Yesh Me’ayin (Creatio Ex Nihilo)
Yesh Me’ayin (Creatio Ex Nihilo)
Did German citizens tell jokes about Hitler during the Third Reich? Actual jokes like this:
Hitler and Göring are standing on top of the Berlin radio tower. Hitler says he wants to do something to put a smile on the Berliners’ faces. Göring says, “Why don’t you jump?”
Were these people punished? Did the jokes have any effect?
These are some of the questions addressed in Dead Funny: Telling Jokes in Hitler’s Germany by Rudolph Herzog. Herzog explains:
Contrary to a common myth, targeting Hitler using quips and jokes didn’t undermine the regime. Political jokes were not a form of resistance. They were a release valve for pent-up popular anger. People told jokes in their neighborhood bars or on the street because they coveted a moment of liberation in which they could let off a bit of steam. That was ultimately in the interests of the Nazi leadership. Consequently, the Führer and his henchmen rarely cracked down on joke-tellers and if they did, the punishments were mild – mostly resulting in a small fine. In the last phase of the war when the regime felt threatened by “dissenters,” though, this changed. A handful of death sentences were handed down to joke-tellers, though the true reason for this was rarely their actual “crime.” The jokes were taken as a pretext to remove blacklisted individuals – people the Nazis feared or detested because of who they were rather than because of what they had done. Among others, these included Jews, left-wing artists, and Catholic priests. As I show in my book, a staunch party member could walk free after telling a joke, whereas a known “dissenter” was executed for exactly the same quip.
We can’t deny the significance of laughing and humor during the hardest times, personal and social. Jokes, like other subversive art, have a way of digging deep and even encouraging change. There is the example of the king’s fool, who was allowed to say things that others feared to say. But make no mistake, when the king was unhappy, not even the fool was protected from retribution and punishment.
A great classic joke, told by Woody Allen in Annie Hall:
“It reminds me of that old joke—you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, hey doc, my brother’s crazy! He thinks he’s a chicken. Then the doc says, why don’t you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs.”
There’s an old comedy bit that appears on a bestselling comedy album from 1965, You Don’t Have To Be Jewish. My Son, The Captain is about a rich guy who’s proudly showing of his new yacht and his captain’s outfit to his parents. His father puts him in his place.
Son: Well, Mama, Papa, how do you like my new yacht? Cost me $84,000, with the twin diesel engines, top speed 35 knots. And here we are on the open sea, with the sea and the sun and the wind in our hair. It’s a little different than the Bronx, huh, Mama, Papa?
Mama: That’s right.
Son: And look at this uniform I’m wearing. Custom made, from Abercrombie and Fitch. How about it, Papa. Your son is a regular captain, huh?
Papa: Listen, sonny. I don’t have to tell you, by Mama you’re a captain, by me you’re a captain, and by you you’re a captain. But by a captain you’re no captain.
The half-life of a blog post is about a day. Within a week, nobody is reading. Within a year, it might as well never have been published.
Which is what makes my post Joke Break: Duck Walks into a Drugstore so amazing to me. Not a day passes when somebody doesn’t read that post—which was published three years ago.
It is a great joke, and I am so happy that so many people are getting a much-needed laugh, especially these days. But it makes me feel like maybe I can dip into my well of classic jokes and find just one more that would have legs (web feet?) like that. (If you’re wondering what a Jokes folder looks like, see the photo above.)
Guy finds a snail on his front porch. He picks it up and throws it across the street. One year later, he hears a knock at his door. The man goes to the door, opens the door, looks down, and there he sees the same snail on his front porch. The snail looks up at the guy and says, “What the hell was that all about?”
Donald Trump said Wednesday that derogatory statements he has made toward women were all for the sake of “entertainment” and did not reflect his true feelings. “A lot of that was done for the purpose of entertainment; there’s nobody that has more respect for women than I do,” the real estate mogul told Las Vegas’ KSNV-TV.
Or, as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would say: “I keed. I keed.”
The first thought—the only rational thought—is that Trump considers himself a sort of insult comic. In his day, Don Rickles entertained millions by unmercifully insulting celebrities. In real life, it is reported that Rickles was actually a sweet guy.
Today, if you think of insult comics, the one that comes to mind is Triumph. Triumph is outrageously entertaining, because he is funny, he speaks with a Russian accent, he knows no limits, he is a dog, he is a puppet, and he smokes a cigar. And because his catchphrase is the perfect exclamation for any insult: “I poop on you.”
And now here’s the really weird thing about thinking of Trump as Triumph: they share the same letters in their name. Seriously. T-R-U-M-P is found in both Trump and Triumph.
Is it possible that somebody is trying to tell us something? I would like to think that this is absurd, but given the way things are going with the campaign, is anything really absurd?
These birds are confused
The cold winds are.
What’s time to a bird
The line “What’s time to a bird” is borrowed from a favorite joke with a surprisingly philosophical punch line. It goes something like this:
A guy is driving along a country road. He sees a farmer under an oak tree, holding up a pig so the pig can eat acorns. The guy stops. “You know,” the guy says, “it would be a lot easier and take a lot less time if you just shook the tree and let the acorns fall to the ground.” “Maybe,” says the farmer, “but what’s time to a pig?”
More about birds:
In the sky a bird was heard to cry.
Misty morning whisperings and gentle stirring sounds
Belied a deathly silence that lay all around.
Hear the lark and harken to the barking of the dog fox gone to ground.
See the splashing of the kingfisher flashing to the water.
Grantchester Meadow, Pink Floyd
“Well, then, just what does it mean that everybody has the Buddha Mind?…in the course of listening to my talk, if a dog barks outside the temple, you recognize it as the voice of a dog; if a crow caws, you know it’s a crow…you didn’t come with any preconceived idea that if, while I was talking, there were sounds of dogs and birds, children or grown-ups somewhere outside, you were deliberately going to try to hear them. Yet here in the meeting you recognize the noises of dogs and crows outside and the sounds of people talking… the fact that you recognize these things you didn’t expect to see or hear shows you’re seeing and hearing with the Unborn Buddha Mind.”
From Bankei Zen: Translations from the Record of Bankei
Following is the best cartoon I have ever seen. Excuse the low quality, because it is a scan of an old and precious magazine clipping.
You could write a doctoral dissertation on how these four panels work their magic and represent the art and mechanics of humor. Or you could just laugh.
I posted one of my favorite jokes more than two years ago. Because I thought we all needed a laugh. In case you weren’t around, here it is again. Because we definitely need a laugh.
Duck walks into a drugstore, asks for some Chap Stick. Guy behind the counter says, “That’ll be fifty-nine cents.” Duck says, “Put it on my bill.”
Next day, the duck walks into the drugstore, asks for a package of condoms. Guy behind the counter says, “Would you like me to put that on your bill?” Duck says, “Hey, what kind of a duck do you think I am?”
Vladimir Putin may want to capture a little island sitting in Alaskan waters. This has nothing to do with geopolitics and everything to do with his love of a Greek hero.
The Diomede Islands are in the middle of the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska: Big Diomede is a Russian island, Little Diomede is a U.S. island.
It is thought by some that Putin became fascinated with ancient history and Greek mythology while studying law at Leningrad State University (LSU). As a student he had to join the Communist Party. He believed that his interest in these matters might be misunderstood and frowned upon by the Party, so he kept it secret—and it remains little-known to this day.
While reading ancient texts, Putin discovered the legendary warrior and king Diomedes. Among his achievements, as a relatively young man Diomedes won a reputation as one of the great military leaders in the Trojan War. A figure in both Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid, Diomedes is celebrated for his boldness, courage, and intelligence.
Diomedes was also known for his take-no-prisoners attitude. It is reported that once when he was slaughtering Trojans, an old man pleaded for mercy. Diomedes replied, “Old man, I look to attain to honored age; but while my strength yet exists, not a single foe will escape me with life. The brave man makes an end of every foe.” Diomedes killed the old man.
All this may have had a profound effect on Putin. He vowed that one day he would take back Little Diomede Island, the namesake of his hero. Now that Putin’s expansionist program is in motion, could this be the time for him to strike?
There is an apocryphal story about Putin’s response to Sarah Palin’s remark during the 2008 campaign about Russia: “They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.” She was of course referring to Little Diomede. “She will see more than Russia,” he may have said, “she will see Diomedes himself. She will see me.”
April 1, 2014