Squirrel Swirl/Bearly audible

A half-century ago, I had the privilege of briefly collaborating with one of the most brilliant creators I have ever met, Michael Wildermuth. It was his short story I adapted into the musical tragedy, Sam Patch. I was thinking of a song parody of his, for a “product” called Squirrel Swirl Ice Cream, made by the same company that made Bearly Audible, the ice cream for the deaf, with a chunk of bear in every bite. Here it is, to the tune of Circle Game:

Yesterday a squirrel came out to wonder
What the factory in the valley's s 'posed to do.
Too close to the factory he did wander
And now the Captain's bringing him to you.

And the swirler it goes 'round and 'round
And Sammy Squirrel goes up and down.
He's captured in a carousel of cream.
He can't return, he can only look
Behind to where he's been
And go 'round and 'round and 'round making squirrel ice cream.

Squirrel Swirl, I'm game

His other “products” included Buffalo Chips, Sheep Dip, Traffic Jam, Rabbit Ripple (with a chewy chunk of rabbit in every bite) and "Ammonia Bacon Ice Cream - Smells like ammonia, tastes like bacon; top it off with a little Liquid Chicken and you'll have an ice cream treat you won't forget!"

Humor Templates 3: Tom Swifties

(In honor of April Fools’ Day, the last and longest entry in this series)

There are a number of humor templates that go in and out of style (mostly out). Most of those from my youth have disappeared. Feel free to rain down your examples, or any genres I may have missed.

According to Merriam Webster, “A Tom Swifty is a play on words taking the form of a quotation ascribed to Tom and followed by an adverb. The site offered several examples:

"The thermostat is set too high," said Tom heatedly.

Let's gather up the rope," said Tom coyly.

"Welcome to my tomb," said Tom cryptically.

"I can't find the oranges," said Tom fruitlessly.

"Don't you love sleeping outdoors," Tom said intently.

"Let's trap that sick bird," Tom said illegally.

"I lost my trousers," said Tom expansively.

"I just ran over my father," Tom said transparently.

"I just dropped the toothpaste," said Tom crestfallenly.

[From Daniel Dern: “I'll have another martini,” Tom said dryly. And a link to more templates]

This template is personal to me. By the time I was 14, I literally owned every Tom Swift book then in print (and a few from my father’s collection of 18 years earlier). Yes, the series did use too many adverbs.

And of course, in the Firesign Theater’s Adventures of Nick Danger, the announcer says, “doggedly, ruthlessly,” followed by a dog barking and Danger saying, “I wonder where Ruth is?”

Tom Swifties with Verbs: “I spent the day sewing and gardening,” she hemmed and hawed.

Martini Jokes
Daniel Dern wonders if martini jokes are a template. This one’s for my MIT readers:

“I'll have a martinum.”
“Don't you mean martini?”
“If I wanted two, I would have said so.”

And this sexist one is for everybody:
Dorothy Parker almost surely didn’t say,
 “I wish I could drink like a lady.
Two or three, at the most.
But two, and I'm under the table
And three, I'm under the host.”

Elephant Jokes
Elephant jokes don’t deserve an entire essay, so check out the Readers Digest collection of elephant jokes.

Humor Templates 2: Walked Into A Bar

There are a number of humor templates that go in and out of style (mostly out). Most of those from my youth have disappeared. Feel free to rain down your examples, or any genres I may have missed.

One perennial that never seems to go out of style is the “Walked into a Bar” template. Usually three somethings, sometimes two or one.

One of my all-time favorites:

A guy walks into a bar. He sets a tiny piano down at the bar, and the tiny pianist starts playing up a storm. The bartender looks at the man and says, "That's amazing, where did you get that?" The man replies, "There's a genie outside your bar that will grant you one wish."

The bartender runs outside and sure enough there is a genie. Without hesitation the bartender says "Genie, I wish for a million bucks!" The genie snaps his fingers and disappears. Instantly, a million ducks fly overhead.

The bartender walks back inside and says, "Hey man, I think there's something wrong with that genie. I asked for a million bucks, but he gave me a million ducks."

The man says, "You're telling me. You think I asked for a 12-inch pianist?"

Simon Rich wrote a humorous essay about this joke from the perspective of the pianist.

Other good ones:

A hippo, a priest and the number 7 walk into a bar.

The barkeep says, “What is this some kind of joke?”

A reliable sub-genre is the “Minister, Priest and Rabbi” joke.

A priest, a rabbit, and a minister walk into a bar. The rabbit says, "I think I'm a typo."

Next Week: Tom Swifties

For want of a Hairline…

If you’ve never worked in the newspaper business, you may not know the term hairline. It is that thin black line which separates items from each other. Sometimes, it doesn’t do the job. When you first look at this page, don’t you think the guy with the beard is the athlete joining the WNBA? I did. I don’t think the hairline was enough.


Humor Templates 1: Chattanooga Choo-Choo

There are a number of humor templates that go in and out of style (mostly out). Most of those from my youth have disappeared. Feel free to rain down your examples, or any genres I may have missed.

Are you smarter than the Internet? One Sunday in the spring of 1975, when I still read the New York Times religiously (in essence, as a wire-service reporter, I was paid to read it), the New York Times Magazine featured a whole page of these jokes; maybe by William Safire. Don’t send the letter to the editor. That’s easy to find.

One choo-choo joke that I am certain was on that list was the result of a talkative Indian religious leader coming to church:  “Pardon me, goy, is that the chatty guru’s new pew?”

These jokes often require a long shaggy-dog story to make complete sense, but here’s a few that I think stand alone.

“Pardon me, (James)Bowie, is that the captain who's accused you?”

“Pardon me, Roy (Rogers), is that the cat who chewed your new shoes?”

A luxury store offers Native American Moccasins so a customer inquires of a young clerk,  “Pardon me, boy, is this the tag on Gucci's Sioux shoe?”

A few weeks later, a letter to the editor of the Times asked, “Pardon me. Oy! Is this the rag to turn for news to?”

Next Week: Walked Into A Bar

Mom’s Sense of Humor

The item about our 44th wedding anniversary reminded me of two examples of my mother’s impish sense of humor.

Late in her 58-year marriage, she used to say, “We’ve been married for 30 wonderful years, which is not bad out of 50.” I suspect she was influenced by Groucho’s “I’ve had a lovely evening; this wasn’t it.”

From time to time she would introduce her life long soulmate, my dad: “This is Paul, my first husband.”

Making the Top 10

My Top 10 winner for Reasons Your Team Didn’t Make The Playoffs, at the top of the list was “The home stadium was outside the star receiver’s ankle monitor range.” My losers were “Wife’s restraining order means QB can’t cross 50-yard-line when she’s seated in the end zone.” And “The Lambada party in the locker room lasted so long the team failed to take the field for the second half.”  There’s no accounting for an editor’s taste.

New Years Baby

Scene: nowhere and everywhere. Mother Nature is pregnant. She is discussing her pregnancy with her partner, Father Time.

“Here we go again, a New Year’s baby.”

“Maybe we should stop trying. Our child goes viral on the day he is born, but never makes it to his first birthday. Talk about infant mortality.”


Here are some stray pieces of humor I have collected:


 Although not in the dictionary, it is reported that "Lexophile" describes a person who loves sentences such as, "You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish," and, "To write with a broken pencil is pointless."

 An annual competition is held by the 'New York Times' to see who can create the best original lexophile saying.

Among this year's submissions:

 ◾I changed my iPod's name to Titanic.  It's syncing now.

 ◾England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

◾Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

   ◾This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I'd swear I've never met herbivore.

 ◾I know a guy who's addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

 ◾A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

   ◾When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.

 ◾I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.

◾A dentist and a manicurist married.  They fought tooth and nail.

   ◾A will is a dead giveaway.

  ◾With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress. 

◾Police were summoned to a daycare where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

  ◾A bicycle can't stand alone; it's just two tired.

   ◾The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.

 ◾He had a photographic memory, but it was never fully developed.

◾When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.

   ◾Acupuncture is a jab well done.  That's the point of it.

 ◾I didn't like my beard at first.  Then it grew on me.

 ◾Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?  

 ◾When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

   ◾When chemists die, they barium.

 ◾I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

◾I'm reading a book about anti-gravity.  I just can't put it down.

Sex Cliché Shaggy Dog Story

What can I say? In 2000, I thought this was funny. I suspect I could cancelled for it today, but I’m willing to run the risk for a good shaggy dog story.

German Joke

A woman who did not speak German was making out with a German man. He kept saying, “Nein, Nein, Nein,” but she kept at it because she thought he was rating her 9 out of 10.