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Thursday, June 6, 2002

June 6, 2002 - Jerry Dumas - How does this resonate with your funny bone?

How does this resonate with your funny bone?

Before very long I'll be participating in a luncheon gathering of fellow observers of the good life and whatever good times one can manage to scare up. It's the sort of happy and expectant soiree that more or less demands that each member contribute two or more stories that have never been heard before and that will result in general laughter and good feelings all around.

This assembly will take place at a small distance, and I know for certain that those present do not see this newspaper. Therefore, I feel safe in trying out a story or three here in this space.

Sometimes I think a story is new, and it isn't. Sometimes I think a story is old, and it's new to everyone to whom I tell it. Here are some I am considering, stories I guess most people will not have heard. If any reader has a strong negative opinion, an "Oh-God, Please-Don't-Tell-That-One" reaction, there will be time to let me know before I make a mistake.


The 18th century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn was walking down a busy street in Berlin one day when he accidentally collided with a stout Prussian officer.

"Swine," shouted the officer.

With a courteous bow, the philosopher replied, "Mendel-ssohn."


A chemist invented a new deodorant. It's called "Vanish." When you rub it on, you disappear. Then everybody wonders where the smell is coming from.


A rich young Greenwich woman had an earache. The doctor examined her and found a piece of string dangling from her ear. The doctor began pulling it out, and the more he pulled, the more the string came out. He struggled and kept pulling, and finally, to his amazement, out fell a bouquet of roses.

"Good heavens," said the doctor. "Where did this come from?"

"How should I know?" said the young woman. "Why don't you look at the card?"


"She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket." (Raymond Chandler, "Farewell, My Lovely")


In Brooklyn in 1932, an elderly woman was caught shoplifting. The butcher did not press charges.

He said, "Just pay for the chicken, and we'll forget what happened."

Tears of gratitude ran down her face, and she kissed the butcher and said, "I don't know why I did it, and I swear I'll never do it again. I'll be glad to pay for it, but not a your prices, you crook."


In Lucca, Italy, a cartoonist named Carlo Chendi said to me, "Do you remember Castelli and Silvestri, who come to your home in Connecticut last year? They return to Italy and they say to me, 'He is nice man. He just like us. He prefer to do today's work tomorrow.'"


A true story: Young couple in Manhattan. Like many other working couples, they routinely telephone out to have dinner delivered rather than cooking in their tiny kitchen. They didn't give this practice a second thought until they noticed that their 18-month-old was climbing into his high chair every time the doorbell rang.


Second true story: George S. Getnick is telephoning an insurance client at her home. The phone is answered by the woman's 5-year-old son, who reports that his mother is unavailable. Mr. Getnick asks the child if he would please write down the caller's name, and give it to his mother when she returns.

"OK," says the little boy.

"I will spell it for you," Mr. Getnick says. "The first letter is G, the second letter is ..."

"Wait," the young voice commands. A brief pause. Then: "How do you make a G?"

Jerry Dumas, who lives in Greenwich, writes and draws the comic strip Sam and Silo and contributes gags to Beetle Bailey. His articles have appeared in Smithsonian, The Atlantic Monthly and other periodicals.

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