Take My Banana Boxes...Please

This horse walks into the Nature section at the Newberry Book Fair. The volunteer says “Why the long face?”

“I can’t buy many books,” says the horse, “My wife’s a nag.”

We’re all still working on ways to spread the word about the 30th Book Fair (or, as I like to call it, the Sixth Annual 25th Anniversary Book Fair.) I think I know my way vaguely around these Interwebs by now, and I see that what really gets attention is political hate spam, announcements that you have ten million dollars waiting in a Slobbovian bank, pornographic pictures, videos of cute babies, kitties who can’t spell, and bad jokes. Around here we spell too well for the kitties (AND the ten million dollar bank announcements.) The videos of cute babies are kind of co-opted by their parents, who figure THEY should be the one to profit (and I think that goes for the naughty snapshots as well.) I have no particular taste or aptitude for political spam. But SOME people feel I have a skill at bad jokes. I don’t know how this fallacious gossip spreads so well online.

These two tourists from Springfield walk into the Newberry Book Fair. One picks up a book and says, “Hey, they printed this one upside-down!”

“Try not to look so stupid, Stupid,” says her friend. “That’s the Australian edition!”

The trouble is that jokes move from email to email as they used to move from television to common conversation. A joke may get started at a computer in Little Rock on Monday morning and turn up in a thousand email boxes before midnight. So I can’t go swiping from any of my recent emails. Those same jokes might have been sent to every single blogreader by the time I use it, causing only a yawn when I’m going for a boffo belly laugh. (Which is about my average, anyhow.)

A writer for Reader’s Digest decades ago reported that he was always being asked if he could get a person’s subscription out one week early, so he wouldn’t be repeating the same jokes everyone else in his circle was telling. He suggested that the person simply pick up a Reader’s Digest from last year. His friends would have forgotten the jokes by then, and he’d be the only one telling those. So that’s probably my solution: go into the old joke books.

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

The Interrupting Customer.

The interrupting cus….

What’s the price on this?

We actually get quite a lot of joke books at the Book Fair, so I suppose I could go through those for source material. From time to time we get magazines which were once fairly common on the newsstands of this country, the joke collection for professionals. Once, in the days of vaudeville, comedians were always on the lookout for new material. Some hired writers, but other’s bought copies of little books in tiny tiny type with hundreds of jokes written by people who just cranked them out. They could churn out jokes by the hundreds, knowing THEY would never have to deliver them. Sometimes they went for themes (we have a great one where the writer does a mock train trip from coast to coast, mocking states and their inhabitants in passing and, in the meantime, throwing in all the train jokes he knew) while others preferred more of a shotgun technique, knowing jokes about politicians, husbands, wives, children, food, and the clergy would always be in demand. I would not be the first person to hunt these up for inspiration, knowing a joke someone’s never heard is new, no matter how old it is. (I recognized a joke in an internationally known comic strip once and thought nothing of it. But when all his punchlines that week came from the same page in a Victorian jokebook I owned, and were actually used in the same order they had been printed on the page, I knew I shared the cartoonist’s little secret.)

So I think I will start sending out bad Book Fair jokes by Twitter any day now. If you come in July and buy one of the books I’m looting, you have to promise to keep MY little secret. Why? Well, you know how a crow answers when a Book Fair customer asks that.

(How does a crow answer when a customer asks “Why?”, Uncle Blogsy?

Caws.)

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