God made the funny bone, but it atrophies with disuse. Those of us who closely follow the evening news are highly susceptible to morphing into a sourpuss.
An excellent remedy over the long haul is to give no more than 15 minutes a day to the headlines and redeem the rest of the day by reading good poetry aloud, fly-fishing alone in a huge state or federal park, changing diapers (of the very old or of the newborn), looking in a mirror while sticking out your tongue… Use your imagination. That’s why we have one.
But for a quick fix, a good joke will do the trick. I offer three golden oldies from the 1960s.
1) The students at a fine girls boarding school complained that they were completely isolated from the social life most enjoyed in public schools.
“Mother Superior, you could solve this problem easily by letting us have a dance. You and the other sisters can chaperone, and we have already demonstrated that we are proper young women. We would have no untoward behavior, and you could set clear times for the dance to begin and end.”
“Margaret, that’s not a bad idea the way you put it, but where would I find males for the dance? The nearest male boarding school is sixty miles away, and I doubt the local high school would be interested in coming to a private school.”
“O, that one is easy. We’re only 20 minutes away from the army base, and I am sure they would welcome an opportunity to break out of their male isolation.”
Margaret persuaded her. Soon everyone was hard at work gussying up the refectory to serve as a dance floor. Flowers were ordered. Crape paper abounded. Everyone was ironing or mending or….
Mother Superior had an excellent reception when she called the sergeant on duty and proposed that he send 75 soldiers since there were 70 female students. “That will inspire movement so that no one gets too close to just one person,” she explained.
“I am fine with that,” the sergeant replied.
“O, one more thing. And I hope you won’t take offense,” she said.
“Don’t worry; I won’t. What is it?” he replied.
“Well this is a Catholic school and well, I don’t know how to put this delicately, but I think it would be best not to send any soldiers who are Protestants.”
“No problem at all the sergeant replied.
At exactly the appointed hour of 6:30 p.m. the troop truck arrived with 75 very excited young black soldiers.
“O, there has been some mistake,” Mother Superior said, shaking in dismay.”
“Ma’am,” the private in charge responded respectfully. “Sergeant Goldberg never makes a mistake.”
2) A policemen trying to protect a group of war-protesters was alarmed to see a young nun carrying a poster proclaiming “Fuck war!”
A Catholic himself, the policeman delicately said, “Sister, that sign will likely incite a violent reaction from the crowd that you are trying to influence. And I am under orders not to tolerate any profanity. Here’s some tape. Please use it to cover the obscenity.
“No problem, officer,” she replied. She covered the word war.
3) Caveat: Yankees and Republicans rarely get this last one. Bless their hearts.
A stranger startled a rich man who sipped juleps on his front lawn: “Could you spare something to eat? I am very hungry.”
Delighted to remember to say the clever thing at the right time, the rich man replied, “Of course, if you are willing to work for it”
“Yes, but what do you want me to do,” replied the importuner, almost too weary to move.
“Well, I’ll feed ya if you take this can and paint my back porch green.”
“Okay,” the man muttered as he disappeared out back.
Half an hour later he startled his host again: “Now may I have something to eat? I’ve finished.”
“Surely,” the host replied, and offered him two cucumber sandwiches.
As the guest gobbled them, he said, “But that is a Ferrari, not a Porche.”