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Q: What kind of game is Duke Pukem?
A: First Person Breakfast Shooter

You're welcome.
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Too many of us put these things off until it's too late. Thanks to Frank Lesser at the Huffington Post, we have a timely reminder that now is the time to make out a Living Dead will
ITEM 4 (A). In the event that I am bitten by a vampire, not in conjunction with Item 1, do not exhume and stake my corpse. Additionally, do not trick me into feeding on a beautiful girl until morning and then pull the drawn curtains so I burn to ashes, and do not question the strange wounds appearing on the necks of beautiful women who seem to have suddenly developed severe and inexplicable anemia. My health care proxy is instructed only to do the following:
1. Run a prepared obituary that doesn't mention my unnaturally extended life.
2. Start leaving her windows open at night.

ITEM 4 (B). If it's a gay vampire who bites me, that's cool, I'm willing to be open-minded in exchange for eternal life, but please mention in my obituary that while I was alive I slept with tons of chicks.
Some things are hard to do. For instance, it was hard to pull out just one quote, and not reprint the whole thing here. Okay, I guess some people will say that's two quotes, but it's just for scholarly interest, or parody, or something.
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One of my favorite TV comedy sketches of all time is finally up on YouTube: The Smothers Brothers' "Honey House". In fact, it seems to be my copy, which I've made available on a file-sharing site a few times. No idea who actually posted it.

This particular story takes us along on a tour, guided by "the actual Honey husband" of the house where Honey lived, Honey played, and Honey grew up. Dick is the husband. He plays it about 90% straight, and sings better than Bobby Goldsborough. The set is a character itself as it reveals each aspect of itself in perfect synchronization with the guide. You'll also see Bob "Super Dave" Einstein (brother of Albert Brooks and son of Parkyakarkus) as one of the tourists ("I bought the record.").

I've learned that Bobby Goldsborough appreciated this sketch, and that he is on record as denying that it was ever his idea to record the song. Good for him.
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I keep looking for this one book I saw at the motel we stayed at when we moved here: The Roger DeCoverley Papers, a collection of pieces from The Spectator about this squire fellow. I've even thought of going back and seeing if they'd sell it to me, because the used book stores here don't have it. (Oh, sure, I could buy it online, but do I? Do I??) So I finally gave in and downloaded one from Project Gutenburg and formatted it for my iPod "notes" function. I did this in what seemed to me a more clever and faster way than I have in the past.

First, I looked at it in Notebook (TextEdit, for you Macsters). There were line returns after each short, short line. Next, I took it into QuarkXPress, where I set up a document in half-sized pages with two columns and let it flow to see how many pages it wanted. The filesize was 168k, and since you get just under 4k per "notes" page, I wanted to get it into 45 to 50 pages. I did the usual find-and-replaces to accomplish the following:

• changing all hard returns to soft returns
• changing two soft returns in a row to two hard returns -- I decided I wanted a space between paras
• changing remaining soft returns to spaces, so those lines would flow together into paragraphs
• putting a space at the beginning of each paragraph just for format niceness

Then I started highlighting text and exporting it to .txt files in a folder. I named each one dc0##- followed by the number of the article (with an initial that revealed whether it was written by Addison, Steele, or Budgell). I had to break up articles across pages, so I used hyphens to indicate whether it was continuing. Work it out yourself; it seems silly to take the time to explain this part.

I closed everything on the desktop and kept the Quark file and the folder I was putting files into open, so I could alt-tab between the two places. If the file showed as 5k or more, I took out lines. If it showed as 4k or less, I put lines in -- arrowing up and down in the Quark file to highlight more or fewer lines (making sure to end between sentences). If the filename was highlighted in the folder, the exact size showed at the bottom, and after a while, I knew that a column line was about .03k, so I could more quickly get near the limit of my allotment. If I had to break up a paragraph (as so often happened with these wordy fellows), the first line in the next file had no space before. On the few occasions I had to break up a speech, I put a quote mark in square brackets at the start of the file.

When I was done, I made a table of contents that gave the title for each number. It took me a couple of hours, which is less than some of the jobs I've taken on have taken. I need to get back to the Gilbert & Sullivan plays, but they're a mess, with too many little paragraphs here, and too many speeches jammed together there.

So I read the first couple of pieces last night in bed. Not too hilarious so far, but at least (unlike other humor I've read from the late 18th and early 19th century) you don't need to know who was famous then, and why, and what kind of hat they wore and what sort of dog they had in order to make any sense of it.
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About 1975 I was visiting family in Brookings, SD, and my aunt dropped me off at a little museum on the campus. The docents didn't know, when I asked them, if the cylinder player worked, but didn't mind if I tried it, so I put on a Sousa march for a half a minute, then switched over to "Uncle Josh at the Bug House."

James Thurber describes how he and his brother played a record -- I think it was "Cohen at the Telephone" -- nearly to death, and the same seems to have gone for this work of humorous art. Without steady, gentle finger pressure on the needle, it would have stayed in any given spot and repeated the same revolution over and over.

The performance itself was a recitation of one basic joke, over and over. The narrator lodged at a sort of hotel run by a man named Bug. He saw the lightning, Bug did, hee hee. He took a tumble, Bug did, hee hee. The piece had its own canned laughter, you might say, as "Uncle Josh" made sure to laugh at each of his jokes, or more accurately, at each instance of his joke. It was so popular, he re-recorded it a few years later. Here's Uncle Josh, blessedly silent, reacting to events in a Haunted House:

For the curious, the record is available at, along with a raft of other "Uncle Josh" sides and many other recordings. "Uncle Josh" movies can be found at the Library of Congress's "American Memory" site. Elsewhere online, I've found a reprint of at least one "Uncle Josh" book, and the fictional "Punkin Center" where the tales take place has been enshrined in more than one locale with that name, including one in Colorado, not terribly far from Lamar and Karval. I see that Cal Stewart's creation is also avaialable on YouTube (aka: Your One-Stop Shop for All Things Josh). Which is to say, he was popular. Here he is at the moving picture show:

I'm too lazy to look up whether "joshing" comes from his name, or if his name comes from "joshing." Neither would surprise me much.

originally posted at the New Pals Club Web-Log; based on a Usenet post
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"A CALMING INFLUENCE. Nykia Crawford, who had a cyst removed in Newark, N.J., was nervous until she got a Game Boy, said her mother, Shani Willis. [story above]"

As I saw this random paragraph in the paper today, I could just about hear a late-night comic commenting on it. The tune was there, but not the words. And yet, there's so much potential! Newark! A cyst! Game Boy! Why, there must be three or four real chuckles in there. If only we could find them! What wonderful things would those jokes tell us? And why aren't we looking for them? Why are we still importing yoks from abroad, and relying on untried Canadian stand-ups for our most vital humor positions?

You can say it's hopeless, but I refuse to give up. We must work together, and restore America to its rightful place as the Funniest Nation On Earth. We can do it! I don't have all the answers, but I have some suggestions for people funnier than myself to work on.

We can't do ethnic humor any more, but what about humor based on previously unexploited physical differences? What's the last time you heard -- or made -- a good joke about double-jointed people, or the pigeon-toed? A good starting point is for them to make the jokes themselves, and then you can repeat them. If anybody gets mad, you get defensive and say that you heard it yourself from a repeat knuckle-cracker, so WHERE'S THE HARM?

Numbers are underappreciated sources of humor. I blame innumeracy, but I think if we start simple, with witty bon mots on funny digits (and don't forget the smutty ones!) and simple operations, and once the populace is 'hep' to us, we can pull out the real knee-slappers. Like, N! (N factorial) is the product of the series A times B times C times D... and so on up to N. I made that one up myself!

Literalism is good, too. Okay, I can't go on right now. I have to go to work, where I use much of my brain for the task of not being funny. But I'd like to leave you with something. Ah. Here's something. I went into this night club, because I heard they had a great piano player. I was somewhat disappointed, though, when he started. His hands were clumsy, and mostly stayed put on a single position and played a boring "oom-pah" accompaniment. That only went on a few seconds, though, and to my amazement, he put his face down on the keys and started playing a solo! His lips were incredibly strong. He could play smooth scales, and by holding his jaw at different angles, he was able to perform glissandos in thirds and fifths. The most amazing thing was how he did a trill. He held his hands away from the keys so we could see it was just done with his mouth. I was so impressed, I went up to him during a break and told him he had fantastic chops.

funny pages

Oct. 1st, 2004 06:46 pm
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Sarah is discovering humor. She's always had a sense of humor, but humor has always come in things like Daddy clowning around. Now she's finding comedy. When Cathy and I laugh at the Daily Show, Sarah laughs along. Her laughing skills are really developing.

She was laughing in the car this afternoon when I picked her up at daycare and headed for the playground. She had pulled a slim volume out of the pocket on the seat back and was perusing the pages and laughing. "I like this one!" she proclaimed. I couldn't see which page she was on, but I was already familiar with the contents: it was a set of topographical maps of Virginia.

Many years ago, a co-worker came over to our house to collect the woodpile, which I'd told him he could have. His baby son Joshua, a couple of months old, sat a few feet from where Rick was tossing the chunks of wood. Each time a log hit the pile, it went THUNK, and Joshua was laughing with abandon at the thunks. His first good laugh, apparently. I was glad to see it.

Sarah and the maps reminded me of that. I wonder if she'll be as obsessed with joke books as I was. Oy, karma.

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