Thursday, March 19, 2009
Column: So these two Romans walk into a bar …
The problem with historians and archeologists is they’re always turning up things nobody really needs, like clay pots and pieces of old wallpaper, rather than items that could actually be useful, like all-powerful Arks of the Covenant. I’m speaking generally here.
That’s why I was excited to read about the latest historical discovery out of Cambridge University: the world’s oldest joke book, featuring gags from the Roman Empire. Professor Mary Beard told the Guardian of London that the book would dispel the myth that Romans were “pompous, toga-wearing bridge builders,” although I never really thought of them that way … Seems to me a culture has to have a sense of humor if it can manage to go 500 years without pants.
Here’s one of the jokes, which is apparently typical of the lot: “A man buys a slave, who dies soon after. When he complains, the slave seller replies, ‘Well, he didn’t die when I owned him.’” Ha ha! It’s funny, because it’s true!
Still, the concept of the world’s oldest joke book piques my interest for several reasons, not the least of which is that my late grandfather was a stand-up comedian back in the days when comedians really told jokes — mostly other people’s jokes. In fact, he bequeathed to me his copy of “The Complete Comedian’s Encyclopedia” by Robert Orben, which I think may have been the world’s second oldest joke book.
[Read the rest of this week's AT LARGE by Peter Chianca here.]
[Need some joke suggestions? These will make you the life of the party.]