Thursday, June 09, 2005

Are jokes going the way of the buffalo?

Back in the early 60's (I think), the New York Times declared that God was dead. Well, they were wrong about that, and maybe they're wrong about their latest declaration that the joke has died.

Yes, the time-honored tradition of joke-telling, if you can believe the New York Times, is done. Gone. Dead. Out of style.

I read this in the Rockford Register Star this morning, so it must be true, right?

According to the article (the only place I was able to find it on the internet was here):

"The joke has died, the New York Times says. To tell a joke at a party or the office, the comics tell the Times, is to mark oneself out of touch or craving attention.

"The joke died quietly without obituaries or mourning. And no one is quite sure what killed it.

"Was it the Internet, ADD or, as comics cite, political correctness? Academics who have been conducting a postmortem have one consensus that most jokes are meanspirited, and young people are not as comfortable offending someone.

"Another theory is young people's short attention span. Yet another reason may be that old style jokes were a guy thing..."

Well, I'm certainly not sorry to say good-bye to obscene or mean-spirited jokes. But the joke itself, at its best, is an art form and one of the small pleasures in life.

If we now have such short attention spans that we can't take thirty seconds to listen to a well-told joke, then that's pretty sad.

One of the features my radio co-host, Darren Marlar, starts the day off with on the air is his "Way Too Early in the Morning Even After Two Cups of Coffee Joke of the Day." I often get a great guffaw out of these jokes.

There are even websites, like the, that will e-mail you a joke a day. Why not? It's a long sight better than a lot of the junk you have to wade through in your inbox every morning.

I've gotten phone calls from my sisters or my son expressly for the purpose of telling me a funny joke they just had to pass along, and vice versa. My husband will often call his best friend just to share a joke.

I'll admit, not everyone is good at joke-telling. I myself don't count it as one of my talents. I'll often forget the punchline or pertinent details leading up to it.

I probably get that from my dad. He wasn't the greatest teller of jokes, but he loved telling them and had a ton of them in his repertoire. And you know what? Some of my favorite memories of my dad are about his jokes. Even the corny ones.

Jokes are a necessary part of life. As the Bible says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine" (Proverbs 17:22) Most of us could use a good laugh.

Anyway, the New York Times, as I mentioned earlier, has been wrong before.

So, keep 'em clean and keep 'em amiable, but keep the jokes coming.

And as an added little bonus, I give you this one:

Three comedians are shooting the breeze at the back of a nightclub after a late gig. They’ve heard one another’s material so much, they’ve reached the point where they don’t need to say the jokes anymore to amuse each other – they just need to refer to each joke by a number. "Number 37!" cracks the first comic, and the others break up. "Number 53!" says the second guy, and they howl. Finally, it’s the third comic’s turn. "44!" he quips. He gets nothing. Crickets. "What?" he asks, "Isn’t 44 funny?" "Sure, it’s usually hilarious," they answer. "But the way you tell it…"


Why I like Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series...

Thanks to everyone who responded in my comments section about what they're reading now.

Carrie tells me that she just started Sue Grafton's "A is for Alibi," and she mentions on her blog that she was hooked from page one.

Well, Carrie, expect to be hooked on down through the alphabet series, all the way to the most recent, "R is for Ricochet," which I just finished.

Ashley asks:
"How do Sue Grafton's alphabetical mysteries compare to Mary Higgins Clark's mysteries? I love MHC, and my curiosity has been piqued by SG's interesting titles, but I haven't read any of them."

How do I explain the appeal of the Kinsey Millhone books?

Kinsey, by the way, is the 30-something female private investigator who is the main character in the series.

In trying to analyze why I like these books so much, I've decided that, even though Grafton's a great storyteller, much of the appeal is that we get to know and like Kinsey so well.

We know what she likes to eat and that she moans with delight over a quarter pounder with cheese; we know that she's pretty faithful about forcing herself to jog every morning; we know that she's woefully lax about girly stuff like make-up and clothes, but that she's undeniably feminine; we know that she's curious to the point of nosey, that she adores her elderly landlord, and that her childhood as an orphan, raised by an aunt, affects all her relationships and/or lack of them.

Reading a Kinsey Millhone book, the enjoyment of living in Kinsey's world propels me forward every bit as much as the mystery does. And I'm always sorry to see the book come to an end.

I've read a lot of Mary Higgins Clark books, and really liked them, but the Grafton books are a different type of book. Yes, there's mystery and suspense, but the stories are all told from Kinsey's point of view, with Kinsey's personality and the details of her life permeating everything.

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