What's funny? What isn't? And why do I never get a laugh when I tell that joke about the moose?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

M as in Money

"There is nothing quite as wonderful as money.

There is nothing like the newly minted pound.

Everyone must hanker for the butchness of a banker,

It's accountancy that makes the world go round."

--Eric Idle

There’s nothing particularly funny about money.

Well, except that the portraits are often pretty silly.

And the fact that a penny costs the government more than one cent is worth a grin.

And the idea that in order to make American currency harder to counterfeit they made it look exactly like Monopoly money is frankly hysterical.

IN GENERAL, money isn’t funny.

But the PURSUIT of money is one of the most consistently funny things in the world.

Cash is, after all, nothing more than the bookkeeping tokens of an elaborate bartering system. This way, you don’t have to ask your neighbor if he’s got change for a goat.

Since money is a medium of exchange, the pursuit of money (the root of all evil, as we know) can be a sublimated pursuit of power or sex—and those are pretty funny, too.
A newly married couple has fallen upon hard times. The husband has fallen ill and needs expensive medicine. The wife, although good-hearted and beautiful, has no marketable skills, and her job as a waitress doesn’t bring in nearly enough money for the couple to live on.

So, after many tears and much anger, the wife determines that she will turn to streetwalking to earn the money the family needs for food and medicine.
The wife departs at 8 pm, and returns at 2 am. She rushes to her husband, who embraces her with tears in his eyes.

“Darling, I did it!” says the wife.

“You made money, then?” the husband asks.

“Yes,” says the wife. “I made three hundred and fifty dollars and twenty-five cents!”

The husband stares. “Twenty-five cents?” he demands. “Who gave you twenty-five cents?”

The wife smiles brightly: “EVERYBODY!” she says.

There IS a fictional character who loves money, not for what it can buy, but for its own sake. That character is Walt Disney’s Scrooge McDuck, created by writer/artist Carl Barks in the middle of the last century. Looking for all the world like Donald Duck dressed for a road show production of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is the richest duck in a world of anthropomorphic animals.

Now, I never found Scrooge to be the “richly comic character” described by his fans. But his exploits WERE pretty funny, especially as it became clear that Scrooge really didn’t care about WEALTH, he cared about MONEY…he kept huge stacks of the stuff, including his giant money bin. It was several stories tall, full of coins and paper money, and Scrooge would literally dive into, while chanting this litany:

“I like to dive around in my money like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher…and toss it up and let it hit me on the head!”

At one point, someone tried to imitate Scrooge and dive headlong into the cash pile himself. The character ended up—not surprisingly—with a busted noggin. He demanded an explanation from Scrooge, who admitted: “It’s a trick.”

A long time ago in Europe, there lived a wily peddler by the name of Igor. One day, Igor heard of a far away land where spices and herbs were unknown. Why, this place had didn’t even have onions!

Well, this was an opportunity too good to go to waste! Igor gathered all the funds he could, selling his possessions and borrowing from friends and family, and bought an entire wagonload of onions. He took his pack animal and made his way, over many weeks, to the faraway land.

Igor presented himself to the royal palace, and to the king of this drab kingdom. He said to the king, “I have with me a remarkable vegetable—it will improve the taste of almost any food, and although strong, can even be eaten by itself.”

Well, the king was as tired of dull food as everyone else in the kingdom, so Igor was granted access to the royal kitchens. Igor worked an entire day, making stews, salads, sandwiches and other dishes (not all of which began with “s”) with his onions. At the end of the day, he brought all the dishes before the king.

The king was no fool, of course. He insisted that others try the food first. First Igor himself ate a bit of each dish, then the servants, then the nobles, and then the Queen. Each declared the food delicious. (It was lucky that he didn’t give the food to the notoriously picky Prince Louis, or this joke might have a different ending.)

Finally, the king himself took a bite of a simple salad garnished with onion. A smile of joy spread over his face. “This is the most miraculous vegetable of all time! We will reward you!”

And indeed, after taking possession of the wagon-load of onions, the king cast about for the riches of the land. Ultimately, Igor was rewarded with a wagon-load of silver.

Igor returned to his home land in triumph. He repaid his debts, bought a beautiful home for himself and his family, and settled down to a privileged existence.

It wasn’t long before the news of Igor’s fortune reached the ears of another wily peddler named Fritz. Fritz thought there must be a way that he could get a piece of this action, and it occurred to him that, if onions were so valuable, garlic would be even more so. After all, it was smaller, could be carried dried, and didn’t make you cry when you cut it.

So Fritz gathered all the funds he could, selling his possessions and borrowing from friends and family. He bought ten sacks of garlic and made his way to the faraway land.

Like Igor before him, Fritz presented himself to the royal palace and to the king of the faraway kingdom. He said to the king, “I have brought a remarkable vegetable. It, too, improves the taste of almost any food!”

Fritz was granted access to the royal kitchens and prepared several dishes featuring garlic. At the end of the day, he brought the dishes before the king. Once again, the king insisted that others taste the food first, but eventually the king tried garlic. He almost wept in delight. “THIS, he said,” is the most remarkable vegetable of all time!”

So the king cast about for the riches of the land to give Fritz in return for his ten sacks of garlic. After much discussion, the peddler received the most valuable gift they could conceive of: Ten sacks of onions.


  1. Now we know what Jerry does with all those comic books in the attic. Burrows through them like a gopher, tosses them up and lets them hit him on the head!

    Seriously, Scrooge's answer is the response to those unimaginative types who think you have too many books/comics/CDs/records/beanie babies/etc.

    Word verification: "verse". One of those nonexistent words that the verification generator cleverly comes up with that appear somewhat but not quite like commonly used English words.

  2. Jon, you are absolutely right - and it is an awe inspiring sight to see all the comic books fluttering in the air.

  3. >Seriously, Scrooge's answer is the response to those
    >unimaginative types who think you have too many
    >books/comics/CDs/records/beanie babies/etc.

    Perhaps, but it sure doesn't apply to my wife and her china.