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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another Joke

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.

  • At 12/18/2008 05:27:00 AM, Blogger Bardolph wrote…

    This is a BRILLIANT joke.

    'Whose fair retrait I in my shield do bear' - Spenser.

    Time for a rereading of this bit of the FQ, I think ...


  • At 12/18/2008 08:23:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    I laughed too. Once more into the britch!


  • At 12/20/2008 02:54:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    I like it. And also because it bears the slightest suggestion that the foolish gentleman also wanted something to read on the john.


  • At 12/22/2008 12:33:00 PM, Blogger the owner wrote…

    Any chance there will be live-blogging of MLA for those of us who won't be attending?


  • At 12/27/2008 09:52:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    I know I won't be, Wat--not sure about the others. I hope we get at least a post or two if someone will be there.


  • At 1/01/2009 04:23:00 PM, Blogger miltonista wrote…

    What happened to the impulse to explain the punchline? I had come around to the position that that seemingly unfunny habit is actually hilarious. I demand that this joke ends with, "Because the foolish Gentleman associated wiping his britch with written pages when, actually, blank paper would have functioned equally well if not better."


  • At 2/06/2009 05:54:00 PM, Blogger BRHischier wrote…

    "...a sense of humor roughly equivalent to that of a five year old boy..." or Rabelais. Either way, it's still a compliment to your sense of humor.


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