book Of World Records tells us where the deepest hole in the world is. What's it used for?

Paul Lynde: The $29.95 special at Forest Lawn Cemetery.



Q. If you're going to make a parachute jump, at least how high should you be?

Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.



Q. You've been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?

Don Knotts: That's what's been keeping me awake.


Q. According to Ann Landers, is there anything wrong with getting into the habit of kissing a lot of people?

Charley Weaver: It got me out of the army.


Q. Jackie Gleason recently revealed that he firmly believes in them and has actually seen them on at least two occasions. What are they?

Charley Weaver: His feet.



Q. According to Cosmopolitan, if you meet a stranger at a party and you think that he is attractive, is it okay to come out and ask him if he's married?
A. Rose Marie: No, wait until morning.

Q. Which of your five senses tends to diminish as you get older?
A. Charley Weaver: My sense of decency.


Q. During a tornado, are you safer in the bedroom or in the closet?
A. Rose Marie: Unfortunately Peter, I'm always safe in the bedroom.



Q. Can boys join the Camp Fire Girls?
A. Marty Allen: Only after lights out.


Q. When a couple have a baby, who is responsible for its sex?
A. Charley Weaver: I'll lend him the car, the rest is up to him


Q. True or false: There are no hospitals or cemeteries in Beverly Hills.

Paul Lynde: If you die, they just leave you in your Mercedes.



Q. Envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, pride, and a few others are commonly referred to as what?

Paul Lynde: Oh, that would be the Bill of Rights!


Q. Why did Robinson Crusoe call his companion Friday?

Paul Lynde: Because Thursday was his day off.


Q. Is there any way to rejuvenate a hard, stale bagel?

Paul Lynde: I thought they came that way.


Q. True or false: At a recent public hearing in New Jersey, opponents of flourine in water said that too much can cause increased levels of libido.

Paul Lynde: (shouting) "Hey, Culligan Man!"



Q. In the vocabulary of liquor, what is a "tot"?

George Gobel: That's a small person who tells mommy that daddy came home drunk again.





Editor’s note: In my “Spirituality, Part I” article I said that,

We come to this world, this severe classroom, to see how precious, how excellent, is the divine consciousness, the mind of God, which might be accessed in a moment by going within, and meeting the “true self.”

Some of the jokes by the Hollywood Squares group are extremely witty and clever, but some of it is quite off-color. That’s the problem with off-color jokes. They might be undeniably funny and very clever, but they leave you with a certain sense of “existential emptiness,” a vector of meaninglessness and nihilism.

There’s nothing in it that speaks to the “precious and excellent divine consciousness” residing within. And that’s why it grates, like wood on sandpaper. It doesn’t flow with our essential nature and destiny.



Irwin Corey: "Marriage is like money in the bank: You put it in, you take it out, you lose interest."

Archbishop William Temple: "I believe in the holy Catholic Church, and I deeply regret that it does not presently exist."

Robin Williams, Patch Adams: speaking to a cattlemen's group, "Pork packers, rump wrappers, bull shippers, lend me your steers!"


what did the chicken do

A man inherited a parrot. At first he thought this was a good thing. But the parrot would do nothing but swear. Its language offended even hardened sailors.

On the first day the man played for the parrot soothing music and put its condition down to the stress of moving. On the second day he tried witty put downs. On the third day he ignored it. Nothing worked, the parrot still let forth a torrent of blue words.

On the fourth day, after a particularly creative insult involving his mother, a goat, and the local vicar, the man grabbed the parrot by the neck and thrust him into the freezer.

For a few minutes the parrot continued unabated. Then everything went quiet. The man, worried that he had killed the parrot, took a peek into the freezer. The parrot hopped out, was strangely silent, and then said:

"I am most terribly sorry, old chap, if I in any way offended you earlier with my choice language. Could I just ask... what did the chicken do?"


humor by Churchill

President John F. Kennedy said this of Winston Churchill's rhetoric: "In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone - and most men save Englishmen despaired of England's life - he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."

A sheep in sheep's clothing. (On Clement Atlee)

A modest man, who has much to be modest about. (On Clement Atlee)

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

An empty taxi arrived at 10 Downing Street, and when the door was opened, Atlee got out.

Golf is a game whose aim it is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

I am always ready to learn but not always ready to be taught.

I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

I'm just now preparing my impromptu remarks.

If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.

It is well said, there is nothing wrong in change if it is in the right direction.

Mr. Chamberlain loves the working man, he loves to see him work.

Mr. Gladstone read Homer for fun, which I thought served him right.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

The Americans can be counted on to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.

The problems of victory are more agreeable than the problems of defeat, but they are no less difficult.

There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.

This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.

When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.


cockatoo bebops to elvis


A very funny animal video -- a cockatoo (right) thoroughly gets into Elvis's "Don't Be Cruel," gyrating in-time with the music. A less-than-enthused friend (left) raises his foot, but not a ruckus, to maintain a discreet distance lest he be drawn into the mosh-pit.

CLICK HERE to see the video




a tribute to Mad of a generation ago: an awakening via rudeness





A generation or two ago, when most of America watched the same tv-shows on a Sunday night, we all lived in a white-bread, Pollyanna world of Doris Day, the Lennon Sisters, and three grown men, purportedly cowboy heroes, who were not allowed to make a single decision within the shadow of their Zeus-like father. This was considered normal in 1959. But the intellectual Pernell Roberts, well ahead of his time, would call it “junk television,” as he left a lucrative acting assignment, unable to stomach the unreality of it all.

Mad Magazine, in those long-ago years of immature innocence, began to “wake us from our dogmatic slumbers.” As a young teen I would howl with laughter with my cousin Jerry over the iconoclasm, the jarring jabs in Mad. The punch-lines, the delicious outrageousness, of those irreverent parodies still linger in the memory:

Bonanaz: “I’ll give you just 6 months to get off my land and you’ll need every day of it,” buttressed with, “It’s a 2-day ride to the kitchen."

Star Bleech: Recovering from the transporter machine: “My face feels like it wants to sit down.”

Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions: A waiter mechanically asks a couple, “Table for two?” “No, table for 28, we like to move around a lot.”

Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions: A deli owner says: “I got chicken breast, pigs’ feet, and calves’ liver, whatdya want?” “Don’t tell me your problems, just gimmee a ham-on-rye.”

Watch Dog In The Night (sung to the tune of Strangers In The Night as Mel "Tormented" would do it): "Watch dog in the night, I never chained you, watch dog in the night, I always trained you, to protect my house until the night was through, then those burglars came, you didn't mind it, they were after loot, you helped them find it, diamond rings and furs you quickly led them, too..."

Well, more than 50 years after the fact, I ask myself, were the Mad gags as funny as all that to warrant the howling back then? Those old barbs were pretty funny, but I suspect that part of the full-bodied laughter was powered by something else – a sense of freedom from society’s cultish, one-dimensional, censored and “approved” viewpoint; of corporations, governments, and religions attempting to control thoughts and activities of a populace.

Mad became a virtual jettisoning into a higher state of liberated consciousness, a breath of fresh spring air after a long winter’s dehumanization living as “the obedient good little boy.”

Be forewarned: "Phasers set on stun"; "The family that shoots together is in cahoots together."

"we hang together like a buncha bonanaz"




meat first and spoon vittles to top off on

  • excerpts from Huck Finn:

[e]verybody yelled at [Boggs] and laughed at him and sassed him, and he sassed back, and said he’d attend to them and lay them out in their regular turns, but he couldn’t wait now because he’d come to town to kill Col. Sherburn, and his motto was, Meat first and spoon vittles to top off on...

Well, there was a big outlandish parrot on each side of the clock, made out of something like chalk, and painted up gaudy. By one of the parrots was a cat made of crockery, and a crockery dog by the other; and when you pressed down on them they squeaked, but didn't open their mouths nor look different nor interested. They squeaked through underneath. There was a couple of big wild-turkey-wing fans spread out behind those things.

On the table in the middle of the room was a kind of a lovely crockery basket that had apples and oranges and peaches and grapes piled up in it, which was much redder and yellower and prettier than real ones is, but they warn't real because you could see where pieces had got chipped off and showed the white chalk, or whatever it was, underneath. This table had a cover made out of beautiful oilcloth, with a red and blue spread-eagle painted on it, and a painted border all around. It come all the way from Philadelphia, they said.

There was some books, too, piled up perfectly exact, on each corner of the table. One was a big family Bible full of pictures. One was Pilgrim's Progress, about a man that left his family, it didn't say why. I read considerable in it now and then. The statements was interesting, but tough. Another was Friendship's Offering, full of beautiful stuff and poetry; but I didn't read the poetry. Another was Henry Clay's Speeches, and another was Dr. Gunn's Family Medicine, which told you all about what to do if a body was sick or dead.

There was a hymn book, and a lot of other books. And there was nice split-bottom chairs, and perfectly sound, too -- not bagged down in the middle and busted, like an old basket.

They had pictures hung on the walls -- mainly Washingtons and Lafayettes, and battles, and Highland Marys, and one called "Signing the Declaration."

There was some that they called crayons, which one of the daughters which was dead made her own self when she was only fifteen years old. They was different from any pictures I ever see before -- blacker, mostly, than is common. One was a woman in a slim black dress, belted small under the armpits, with bulges like a cabbage in the middle of the sleeves, and a large black scoop-shovel bonnet with a black veil, and white slim ankles crossed about with black tape, and very wee black slippers, like a chisel, and she was leaning pensive on a tombstone on her right elbow, under a weeping willow, and her other hand hanging down her side holding a white handkerchief and a reticule, and underneath the picture it said "Shall I Never See Thee More Alas."

Another one was a young lady with her hair all combed up straight to the top of her head, and knotted there in front of a comb like a chair-back, and she was crying into a handkerchief and had a dead bird laying on its back in her other hand with its heels up, and underneath the picture it said "I Shall Never Hear Thy Sweet Chirrup More Alas."

There was one where a young lady was at a window looking up at the moon, and tears running down her cheeks; and she had an open letter in one hand with black sealing wax showing on one edge of it, and she was mashing a locket with a chain to it against her mouth, and underneath the picture it said "And Art Thou Gone Yes Thou Art Gone Alas."

These was all nice pictures, I reckon, but I didn't somehow seem to take to them, because if ever I was down a little they always give me the fan-tods.

Everybody was sorry she died, because she had laid out a lot more of these pictures to do, and a body could see by what she had done what they had lost. But I reckoned that with her disposition she was having a better time in the graveyard.

She was at work on what they said was her greatest picture when she took sick, and every day and every night it was her prayer to be allowed to live till she got it done, but she never got the chance. It was a picture of a young woman in a long white gown, standing on the rail of a bridge all ready to jump off, with her hair all down her back, and looking up to the moon, with the tears running down her face, and she had two arms folded across her breast, and two arms stretched out in front, and two more reaching up towards the moon -- and the idea was to see which pair would look best, and then scratch out all the other arms; but, as I was saying, she died before she got her mind made up, and now they kept this picture over the head of the bed in her room, and every time her birthday come they hung flowers on it. Other times it was hid with a little curtain.

The young woman in the picture had a kind of a nice sweet face, but there was so many arms it made her look too spidery, seemed to me. This young girl kept a scrap-book when she was alive, and used to paste obituaries and accidents and cases of patient suffering in it out of the Presbyterian Observer, and write poetry after them out of her own head.... she could write about anything you choose to give her to write about just so it was sadful. Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand with her "tribute" before he was cold. She called them tributes. The neighbors said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the undertaker -- the undertaker never got in ahead of Emmeline but once... I liked all that family, dead ones and all...

Hans Christian Andersen: The Ugly Duckling:

"Can you lay eggs?" she asked. "No." "Then have the goodness to hold your tongue." "Can you raise your back, or purr, or throw out sparks?" said the tom cat. "No." "Then you have no right to express an opinion when sensible people are speaking."

Did you hear the one about the Dalai Lama? He stopped at a pizza joint and told the clerk behind the counter, Make me One with All.

And then there was the case of the dyslexic agnostic... he pondered whether there is a Dog.

Charlie Munger: "You don't want to be like the motion picture exec who had so many people at his funeral, but they were there just to make sure he was dead."



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