Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Telling a Joke Without Telling a Joke

I've always thought that the best jokes were those that had the fewest words for punchlines. Really good jokes can get away with a single word, or even part of a word. Many a fine joke simply ends with "-er". And then there are jokes that you can tell without saying anything at all.

Tonight we ate at my friend Mace's for dinner. Mace is renting space in an apt from other friend's of ours, the Price's. The Price's children come back from the army or wherever every few days or so for a night.

Mace's rambunctious 13 year old boy Shachar is fascinated by a snake that one of the Price's boys keeps, although he figured not to touch the snake unless its owner was actually around.

"Do you think I should try to touch the snake?" he asked me.

"Well, you know what happened to One-armed Louis when he tried to touch a snake, don't you?" I replied.

Shachar smiled, thought for a moment, and then said, "I don't get it."

I smiled in return.

"What did you say?" he asked.

"I said, you know what happened to One-armed Louis when he tried to touch a snake, don't you?"

Shachar then started laughing. "I still don't get it!" he laughed. Over the next few minutes, every time he looked at me, he laughed. He told his sister, then his father what I said, asking them to explain, but every time he looked at me, he just kept laughing, throwing out guesses ("He died?") and saying that he doesn't get it. This went on for about ten minutes.

Eventually, I told him, "You're supposed to ask me 'What happened to One-Armed Louis when he tried to touch the snake?'"

He tried to ask, but he couldn't make it through the sentence. He burst out laughing every time he looked at me or tried to get a word out. He came pretty close to making it through the sentence once, but I stopped him in the middle and told him he has to start over from the beginning, "'Do you think I should touch the snake?'"

This went on for around half an hour. He kept trying to collect himself enough to ask the question. I had someone in stitches, and the joke had never even made it to the punchline.

Near the end of dinner, Shachar's older brother came home. Shachar dragged him into the room with me and said, completely composed, finally: "Do you think I should touch the snake?"

"You know what happened to One-armed Louis when he tried to touch a snake, don't you?" I replied.

And completely composed, he asked, "What happened to One-Armed Louis when he tried to touch the snake?"

And I said, "He didn't like it."

Shachar's older brother didn't get it. Neither did Shachar. My son Saarya was now laughing.

"Why didn't he like it?" Shachar finally asked.

To which I answered, of course, "Well, he remembered what happened to Snake-Bite Jim who had also tried to touch the snake."

Whereupon the conversation ended.

I Just Noticed a Few Weeks Ago

Adjectives have order. Not everyone agrees on the exact ordering, however.

Game Design

I'm fleshing out a game design for BGG.con . This one has to be easy to evaluate, since I'm not going to be there, and no one else wanted to spend several hours tallying the results, like I did last time.
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