December, 2016

Sixteen Tones

The receptionist let the man go ahead of the crowded waiting room, and all the patients looked very glad to see him get priority treatment.

“What’s the problem?” asked the doctor.

“I can’t stop singing.”

“I heard you in the waiting room. You know you’re also tone deaf?”

“No, but it would explain the looks people are giving me.”

“Well, how long has this been going on?”

“Last weekend. We went for a drive in the country, and I had this uncontrollable urge to sing The Green, Green Grass of Home. I saw a cat, and I sang What’s New, Pussycat at the top of my voice. Since then, I’ve been singing ll these old songs. Can’t stop. On the bus, at work, even in my sleep I was singing Delilah, and my wife insisted I get treatment.”

“Well, from what you’ve told me, it sounds like you have Tom Jones syndrome,” the doctor said, looking serious.

“I’ve never heard of it. Is it rare?”

“It’s not unusual.”

Copy and Paste

Many years ago, a celebrated Australian merchant banker published a book of jokes he’d compiled from email contributions. Released just before Christmas, it sold by the hundreds of thousands, and the “author” must have made a small fortune from the work of others.

I always thought this a little unfair. Sure, the jokes were good, but what merit is there in just having people send in their best jokes and printing them up in a collection as your own work?

I’ll admit straight up that few of the jokes on this site are my own original work. There’s a poem I wrote years ago that I’m rather proud of, but even that is based on an old story about Lionel Murphy in a lift.

And just how do you find out the copyright holder of some ancient riddle or knock-knock joke? There are some jokes that were old when I was in primary school knocking around here. They can be found in thousands of joke collections, and I’ll bet none of them are original.

That old classic, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” has its own Wikipedia entry, which sources it to 1847, though does not suggest it is original even then, and is a joke that everybody above the age of three is assumed to know.

There may be jokes which are new and original. I don’t know of any, but they may exist.

And what about a joke is original, anyway?

The humour? Most jokes rely upon a setting that can be found in many similar examples. Or in books and plays and operas going back centuries. Give me a joke and I’ll find the same situation, the same punchline, from your grandfather’s days.

Some puns, I’ll grant you, are obviously made up on the spot. I know several characters who can unleash pun after pun on any given subject, each one worse than the last. Get a few of these chaps – they are nearly always men of a certain age – together, and you will have an event you will never forget. At least until your ribs mend.

I can tinker with a joke, reframing it, changing words and names, modifying it to make it funnier. Does that give me copyright? In theory, it is the expression of a thought that is original work, and I can blithely lift jokes from other sites, modify them just enough to have a difference in wording, and present them as my own work.

Fooling nobody.

Let me give you an example. Here’s a joke I just put up, about two old geezers each thinking themselves still young and fresh, and here’s the source, which I am quite sure is not original in itself. (No, it’s not. a quick google of the punchline and the word “dentist” gives me nearly two thousand results!) I cut and pasted the original, changed the characters around, tidied it up, added some details, but it is still recognisably the exact same joke.

My input here is in selection. The internet is full of jokes. I could gather ten thousand in a day, by simply cutting and pasting from other sites. But most of them, at least to my eyes, are lame, full of loose grammar, unfunny, or just poorly worded.

And the few good ones appear time after time. I’ve got just over a hundred jokes on this site at time of writing, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t doubled up on any of them. Ask me the same question in a year, but…

Give me a page of (say) twenty-five jokes or riddles or knock-knocks, and I’ll discard twenty of them as not worth my effort. A couple I’ll have already included, and there may be one or two that strike me as funny. And, for this site, capable of eliciting a groan.

It strikes me that someone going through this site may have the same reaction – only a handful are worth the time to click through.

Well, sorry, but that’s the way it is. This site is made up of my choice of jokes that I found funny or eye-rollingly bad. Every one of them.

They may be freely republished, using the same chain of logic that led me to publish them here. It would be nice if any republication included a link, but I cannot insist upon it, as I very rarely do it myself.

There’s one caveat, and it’s the same one I observe. Don’t just cut and paste pages and pages of these jokes, word for word. Where’s the personal input in that?

If I were to take the book of jokes I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, scan the text in, repackage it as my own work, and try to make money off it, I would fully expect Penguin Books to take me to court, and I would expect to lose and pay damages, even though every single one of the jokes it contains has come from somewhere else and been copied many times since then.

So fee free to copy these jokes, tell them to friends and family, put them up on your Facebook page or blog. They are part of our shared culture and I can lay very little claim to them. I wouldn’t want to.

Just don’t copy the whole site and pass it off as your own, okay?

Toothsome smiles across the years

I’d bitten down hard on an apple, hit a seed,  and cracked a filling. You know how it is: there’s a little bit of metal in your mouth and everything’s fine for a few days. then you notice the odd twinge and after six months you’re drinking a bottle of scotch every day or so to kill the pain and your work is beginning to suffer.

I was sitting in the waiting room for my appointment with the emergency dentist, and once I’d worked through the gossip mags from two years back, the cartoon instructions on how to handle a toothbrush, the airconditioning unit’s manufacturer’s details, I noticed the dental diploma hanging on the wall, which bore the full name of the dentist.

Suddenly I remembered a tall, long-legged, well-stacked blonde with the same name who had been in my senior class at Morningside High thirty years back. She had been my secret crush all those years back, but I doubt she’d even noticed the awkward, pimply, tangle-haired introvert I’d been then.

Could she be the same knockout? Now that I had grown up, become a bit more confident, filled out into a fine figure of a man – and recently divorced by my nagging wretch of a wife who said I drank too much – well, maybe I could scratch that long buried itch…

The door opened, and, holding my breath, I entered the surgery. But the woman who turned to greet me as the nurse ushered me into the chair was far too old to have been my classmate. Her face was deeply lined, her hair was silvery grey, she sagged and bulged, her skin looked like it had seen seventy summers.

After she examined my teeth, making disconcerting noises with her tongue and muttering to the nurse, she looked at me, sizing me up for my ability to pay, no doubt.

“Didn’t you used to go to Morningside High?” she asked.

I admitted I did.

“So did I!” she exclaimed, her weathered face breaking into a thin smile.

“What year did you graduate?” I asked. Surely this hag must be from the previous generation.

She told me and I gasped.

“Oh my god, you were in my class!” I said.

And then this decrepit, grey-haired, wrinkled, dried up, fat-arsed, flat-chested wreck of a woman, asked me,

“What subject did you teach?”