Before the Internet’s incursion, some people faxed cartoons and occasionally strings of jokes. These got harder to read the more they were shared. This major failing of the office fax machine ultimately led to its demise.
Nowadays jokes are shared by Liking them on Facebook. Gone is the skill of the telling. Cut-and-paste slacktivism claims another victim.
The Jokes of Old have also been sanitised. No more Irish or Maori jokes or jibes at similar minorities. Whether we’re the poorer for this could be a topic for discussion in its own right.
Some people were defined by joke telling. When I first moved to Wellington some years ago, I met a MAF staffer who had, in a past life, been a practice veterinarian in Eltham. “Are you Bob Sangster’s son, by any chance?” he enquired. “Yes,” I replied. “Ahh. Bob Sangster. What’s yellow and goes click click?” he mused.
I understood exactly what he meant. Dad loves a good joke. Indeed the Elephant Joke was made for Dad. Some of you of a certain age will remember well the Elephant Joke. While not always about elephants, the genre was easily applied to other objects. Purists may argue that there’s nothing weaker than an Elephant Joke. That may be true, but I defy anybody listening to still have a straight face after the third one, not have laughed by the fifth one and not be adding their own to the conversation by the tenth.
Short, largely clean, absurd and harmless, the Elephant Joke entertained and delighted hundreds of thousands of people in the English-speaking world at least. I presume that there are equivalents in other tongues. It would be hard to believe that there weren’t.
“Why did the elephant paint its toenails red?” So it could hide up an apple tree.
“How can you tell when an elephant’s been in your fridge?” By the footprints in the butter.
Some were sequential:
“How many elephants can you get into a Mini?” Four. Two in the front and two in the back.
“How many giraffes can you get into a Mini?” None. It’s full of elephants.
“What did Charles de Gaulle say when he saw the elephants coming?” Voila les elephants.
“What did the elephants say when they saw General de Gaulle?” Nothing. They didn’t speak French.
Even risqué subject matter was allowed:
“Why did the mouse marry the elephant?” Because it had to.
“What’s brown and sounds like a bell?” Dung.
“What’s grey and comes in pints?”
Some had nothing to do with elephants:
“Who was purple and conquered the world?” Alexander the Grape.
“What’s purple and sings?” Kiri Te Kumara.
“What’s red and bounces?” A rubber tomato.
I used to know thousands of jokes – not just those of an elephantine nature – and I often shared them, when the occasion allowed. It has been years since I’ve shared a joke. I blame the Internet.
A ball-point banana is yellow and goes click click. Obviously.
Now could be a good time for readers to recount their favourite Elephant Joke. Splendifferous prizes may be offered!