|Bardolph's post and Simplicius' comment got me wondering about early modern jokes that are funny not because of their anxious explanations of themselves or their stylistic quirks, but because we still get them and respond to them. They're out there, of course, but in jest books? |
Off I went to 1636's finest collection, The Booke of Bulls, Baited with two Centuries of bold Jests, and nimble-Lies. It took a bit of searching, but I eventually found this one, and I present it here with apologies to my future self, reading this post in 2040 when I'm trying to imagine that I've led a responsible and productive life. Sorry, old me. But I'll bet you still think this is funny:
A foolish Gentleman using alwayes to wipe his britch with the letters he received, having list to goe to the retrait called to his man for a letter; who repli'd that hee had none left. Then said he, take pen & inke quickly and make me one.
I LOVE THIS JOKE. Admittedly, this makes my sense of humor roughly equivalent to that of a five year old boy. But I'm guessing (hoping!) that I won't be the only one who laughs at this. The Retrait: still funny, after all these years.
We all know the pleasures of the weird disjunction between Us and the Renaissance Them. The comprehensible familiar joke is, I'm coming to think, an equally pleasurable moment of sameness.