Friday, November 7, 2008

Garrison Keillor’s favorite joke

It must be true. He tells it, or makes sly references to it, or works it into his routines frequently, most recently on last Saturday afternoon’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show. It even made its way into his A Prairie Home Companion movie a couple of years back, directed by one Robert Altman.

I think the real joke must be that the joke is not funny, or that you have to think about it for a long time. It’s the kind of joke Steven Wright and Paula Poundstone have been known to tell. Here it is, Garrison Keillor’s favorite joke:

Two penguins are standing on an ice floe and one looks at the other and says, “You look like you’re wearing a tuxedo.” And the other one says, “What makes you think I’m not?”

All in all, the humor of Garrison Keillor either is your cup of tea or it isn’t (we won’t complicate things by bringing up his musical tastes). Either you like him or you don’t.

As for me, sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. If you just can’t get enough of him or want to know more about him, you can go to his A Prairie Home Companion website as often as you like. Or buy his books.


  1. I like him all of the time. I think.

  2. I've never heard that one before. My brain's pretty slow and it'll take me a long time to think this one over.

    G.K. is biting.....his "homespun" humor can cut right through our ingrained notions. We are often uncomfortable with that.

    What is the gist of the joke? Is it to open our eyes to our perceptions about ourselves and others?

    So help me figure it out....the questioning penguin---who looks the same as the penguin he is addressing---has the nerve to suggest that the real penguin skin looks like something that it isn't. As if his own appearance isn't just the same.....

    It prompts some serious thinking, that's for sure. Now I'll have trouble getting to sleep.....

  3. Jeannelle, I have never figured out what it means. But I have figured out that it isn't funny. And that, I think, is why GK keeps telling it, as a sort of inside joke with his audience. He pokes fun at himself in the telling. It is a method of self-exaltation while appearing to be self-deprecating. It's his way of saying, "If you were as smart and as successful as I, you could have your own radio show and movie and book signing tours and tell jokes that aren't funny, too. But, as we both know, you're not."

    But that's just my opinion. If you ever figure out why the joke is funny, if in fact it is, be sure to let me know.

    Or this could all be sour grapes on my part, because I do like so many of the skits on GK's radio show. The writing is very good. It's just the music that keeps me perplexed. And this penguin joke.

  4. Of course, the first penguin would have to have seen a human being wearing a tuxedo somewhere on the Antarctic continent, or, if that seems unlikely, perhaps when the Academy Awards were on television.

    You see how this sort of thing can play havoc with one's brain. Anthropomorphism takes quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. Couldn't he just have said, "Two penguins walk into a bar, and...."

  5. The most logical response from the second penguin would have been, "So do you," but would that be funny? Or he could have done a Pee-wee Herman imitation and said, "I know you are, but what am I?" Would that have been funny?

    The correct answers are No and No.

  6. Or maybe it's an illustration of the old show-biz saying, "Dying is easy; comedy is hard."

    I really must stop now.

  7. I'm with Dr John on this. He's been surprisingly successful over here, too.

  8. I look in the mirror and say to myself "This dress makes me look fat." To which I mentally reply "What makes you think you're not?"

    I like Mr. Keillor.

  9. commenting on your own my pictures on my blogs..what a concept