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

Friday, September 17, 2010

O is for Old Age

“It seems to me that getting old is like falling down a very deep well in the dark. It’s an exhilarating, if slightly terrifying trip. You might even be able to enjoy yourself, if it weren’t for the screams of the people hitting the bottom in front of you.”

“We mock the things we are to be.” Mel Brooks said that in his persona as the 2000 Year Old Man. (Who must have actually been much older if he remembered living in caves before there was spoken language.)

Old age is a continuing source of humor—primarily of the whistling in the dark variety. “Look at those funny people all bent over and spitting!” And the next thing you know, we’re bent over and spitting.

Old age triggers fear—fear of death, fear of losing our facilities….fear of losing ourselves. And THAT is why we’re constantly telling jokes about it.
Mr. Smith is talking to Mr. Jenkins at his palatial apartment in Miami.

“It’s too bad you couldn’t join us for dinner last night,” Smith says. “We went to this incredible new restaurant. Excellent food, great wine, and very reasonable prices.”

“Oh?” says Mr. Jenkins, “What was the name of the restaurant?”

“It was called…called….Oh, hell! What’s the name of that red flower with thorns?”

“You mean ‘rose’?”

“That’s it!” Smith called into the next room: “Rose! What’s the name of the restaurant we went to last night?”

Frankly, as I continue to lose hair, teeth and brain cells, I think longingly of those societies we’re always told about. You know, where old people are admired and looked up to for their “wisdom.”

I keep wondering if people in those societies dye their hair grey, deliberately walk as bent over as possible, and wear glasses that don’t actually correct their vision. They probably have makeup that leaves their skin blotchy, too.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones were celebrating their 50th anniversary, and they gathered at their home to celebrate with their three children and various grandchildren. The party continued for some time until finally the time came to present the senior Joneses with their gifts.

The oldest son stood up first. “Mom, Dad,” he said. “You know that I’ve suffered a number of business reverses in the last year or so. I just wasn’t able to buy you a gift.”

The younger son stood up next: “Mother, Father,” he said. “All three of our kids are in college at that same time now. We just couldn’t afford to buy you a gift this year.”

The daughter stood up next” “Ma, Pa,” she said. “After 50 years, I knew that there was nothing that you really need or want. So I didn’t bring a gift, only my love.”

Mr. and Mrs. Jones looked at each other. Then Mr. Jones stood up, cleared his throat, and said the following:

“Your mother and I want to thank you for all your kind wishes. And there’s something we thought we’d share with you after all these years. Your mother and I…well, we never actually got married.”

There was startled murmuring from the gathering.

“Yes, it’s true,” insisted Mr. Jones. “Which only goes to prove: not only are you a bunch of bastards, you’re a bunch of CHEAP bastards!”

Not only do I really like that joke, but I always remember the time my father in law told it. My F-I-L is a very nice man with a good sense of humor, and is a decorated war hero who could kill me with his little finger. (Well, maybe not anymore: he’s got arthritis).

But he should NOT tell jokes.

Some time ago, he told the above story at a family gathering (it may even have been to celebrate his anniversary). He told the joke pretty much as written above, except he forgot to include the bit about Mr. and Mrs. Jones never having gotten married.

The result was, he came to the punch line, and proclaimed:

“And Mr. Jones says: ‘You’re all a bunch of cheap bastards!’”

Then he sat back, with a huge grin on his face, surveying the confused faces of his family and waiting for his laugh.

Ahhhh, the Awkward Silence.


  1. "P is for Pirate" next?

    Word verification: "conamie"- a social construct lacking something. Like jobs.

  2. That's right, with all the Yom Kippur stuff etc., I forgot: it's ITLAPD! (And Hermione Granger's birthday.)

    Predictably, the ads below are for "Turning 50 Quotes," "Unique 80th Bday Ideas," "40 Year Old Birthday Cards" (How did that youngster sneak in?), and "Senior People Meet."

    Word verification: "edest" (1) n. New online travel service. (2) The ultimate in Paradise, or to paraphrase Mr. Hirschman, "We have three kinds: Eden, Eder, ...."

    Second word verification because it didn't take the first: "fachan" (1) What the recent NY "week" will soon be called, if current trends (or, uh, fachans) in (il)literacy continue. (2) Making angry, from Fr. "fache'."

  3. Jean Lafitte is supposed to have been Jewish. I guess he did piracy on an empty stomach on Yom Kippur.

    Word verification: "swelly" - another of those ludicrous nonexistent words.

  4. "Supposed" by whom? Wikipedia (yes, I know, Jerry, but it's *soooooo* convenient) spends six paragraphs on Lafitte's "origins" and early life, citing various sources, with no mention of any such "supposition." Plus I doubt his parents would have named him "Jean Baptiste" if he were. He does, however, have two possible Jewish connections. First, he may have been born in Pauillac, in the Bordeaux region, which might mean his family was related to those of the Lafite vineyards that the Rothschilds later bought. (Or not: YKW also says that the name "Chateau Lafite" comes from "the Gascon term 'la hite' meaning 'small hill,' i.e. not a family name at all.) And late in life he had a headquarters on Galveston Island, where a century or so later some of my wife's ancestors first made landfall in the New World.

    Hmmm, is it because we've been mentioning Yom Kippur that the ads now include one for "Christmas Photo Cards"?

    Word verification "heripso": "Punk" derivative of the Jamaican music made popular (in the U.S.) by Harry Belafonte.

  5. So on ITLAJPD, would one say "ARRRRCCCCCCCCCCH"?

  6. Oops, I "misspoke," as politicians say, it seems "Lafite" *was* a family name, whatever it "means."


    "Situated in the great wine-producing village of Pauillac in the Médoc region to the north-west of Bordeaux, the estate was the property of Gombaud de Lafite in 1234.[1] In the 17th century, the property of Château Lafite was purchased by the Ségur family, including the 16th century manor house that still stands. Although vines almost certainly already existed on the site, around 1680, Jacques de Ségur planted the majority of the vineyard."

    (Then the Revolution confiscated it, and sold it to the Vanlerberghe family, from whom Rothschild bought it in 1868. So at the time of the Pirates of Pauillac, the possible former family property was in Dutch hands.)

  7. There's a claim that Lafitte was from a Converso family. It's on the Internet, so it must have been true.

    Besides, who would you rather have as a Jewish pirate for little kids to dress up as? Lafitte or Bernie Madoff?

  8. I dunno, Madoff never killed anyone that I know of. (Except indirectly, if there's someone whose life could have been saved by a charity he stole from.) But I'll admit that Lafitte wore flashier clothes. Perhaps not compared to *Ruth* Madoff, though.

    Do you suppose that 200 years from now, there will be an even worse Jewish pirate recently in the news, and the equivalent question will be, "Would you rather your kid dressed up as Madoff, or Sammy Schwartz?"

    (Of course there's a host of 20th-century Jewish "pirates" to choose from too: Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Lepke Buchhalter, .... Not to mention Mike Milken.)

  9. In any case, it's also debunked on the Internet:

    Alfassa, Shelomo. "Why Jewish Pirates Sunk: a review of: Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean." by Kritzler, Edward. (New York: Doubleday, 2008) Alfassa.com/pirates.html New York, May 2009.

    "Kritzler tells of the Jewish heritage of the famous 'pirate' Jean Lafitte of New Orleans, who allegedly told how his Sephardic grandmother spoke to him about the family's tragic experience with the Inquisition. The author mentions that Lafitte wrote about this in his journal. Yet, the (in)famous 'Journal of Jean Lafitte' is widely alleged to be a forgery, and many historians have declared it as an outright counterfeit document."

  10. I heard some old age jokes (new to me) at my rehearsal tonight. Told, of course, by the youngest member (by about a decade) of the group.

    Joe and Bill, both in their 90s, are having lunch together. Joe says, "It really sucks getting older. I can't remember anything anymore. Here we are, we've been best friends for over 50 years, and I'm so embarrassed to have to ask this, but ... what's your name?"

    Bill answers "Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Umm, how soon do you need to know?"


    A man goes to the doctor and says "Doctor, I need some help with my wife. Her hearing is totally shot, and she refuses to believe it, let alone do anything about it. What can I do to convince her to get it checked out?"

    Doctor says "This always works. Start off standing, say, ten feet from her, and ask a question. When she doesn't answer, try standing five feet from her. Keep reducing the distance, and when you're close enough, she'll hear you and realize that she should have heard you before."

    So the guy goes home, stands ten feet from his wife, and says in a normal voice, "Honey, what's for dinner?" No response. He goes to five feet and tries again, no response. Tries a couple more times, then finally gets *behind* her, and yells in her ear, "HONEY, WHAT'S FOR DINNER?" She turns around and yells back at him, "FOR THE FIFTH TIME, CHICKEN!!!"


    The next one is not actually an old age joke (in fact there's a pretty absolute upper limit to the age), but still:

    A woman walks into the doctor's office, and there's a tampon in her ear. The doctor says, "Excuse me, I don't know if you know this, but there's a tampon in your ear." Woman says "Oh, thank goodness! *Now* I know what I did with my hearing aid."

  11. One of my favorite old age related jokes comes from my 88-year-old father-in-law, who lives in a "retirement community" in California. He refers to the endless litanies of bodily complaints that some of his fellow retirees indulge in as "organ recitals".