Ah, Monday: the day when I fill your cup with jokes you can use at work through the week. Telling really old jokes is a way to impress your co-workers. Use one of these, and the first thought that will strike your listener is “Wow! I’m listening to a real historian!”
Take the first few jokes below, for example. These come from what I am told is the oldest known American comedy routine, starting somewhere in the depths of the early nineteenth century. It involved a farmer sitting on a fence, playing a bit of “Arkansas Traveler” on his fiddle when a lost city fellow came walking by.
J1.”Hey, Rube! Is this the way to town?”
“How’d you know my name was Rube, stranger?”
“I guessed it.”
“Well, ( ).”
J2.”Does this road go to town?”
“This road, stranger? ( )”
J3.”What I mean is, can I take this road to town?”
“Well, stranger, ( ).”
J4.”Tell me, Rube, have you lived here all your life?”
J5.”So you don’t know if this is the road to town, you don’t know how far it is to town, and I’d bet, in fact, you don’t even know what a town is. You don’t know much at all.”
“Well, ( ).”
J6.The farm community doesn’t usually get the better of these gags, since in the days of variety shows on stage, most audiences were either city folk, or at least liked people to think they were. This led to the “My home town is so small that” jokes. For example, Needleburg is so small that on the back of the sign that says “You Are Now Entering Needleburg” ( ).
J7.Needleburg is full of quiet folk. They had a curfew bell ring at 9 o’clock each night, but they dropped that. ( )
J8.”My dad’s trying to decide whether to spend the profit from the harvest on a new bicycle or another cow.”
“He’ll look pretty silly riding a cow.”
“Yeah! He’ll ( ).”
J9,It would be wrong, of course, to ignore that travelling salesman who turns up in so many joke books. There was one who was stuck in the country and had to spend the night at a farm where there was no teenaged daughter. He didn’t get much sleep, though, because it rained, and the roof leaked so much in the spare bedroom that he couldn’t find a dry spot anywhere. “Why don’t you fix that roof?” he demanded, next morning.
“Kind of dangerous to be up patching the roof in a thunderstorm,” said the farmer.
“I can see that. But you can do your patching when the sun shines.”
“Well, ( ).”
J10.”How far is it to the next town?”
“About a mile, as the crow flies.”
J11.That travelling salesman finally got to town, and found his way to the railroad station. “I need to be in Chicago by one this afternoon,” he told the station manager. “Is the noon train on time?”
“Yes, sir,” said the old man. “Always on time.”
It got to be 11:45, and the salesman fretted about seeing no signs of any action. “You’re sure the noon train is on time?” he asked,.
“I set my watch by the train, Mister,” said the manager.
Noon came and went, and then 12:30. “I thought you said the noon train was always on time!” roared the salesman.
The manager looked him over. “Mister,” he said, “( ).”
J12.The salesman finally got on the train, and enjoyed finally getting a ride. He glanced out the window and said to no one in particular, “I wonder how many cows are in that field.”
A stranger across from him glanced out the window. “I’d say two hundred and ninety-six.”
Another man leaned over the seat behind them. “Say, mister, it just so happens I own that farm, and I know there are exactly two hundred ninety-six cattle in that field. How’d you come up with the right number so quick?”
The stranger shrugged. “There is a trick to it. ( ).”
Like the gentleman fiddling on the fence, I assume you already know all the ANSWERS.
A1.Guess the way to town
A2.It don’t go nowhere; just sets there.
A3.If you can pick it up, you can take it anywhere you like
A5.I ain’t lost.
A6.It says “You Are Now Leaving Needleburg”
A7.It was waking people up.
A8.look sillier trying to milk a bicycle
A9.it ain’t leaking then.
A10.How far is it if the crow has to walk and carry an empty gasoline can?
A11/I ain’t paid to sit here and knock the railroad.
A12.I count the legs and divide by four.