Saturday, November 8, 2008

The beat goes on

Yesterday I posted on the subject of Garrison Keillor’s favorite joke. I had a few more thoughts on the subject in response to a question from a commenter, so, even though it may be beating a dead horse, I thought I would post that exchange here today for the benefit of anybody out there who reads my posts but skips the comments.

On November 7, 2008, at 11:49 PM, Jeannelle said:
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....

On November 8, 2008, at 7:06 AM, rhymeswithplague said:
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.

On November 8, 2008, at 7:56 AM, rhymeswithplague said:
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....”?

On November 8, 2008, at 8:01 AM, rhymeswithplague said:
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.

On November 8, 2008, at 8:03 AM, rhymeswithplague said:
Or maybe it’s an illustration of the old show-biz saying, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.”

I really must stop now.

And I did. One way or another we will strip every piece of meat off this bone.


  1. Some humor can't be logically dissected. I've always like the slightly absurd, and that's how this struck me.

  2. i am slightly absurd, no all together absurd...a putz

  3. Hey, rhymsie......this joke's style is in the air right now.....

    This evening I attended my niece's high school swing show, during which between acts the master and mistress of ceremony (or ceremonies) would tell jokes. Here's one they told:

    There were two muffins in the oven. The temperature kept getting hotter and hotter. One muffin turned to the other and said, "Don't you think its getting awfully hot in here!" The other muffin replied incredulously, "Oh my gosh.....a talking muffin!"

    In my view, this muffin joke is Ruth says, its on the absurd side. But, isn't it a bit similar to the penguin joke? But, somehow funnier, in my opinion. Plus, the audience laughed at it, so it MUST be a funny joke, right! Heehee.

  4. Ah, philosophy! Humour tells us an awful lot about humanity, doesn't it? And in particular about the people who tell the joke - and by their reactions, about the people who listen.

    The penguin joke is nicely subtle, or not at all funny, or a social commentary, depending on how you read it.

    I think it's funny (ish) because we make assumptions about people all the time, based on appearances, and sometimes we're right and sometimes we're not. And sometimes we say something meant to be a lightweight throw-away comment just to make conversation and get surprised by the response. Just like this.

    The purpose of this type of joke is to make us first smile, and then think. That's my opinion.

    And yes - you're milking it, aren't you? LOL!

  5. The "joke" is maybe a takeoff from the old saying, "the pot calling the kettle black".....pointing out the absurdity of such a thing.

  6. Reminds me of the old story of two fish meeting each other in the middle of the desert. They look at each other, and one fish says, "Long time, no see!"