Friday, November 11, 2005

Humor in three parts

Dizzyhead Andy's comments about some novelty books he picked up at a library book sale brought to mind something called The Profit, a parody of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Googling "The Profit" didn't help—but then I remembered that it was published by Price Stern Sloan, the same folks who put out Mad Libs.

Behold—paydirt! (This is one of those moments where I love the Web.)

The whole thing is in the sententious tones of Gibran's quasi-mystical booklet. A typical entry consists of dialogue on lofty matters, gradually punctuated by odd details and capped off with a groaner. My favorite passage might be this one:

A priest asked,
What is Fate, Master?

And he answered:
It is that which gives a beast of burden its reason for existence.
It is that which men in former times had to bear upon their backs.
It is that which has caused nations to build by-ways from City to City upon which carts and coaches pass, and alongside which inns have come to be built to stave off Hunger, Thirst and Weariness.
It is that which has caused great fleets of ships to ply the Seven Seas wherever the wind blows.

And that is Fate? said the priest.

Fate... I thought you said Freight, responded the Master.

That's all right, said the priest. I wanted to know what Freight was too.


Years later, when I started reading all the DeLillo I could find, I noticed that a book named Amazons, by Cleo Birdwell, would show up on my searches at the library. I eventually learned that Birdwell was a pseudonym for DeLillo, and this "Intimate Memoir by the First Woman Ever to Play in the National Hockey League" was his most entertaining book. It's a hilariously racy, amazingly well-sustained comedy, an absurd sports-bio parody, and (along the way) a gloss on some of DD's more serious themes.

I bring up Amazons because a running joke is that nearly everyone in the NHL is reading the books of a (made-up) Gibran-like author named "Wadi Assad." His titles include The Mystic Prince I, The Barefoot Rose, and The Mystery of Being. The book's epigraph is from Assad: "Only childhood is ours. The rest belongs to strangers." The first line is also from Assad: "What must the child wonder about his elders when he sees they are so big—yet the size of betel nuts when compared to elephants?"

Conceptual SNL skit: Darryl Hall and . . . Joyce Carol Oates.

Today my colleague Jesus (Jesus Diaz—not Jesus Christ!) came into my office. My intern and I were there. He said, "Gentlemen, gentlemen...and Ed."

He's told this joke dozens of times, but I always fall for it.

Then I asked him to tell me a joke I must have heard five years ago—something about the Pope and...Kentucky Fried Chicken? I'd wanted to tell it recently, but had lost the thread.

Jesus knew the one I meant. He gave me some advice.

"First," Jesus said, "you have to warm 'em up with a related food joke. Here's one. 'Have you heard of the new Chinese German restaurants? Half an hour later, you're hungry . . . for power!'"

Now we are ready for the big joke. (The meta-joke is that it is told to me by Jesus.) Jesus advised me to drag it out, add embellishments.


So Frank Perdue, the Perdue chicken guy, goes to the Vatican to talk to the Pope about sponsorship opportunities. He says, "I really want to get some mention of chicken in the Lord's Prayer. I'm willing to pay the big bucks."

The Church needs money, but the Pope is a bit nervous. "I...I don't know. It's the Lord's Prayer. It's sacred. I don't think we can tamper with it."

"It's not really a big change I'm asking for," Perdue says. " about that line, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'"

"What about it?"

"How about instead you have them say, 'Give us this day our daily chicken'?"

"What? Out of the question!"

"Twenty million dollars?"

"I don't think so."


"Really, this isn't appropriate. I appreciate your interest in the Church, but no means no—and that's final."


"Forget it."


"Frank, please. Try to understand my position."

"How about you try to understand . . . fifty million dollars?"

"Fifty . . . million?"

"You heard me." Perdue smiles. "Do we have a deal?"

The Pope sighs, nods. The paperwork is brought out, signed, notarized. A week passes. There's a big Church convention in Brussels. The Pope is nervous during his trip. He keeps looking at the contract, shaking his head, saying, "Well, money's money." As he takes to the stage, the assembled faithful cheer. He waves for silence, at the same time that he dreads what he has to tell them.

"Thank you. As you know, we've experienced some financial difficulties this past year. I bring you some good news . . . and some bad news."

"Good news first!" shouts one of the rowdier cardinals.

"The good news is that we have a much needed fifty million in our coffers." The crowd applauds. "It's money we sorely need."

The noise dies down. An altar boy pipes up, "What's—what's the bad news?"

The Pope holds up his palms and shrugs. "We lost the Wonder Bread account."


Blogger Jenny D said...

I must say, that is a very nicely structured blog post!

7:19 PM  
Blogger HeyZeus! said...

Speaking of interns, did you see this?

Didn't Ms. Aviv review this back in the day for VLS?


1:57 AM  

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