Category Archives: Humor

Reflections on Our Natural Enemies: Birds

Thoughts on Birds as Our Natural Enemies

Birds attackingClip Art: Birds in the Attack

This essay will not be popular with animal lovers in general, and PETA members in particular, but I have never been all that fond of birds. I will tell you why:

It all began back in my home town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, a paper mill town, in the 1940’s. We lived near one of the mills, and the place was lousy with pigeons. I still don’t know why. Maybe they ate some of the excess paper coating, or something, but anyway they were there: hundreds of them. Our neighbor, Francis, raised homing pigeons, and the food and the water attracted the mill pigeons like a giant bird magnet. They were all over our yards. They were loud and dirty. Francis and my father called them “flying rats,” and thought up a variety of methods to keep them away. None of which really worked that well, and I would wake up each morning to see the “things”, perched on the roof outside my window, staring in at me. It was unnerving.

My second encounter with evil birds came at the swan pond in CoggshallPark, near our home, when I was about 6. There was a bevy of swans that glided majestically across the pond and then rested in a shady nook near where I sailed my boat. I decided to scare them away. I put on my early war face, screamed fierce screams, and ran towards them, waving my arms like a mad boy. I immediately noticed three things:

1. The swans were not running away.

2. The swans weren’t intimidated at all.

3. The swans were counter attacking.

Those beautiful and graceful birds were as tall and as heavy as I was, with huge wing spans, and a loud scream. When I realized what was happening, I came to a comic book, screeching halt, turned tail, and ran. The birds pursued me, yelling fierce battle cries of their own, flapping their large wings, and nipping at my heels. I only escaped because I ran through the brush where they could not easily follow.

When I got home, I told my live-in, Irish, philosopher, seanachi, grandmother, Nana Ware, what had happened. “Ah boy,” she said, hugging me, “don’t start fights that ye can’t finish.” She then told me about the roc, a giant bird of Persian mythology whom, it was said, could carry away an elephant. That helped.

My third confrontation was with pink flamingos. I was in Florida, running a sales meeting, and the hotel had a magnificent garden filled with beautiful plants and flowers and…pink flamingos. Not the plastic kind, the real kind. A group of our sales people, probably under the influence of Demon Rum, thought it would be hilarious to capture a few of these birds and to release them in the sales vice president’s suite. They did so. Later that night, my boss returned to find his suite a shambles, and he himself under attack. It seems that pink flamingos, when nervous, first become grievously incontinent, and then attack anything or anybody in sight. My boss called me for help. Remembering my boyhood swan incident, I didn’t attempt to scare these birds away. I called the groundskeepers and they came and rounded them up, giving us a stern lecture, a suggestion of legal action if it happened again, and a rather large clean-up bill.

My fourth bird trauma was in Hawaii, with peacocks. Wife Judy and I had a second floor balcony room over looking another magnificent garden wherein strutting peacocks lived. I had only seen them strutting and preening on NBC commercials. I never realized they were such noisy birds. They screamed all day, and all night too. One early evening, I could take it no more. I went out on the balcony, and screamed back at them. They went silent. Vindicated, I turned back into my room only to hear a new screech behind me; there was a peacock on my balcony. I never knew they could fly. I thought they were like ostriches and emus and could run like the wind; but peacocks can do that and fly too. And this guy was furious. I slammed the screen door shut, but he smashed into it, trying to tear it apart with his talons. I closed the glass door and called Security. Once again, the bird people came and carted the offending bird away. They told me that an attack like this was most unusual. I didn’t mention that I may have initiated the encounter by saying something uncomplimentary about the peacock’s lineage.

My fifth trauma was with pigeons again, this time in London. I walked through Trafalgar Square at lunchtime, munching on a sandwich. I was set upon by a flock of the most aggressive pigeons I have ever seen. They were fearless. They swarmed all over me, and my food, until I just dropped it and beat a hasty retreat. A police constable watched all this in bemusement. “Don’t you know that Trafalgar Square is famous for its pigeons?” he asked. “People come here each day by the thousands just to see and feed the pigeons.”

I wanted to ask why they just didn’t go to the dump to see and feed the rats too. I didn’t bother. I had already toured the Tower of London and it was not pleasant.

And so it goes unto this very day. I have a crazy woodpecker trying to drill a hole through my roof; crows that wake me at dawn with their loud and unnerving “caws,”; seagulls that redecorate my house, car, and sidewalks as they fly over; and several Canada Goose that desperately need to be deported.

On the bright side, I like song birds (in moderation: no encores), but the rest of them I can do without. They have scarred me emotionally. As part of a fraternity initiation back in the 1950’s, we had to sit alone in the dark, listening to Basil Rathbone recite Poe’s “The Raven.” Our class officers told us that after the 6th reading, most people go mad. That didn’t happen, but it was too close for comfort.

And – then there’s the “Ancient Mariner,” and his accursed albatross that they hung around his neck; and I’ll never forgive those black starlings for what they did to Tippi Heyden in Alfred Hitchcock’s, “The Birds.”

Birds: Don’t go away mad; just go away.

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Pharaoh Cheops: The First After Dinner Speaker

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On Public Speaking: Pharaoh Cheops, The First After Dinner Speaker

            Let’s face it: There are just so many ways you can thank the people who have helped you succeed: You get their attention, use a little self-deprecating humor, review the accomplishment, establish a bond, credit the achievers, refer to the ongoing challenge, and close with your thanks and good wishes.  I write such speeches. My model is the original after dinner speech. It was found chiseled into the wall of the King’s Chamber in the great pyramid at Giza. Written in hieroglyphics, it documents a speech given by the Pharaoh Cheops to celebrate the completion of his great pyramid in 4003 BC.

            Visualize the event: It is night. The pyramid is illuminated by torches and surrounded by thousands of royals, staff, and guests. Look! There he is on the dais. He’s the one wearing the funny hat with the snake on it. That is the great Pharaoh Cheops, Brother of Ra, the Sun God, and Supreme Ruler of Upper & Lower Egypt. Shh! He is about to speak:

“Can you hear me in the back? (Crowd murmurs and tinkling utensils) May I have your attention, please? Attention, please? Would the waitpersons kindly stop serving the bread and onions for a few minutes? (Crowd quiets down.) Thank you very much.

“I guess I don’t have to tell you who I am (Laughter and applause). I am the Pharaoh Cheops (Applause). My family name is Khufu, but every time I say it, people think I’m sneezing (Sustained laughter). Then they say, ‘You Bless You’ (More sustained laughter and warm applause).

“Well, seriously folks, the big job is mostly accomplished. If I have to tell you that, you’ve been out in the sun too long (Audience laughter). So tonight, I think it’s high time to have a little fun, and to recognize the people who made it happen.

“Many of you give me all the credit (Scattered applause amidst cries of, ‘We worship you!’). I love that little palindrome I heard in the workers’ village: ‘A Man, A Plan, A Pyramid, Giza!’ It doesn’t quite work, but I love it anyway. It speaks to the bond we have between us: Pharaoh and peasant. Two ends of the social fabric, to be sure, but equal partners in this (gesturing) heroic effort (Sustained applause and cries of “Here, Here”).

“That’s enough about me, I promise (Warm laughter). This is your night to share in the glory. I’ll begin by thanking my architects for the design of a monument that I believe will be standing here for many years after I am gone. Our children will look on this structure and take pride in what we did here (Sustained applause).

“And I want to thank the overseers (Good natured groans and scattered applause). That devoted team of first line managers who provided the supervision, direction, and motivation that kept us on schedule and on budget.

“But most of all, most of all, I want to thank you: The little people who made it happen. I want to thank the men, women, and children who pushed those 50 ton blocks of granite up that inclined plane, in all sorts of desperate desert conditions for some 30 years.

“And why did they do it, you ask? Sure, some would say the threats and the whips helped – and they had their place. But most of all, most of all, they did it because we’re a team. And a focused team can accomplish anything from building a pyramid to … a landing on the moon (Chuckles and laughter). It all comes down to teamwork. And what is a pyramid, after all, but a study in teamwork (Standing ovation, sustained applause).

“Okay, that’s enough of the sentiment for one night (Warm chuckles and appreciative applause). Tomorrow at dawn we begin building the temples and outbuildings that will surround our pyramid. And I’ll tell you about an idea I have for a large statue of a lion with my head on it (Murmurs of wonder and approval). More on that tomorrow. But for now, the kitchen staff reports they still have a tent full of rolls and onions, there’s mead left in the kegs, and the musicians are ready to play. So stay as late as you want and have as much as you like. This is your party!

“Thanks everybody, and good night! (Cheers, sustained applause, and cries of, ‘Cheops! Cheops!’ as music begins)”



In addition to speech augmentation, after dinner speeches, roasts, and skits, Ed McManus is the author of We’re Roasting Harry Tuesday Night, How To Plan, Write, and Conduct the Business/Social Roast (Prentice-Hall), and Irish Tales: A Collection of Irish Folklore (Rooftop). Ed also publishes The Jokesmith, a comedy newsletter for business and professional speakers.

Ed does humor and commentary in magazines & newspapers such as Reader’s Digest, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Forbes, Rogue, Quote, Bits & Pieces, Reminisce, Speechwriters Newsletter, Executive Speechwriter, Connections, Fitchburg Sentinel, Kennebunk Star, Boston Herald, Boston Sunday Globe, The Bawl Street Journal, and The New York Times. His material will also be found in a number of quotation and speaker anthology books. 

Contact Ed McManus at

Since 1984: Helping speakers “Make them laugh while you make your point.”


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How Am I Feeling? Don’t Ask!

I’m of the generation that grew up during World War II in a solid family setting, supervised by loving yet firm parents, monitored by extended family and neighbors, educated by Catholic nuns, and taught among other things, not to be self-involved, or to seek sympathy when you have a problem that should be dealt with by yourself, without needlessly involving and/or annoying others. Allow me to illustrate with an example:

The Hypothetical Situation: I am 10 years old. As I run down our concrete driveway, headed for school, I slip and fall. There are scrapes, bruises, and pain galore. I report this to:

1. My father. He checks me out, makes sure no bones are poking through the skin, that there is no significant blood loss, and says: “You’ll be fine.”

2. My big brothers: They hear me out, give me a quick once over, and say: “Next time, be more careful.”

3. The Sisters of the Presentation: After I make it to school, I tell the nun all about my painful travail. She listens, smiles, and says: “Offer it up for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.”

4. Neighborhood friends: On the way home from school, I tell the guys of my great misadventure. The tough guy, Butch, says: “That’s nuthin’! My cousin Louis fell down like that, hit his head on the cement, and it made him simple.”

That is how one learns not to share health conditions with the uninvolved, uninterested, and otherwise occupied.

My life pretty much went on in that fashion, and eventually I ended up in the Army, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, walking behind a platoon of tanks in a simulated assault. The field was incredibly muddy. I stepped in a tank rut, and immediately sank into it up to my knees. I couldn’t lift either leg and, with a 90 pound pack, found myself sinking deeper. It was like quicksand.

The platoon sergeant saw me, diverted a couple of guys to pull me out with a rope, and was not pleased with me for interrupting his exercise. I defended myself by beginning, “Sarge, I stepped into some quicksand!” He replied: “Well, that was stupid.”

Okay. Then I entered the business world. One of my early assignments was picking up potential investors at the airport for a financial Show & Tell by my employer. I picked up one man from New York who looked like a principal in Don Corleone’s Waste Management Services Company. On the way to the office, he told me to drive carefully. I said, “Yes sir. I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you.”

He said, “Good. Otherwise, something bad will happen to you.”

That put a damper on the conversation. We spoke no more. When I got back to the office, my boss said, “That last guy is the key to this whole deal. Did he say anything in the car?”

I said, “Yes. I think he threatened to kill me.”

My boss said, “No, not that. Did he say anything about the investment?”

And you wonder why guys my age don’t volunteer much personal information?

Are you listening to me?

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Facts, Statistics, and Other Lies for Our Time

“Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics!”  Mark Twain accused 19th century politicians of this, just as Disraeli accused 19th British parliamentarians. There is not much new under the sun. It might, however, have grown worse.

We live in an age when Trust has been threatened at almost every level of our existence. We have been lied to by our governments, churches, employers, unions, lawyers, drug companies, the military, media, family members, and the people next door. We have grown cynical; but, as Voltaire famously said: “Cynicism is betrayed Idealism.”

This is partly due to the fact that we know more about what’s going on topside, and around the world, than ever before in human history. We have a 24 hour news cycle, social media, whistle blowers galore, and the ability to fact check almost anybody and anything we take the time to Google. As new technologies bring us more information, and new techniques to check out that information, the situation will become more intense. We run the risk of sensory overload.

It is a bad time to tell each other outright lies. First, because it’s wrong. Second, because we’ll get caught. But as we have seen in the recent political debates, one does not have to tell outright lies. One can misrepresent an issue by simply massaging, or “spinning” it, to achieve the intended purpose. It can also be done by telling the truth, but only that part of the truth which supports a position. I’m reminded of the old saw: “Statistics don’t lie, but if you present them properly, it’s almost as good.”

For openers, it really helps to have a competent and devoted staff. These people can sift through hours of taped speeches, transcripts  and interviews, looking for the slip or error that can used to raise questions in the public’s mind. Everything anybody says, writes, and does is on record somewhere, waiting to be discovered.

As I watched the recent political debates, I jotted down several ways that someone can gain an edge, and how the truth can be manipulated to serve one’s purpose:

1. Quote out of context: This is the most common effort to deceive. You just take one isolated phrase or sentence, regardless of the language and intent surrounding it, and quote it to make your point. Suppose I was a candidate and I said: “There’s no reason for me to be a citizen if I can’t vote, exercise my God-given freedoms, and support the Constitution.”

You might report: “Candidate renounces America saying, ‘There’s no reason for me to be a citizen…'”

Or, you might try a teaser line: “‘There’s no reason for me to be a citizen.’ Did candidate renounce America?”

2. Pick the most favorable study: We all know that God made too many MBAs, and there’s not enough useful work for them to do. So, they find work  like annoying people at home during the dinner hour conducting public opinion polls. Suppose they asked someone: “Will you vote for Senator Blitz?” And the correspondent replied: “I’ll vote for Senator Blitz when it snows in July.” Given the anti-Blitz organization the pollster might be working for, they could record that answer as: “I’ll vote for Senator Blitz….”

You can find all sorts of such biased survey efforts on-line and on YouTube. I recently saw two well made videos which proved conclusively that a certain presidential candidate is “The Anti-Christ” (supported by Biblical prophecy no less; taken out of context naturally). There was another video on there proving, also conclusively, that this same candidate was really Osama Bin Laden, who had faked his own death and was now vying for the Oval Office). As they say: “Really?”

You just find the survey that you like on-line, the one that plays to your own fantasies, opinions and biases, and quote it loud and often.

3. Take a new view of the statistics, or rebut them with anecdotal evidence. Let’s say I’m mayor of a city of 50,000 people, and that due to my administration’s efforts, 99% of the adult citizenry is employed, housed, cared for, and well fed. I’m untouchable, right? Not at all. You just show a picture of one hard luck family and say (truthfully): “Over 500 families in our city, our friends, and neighbors, are going to bed hungry and cold tonight.” That 1% who are below the line might well do me in.

4. Make stuff up. I read somewhere that over 92% of all statistics quoted in presentations, debates, and arguments are made up on the spot. I just made that up, but the point is valid. Why would someone do that? To prove a point or win an argument, knowing that somehow their “win” tonight may be headline news tomorrow, while the later correction next week may appear on page 6.

Think the statistic through. What if I told you that 50% of all marriages end in divorce but, worse yet, the other 50% end in death?

5.There is a dark side to everything.  Find it. Emphasize the downside. When it comes to your record, Point with Pride. When it comes to your opponent’s record, View with Alarm. Remember the joke about how Jesus’ enemies reported His walking on the Sea of Galilee: “Alleged Savior Can’t Swim!”

6. Take umbrage at accusations you  cannot answer. Drawing oneself up in a dignified way and responding: “That you would say something like that about my staff and supporters, family and friends, and the American public, is offensive and  indefensible. I won’t dignify that with an answer.”

7. Create a Strawman: Exaggerate your opponent’s position on some controversial issue, and then attack your own creation. Let’s say your opponent favors a path to citizenship for undocumented aliens. One might say: “My opponent supports illegal immigration. Maybe he thinks we should just throw open the borders and let everyone come here. Maybe he thinks it’s fair to punish the legitimate immigrants who have followed our laws and tried to come here in a responsible and fair way. What happens if everybody comes here as they please? There will be no jobs, more crime, overcrowded cities, and you won’t be able to complain about it because no one speaks English!”

8. Attack the speaker: If you can’t attack the message, attack the messenger: “Isn’t that typical of a man who moved to Canada to escape serving his county? A self-proclaimed intellectual who flunked out of  college? A “family values” man, with 3 failed marriages behind him?”

9. Go for the one-liner: People love a crushing line, especially one that seems spontaneous: Lloyd Bentsen’s, “You’re no Jack Kennedy,” is a classic example. As was Ronald Reagan’s “There you go again.” Don’t overdo it. Such lines are a rich spice and cannot be overused, but having a few in reserve never hurts.

10. Finally, wrap yourself in the flag, faith and family. Back in the Fifties, they used to say: “Support Mom, Apple Pie, and the Flag. Viciously attack the Killer Shark.” Thank everybody in sight. Remember to honor “those who serve.” Toast freedom, opportunity, and remind everyone to keep God and Country first in their hearts and minds.

Smile, look confidant (as though you’ve won), and stay on for a bit to press the flesh. Then go home and get out a news release heralding your victory: After all,  you won.

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Photo Shop and Another Paradigm Shift

This is a photo created by a young Swedish photographer named Eric Johanssen. This talented young man creates images in his fertile imagination then, through his photographic and computer skills, converts them into hard copy photographs for the rest of us to admire and wonder at.

The concept is not new. In fact, there’s an exhibition in New York City this month  featuring manipulated photographs from decades past. One of these shows the infamous dirigible Hindenburg moored to the radio tower of the Empire State Building, sometime in the 1930’s. It’s amazing, and the photo has spread around the web. The problem: It’s a fraud. It never happened. It’s an early manipulated photograph. Back in the 1930’s, this was accomplished slowly and with great photographic artistry. Today,  any competent person can accomplish much the same thing with a computer and  Photo Shop. It happens in great volume too.

This made me realize that we had crept into another major paradigm shift that I hadn’t even noticed: The photograph is no longer the trusty, evidenciary record that it once was, and never will be again.

Remember the classic expression, “One picture is worth a thousand words?” Not any more.

The film noir blackmail threat of “I have photographs of you both … together” means nothing.

The Perry Mason gotcha line, when confronting the culprit with “Don’t deny it. We have the whole thing on film!” A paralegal could get the guy out from under that accusation, and maybe get him a court settlement for his trouble..

Fashion models and celebrities can easily arrange to have a spotless complexion, designer clothes, a new hair look, even drop 20 pounds or so, and it wouldn’t take a photo studio more than an hour to make it all come true.

I have an acquaintance whose grandson makes up authentic looking photographs of family members with historical characters. Would you like to see yourself at the Gettysburg Address standing beside President Lincoln? It can be done.

Finally, of course, we’ll have to bury the old standby: “Seeing is Believing.”

Oh well, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, and all that jazz. The photograph, one more staple of reality and truth we used to rely upon, is gone forever. It has morphed into just one more communication device that can be manipulated to sway the multitudes.

It all gives new meaning to that old philosopher, Groucho Marx’s, classic line: “Who are you going to believe: Me or your lying eyes?”

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The Jokesmith Review: The 2012 Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner

Review: The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner: October 18, 2012

Just two days after their rough and tumble town hall debate. President Obama and Governor Romney attended a glittering white tie dinner in New York City to trade good-natured jokes and barbs and raise money for the New York Archdiocese’s charitable outreach programs. It was a great evening, both candidates performed well, and, at $2500/ticket, a record sum of $5 million was raised by the 1600 guests. It was an evening of civility and humor in a sea of anger and negativism.

The event is dedicated to the memory of New York Governor Al Smith who, in 1928, became the first Catholic ever to be nominated by a major party for president. The dinner is still overseen by his descendants, while hosted by New York’s own Cardinal Timothy Dolan. This is the 64th annual event.  The first presidential candidates to attend were JFK and Richard Nixon in 1960.

This year’s event began in controversy. Several Conservative Catholics criticized the cardinal for inviting President Obama, whose position on issues like abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage are at odds with the Church. The cardinal settled the matter, writing in his blog: “If I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.”

Governor Romney went first. Standing at the dais in his immaculate white tie and tails, he said: ”A campaign requires a lot of wardrobe changes: blue jeans in the morning, suits for a luncheon fundraiser, sport coat for dinner. But it’s nice to finally relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house.”

He also chided the media, suggesting tomorrow’s headline would be: “Obama embraced by Catholics, while Romney dines with more rich people.”

One of his best lines was when he talked about President Obama, coming down to the final months of his term, surveying the Waldorf banquet room with so many rich and important people in their finery, “…and you wonder if he’s thinking: ‘So little time, and so much to redistribute.’”

Governor Romney admitted he was uncomfortable as a joke teller and how he hoped Vice President Biden would be seated in the front row: “He’ll laugh at anything.”

Bringing a little Catholic inside humor to the table, Romney wondered if, when the Lord gave St. Peter the “Keys to My Church”, St. Peter responded: “Lord, you didn’t build that.”

He went on to say that in keeping with the Sesame Street Theme  the campaign has taken on, “The president’s remarks are brought to you by the letter ‘O’, and the number ‘$16 trillion’.”

Romney said that when asked how he prepared for these key debates, he replied that as a lifelong Mormon, he “…abstained from alcohol for 65 years.” He also said the key to debate success was: “…finding the biggest straw man available, and attacking him mercilessly. Big Bird never saw it coming.”

He concluded that both candidates have important people they rely upon. “I have my beautiful wife Ann. He’s got Bill Clinton.”

The crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation.

President Obama came on, while everyone was stilling standing. He asked them to “Take your seats, please, Otherwise, Clint Eastwood will come up here and start yelling at them.

Referring to his lackluster performance at the first debate, he said:  “There are worse things that can happen to you on your anniversary than to forget to buy your wife a gift.”

Referring to Governor Romney, he said: “’Mitt’ is actually the governor’s middle name. (Pause) I wish I could use my middle name.”

In reference to the governor’s mixed reaction to his overseas trip last summer, the president said: “World affairs are a challenge for any candidate. After my last foreign trip, I was attacked as a celebrity because I was popular with our overseas allies. I’m impressed with how well Governor Romney avoided that problem.”

Renewing his school days ties to New York, he said:  “Today, I went shopping in some midtown stores. Governor Romney went shopping for some midtown stores.”

The president had a Joe Biden line too. He said: “Sometimes I hear that I’m getting old. And that I’ve lost my sparkle and my step. And I say: ‘Settle down, Joe. I’m trying to run a Cabinet meeting here.’”

The president also received a “well done” and standing ovation.

The Smith family spokesman, Al Smith IV, also had a few good lines. Referring to Romney’s famous “binders full of women” comment, he welcomed the ladies present and said: “I’m so glad to see you all got out of those binders.”

He had one for president Obama too: “It must be difficult to face Governor Romney, a man who has produced more sons than you have jobs.”

And one for the cardinal, who sat between Obama and Romney, he said it was appropriate for them to sit that way because (referring to the cardinal’s girth), “…they are separated by a great expanse.”

The cardinal had a few things to say as well. Referring again to his girth, he said “I had hoped to sit next to Gov. Chris Christy. I think I would have looked better.”

He told the candidates, “The Holy Father  asked me to give you both this message. (Pause) Unfortunately, he gave it to me in Latin, and I have no idea what he said.”

He cited similarities between campaign and church challenges: “You both have to deal with highly diverse personalities and opinions. In our Church, we have to deal with both Biden and Ryan.”

It was worthy, honorable, civil and funny. Congratulations to the speakers and all involved.

And now, please be seated for my homily: MSNBC had a commentator, comedian/activist W. Kamau Bell, the host of “Totally Biased,” and a man who lives up to his show’s  name.  He went on for a few minutes on the point that while both men had good lines, Romney was very stern, and awkward, and uncomfortable. Romney has only two speeds,” he said, “Mean and Awkward.”

Obama, on the other hand, was “…smiling, upbeat, and delivered a good joke”.

I remember thinking how much I disagreed with him. I wonder how many of the great old comics these young critics have seen? Did he ever watch Jackie Vernon (the “Dull Guy”) deliver a lengthy and rambling joke? Jack Benny, staring at an audience until they either laughed or had to leave the theater?  Myron Cohen telling a five minute story and squeezing a dozen or more laugh lines out of  it along the way.

I wasn’t impressed with his commentary. There’s a lot more to stand-up than observational, situational, and blue material.

Finally, I’d also like to cite Stephen Colbert for his wicked take on the last debate. Governor Romney, perched comfortably on his stool, while President Obama tended to wander around a little bit. Colbert observed: “They only way you get that comfortable sitting on a stool is after years and years practicing on a bar stool. In fact, sitting comfortably on a stool is often an early sign of alcoholism. That’s why, when you go into a bar, and see someone fall off their stool and onto the floor, that person should be your Designated Driver.”



The Jokesmith

Ed McManus

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The Jokesmith (1984-2012): The Last Issue

 In 1984, I published a book with Bill Nicholas entitled, “We’re Roasting Harry Tuesday Night, How to Plan, Write, and Conduct The Business Social Roast.” It was half how-to and half roast lines (suitable for professional audiences). It went through 3 printings, and I started getting calls from people looking for jokes to pump up a speech. I started The Jokesmith, a quarterly comedy newsletter for business and professional speakers. It was in continuous publication from 1984 – 2012. This is the final issue. Back copies and the Harry book are still available.

Ed McManus                




Volume XXVIII Number IV          Copyright 2012                              ISSN 0749-4351

Welcome to JS-112, the final issue of The Jokesmith, coming to you in the autumn of 2012. I have had a few inquiries about continuing The Jokesmith for another year, by email only. If you’d be interested, please email me at

1. “Nosism”: NASA Charlie sent me a blog about “nosism,” the practice of referring to oneself in the third party (“we” vs. “I”). The word comes from the Latin “nos” (“we”) so it means “we-ism.” A nasty habit that goes back to the 5th Century.

I favor Mark Twain’s rule that “the only people who may refer to themselves as ‘we’ are kings, editors, and people with tape worms.” Charlie’s piece added “the kindergarten ‘we’ (we won’t lose our mittens today, will we?), and the medical “we” (and how are we feeling today?)”.

I topped Charlie by revealing that over the years, I have added: pregnant women, the possessed, and anyone carrying a mouse in their pocket. Charlie topped me by asking: “What about people named ‘Jekyll’? I yield.

Although I have heard the French use “we”, probably incorrectly, but they’re so cheerful about it, who cares?

2. Old Jews Telling Jokes: First I told you about the website, then the Broadway show, then my own experiences on Seventh Avenue, and then you sent me lots of classic Jewish jokes. This oldie but goodie came out of London during the Olympics:

Benjamin the Tailor, lived in a small town outside London, and his wife wanted a husband for their daughter Becky. She was a nice girl, not beautiful or overly sharp, mind you, but good-hearted and deserving of a happy life. They hired a Jewish Matchmaker. He had no luck. The interest just wasn’t there. In one of his progress reviews, Benjamin told him he was dissatisfied, and unless he had some progress to report, their relationship was over. The Matchmaker said: “No, there’s progress. I think I have a husband for Becky.”

“And who is this young man?” Benjamin asked.

The matchmaker replied: “The Queen’s grandson, Prince Harry.”

Benjamin thought for a moment, and then said, “Prince Harry is not a Jew.”

“He’ll convert.”

“Prince Harry is a wild young man.”

“That was then. Now, he wants a wife and family.”

“And the children?”

“Naturally, they’ll be raised in the Faith.”

“Anything else?” asked Benjamin.

“Yes, I think the Queen wants to offer you an apartment in BuckinghamPalace so you can be near the extended family.”

“Very well then,” said Benjamin, extending his hand, “Prince Harry may marry Becky.”

They shook hands and the Matchmaker walked out on the little porch and started down the stairs. He clapped his hands together, smiled, and said: “Half sold!

3. Miscellaneous: Read, Overheard, Swiped and a Few Actually Written:

1. On “Morning Joe” the pundits were discussing our multi-trillion dollar debt

and how we are passing it on to the next generation. One commentator said: “The old Washington saw used to be: ‘Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree.’ Now, that’s changed to: ‘Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax this baby on my knee.’”

2. Physical Conditioning: Olympic swimmer Jane Katz told the NYT her secret

airport vice: “Shopping. I rationalize it by saying that if I shop fast enough it’s aerobic.”

3.Afterthought on “Noism:” I had a colleague once tell me that: “I never speak

French when I’m in Paris. Their accent is atrocious.”

4. Bumper Sticker of the Quarter: “If you’ve nothing to be thankful for, give

thanks that spiders can’t fly.”

5. I respect all Religions, although I don’t understand all of them. High on my

List is Scientology. If I was going to join a Science Fiction religion it would be about Star Trek.

6. Brian bought and restored a 1966 Mustang Convertible. He says it’s a

“Driver,” not a “Show Car:” “It looks nice from afar, but it’s far from nice.”

7. Brian also adds this insightful thought he collected from Monty Python’s John

Cleese: “Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in total disarray. Welcome back to 430 B.C.”

8. Banking Vocab Redux:  I heard a new appellation used by financial critics of

big bankers who take big money from their troubled banks while trying to increase revenues by laying more and more fees on their clients. Such people are called: “Banksters.”

9. Mad Ave., P.T, Barnum, and me: I have a great respect for the skills of sales

and marketing people. They can make us buy stuff we don’t want or need, and we’ll pay a premium for the privilege. For instance, Time Magazine reports that the next big thing will be edible packaging. Pudding will come in an edible cup, as will juice drinks, and candy. It’s easy, convenient, and since you’re saving the planet. I expect it will cost more.

10. I walked the cosmetics aisle of the supermarket and applauded the overpriced, unnecessary, and handsomely packaged products. Today, I saw two women picking out an eyebrow pencil. They cost $6.49 each. I chuckled. I would like to have said, “Ladies, I know where you can buy 24 of those things for about $2.00 total. They’re in the next aisle. They’re called crayons. But wait, there’s more: For no extra charge, you can change your eyebrow color every day for nearly a month. Act now!”

11. Health Advice: Dr. K. shares her good health thoughts: “1. Use your head. 2. Enjoy your life. 3. Live as long as you can.”

12. Political Bumper Stickers: They are some good ones out there for the upcoming presidential election. For you RedState folks, I saw this one: “HOPE: Help Obama’s Presidency End.” And, for you BlueState folks: “Vote Romney: The Rich Guy with the Dancing Horse.” (It was a tie with “Dressage: My Favorite is Blue Cheese.”

13. Obit of the Quarter: Marvin Hamlish died: The gifted composer filled Hollywood movies with his scores, from “The Sting” through “The Way We Were,” and so much more. I saw him in a Maine concert; he was quite a comic too. He was a child prodigy and, at the age of 7, was accepted at Julliard School of Music. A reporter gushed, “Did you actually go to Julliard at 7?” Hamlisch replied: “Yes, but they didn’t open until 9.” R.I.P. Marvin.

14. Higgs boson update: Okay, they’ve announced the Higgs boson, but still no word on pricing or whether it will ship for Christmas. (Cr: WSJ)

15. Financial Advice: Rich, my financial guy, said: “Call me with your ‘Here’s what I’m thinking about’ questions, and not with your ‘Guess what I just did?’ announcements.”

16. Reader Update: Big Bill spent the weekend with his son and family. “One morning, I asked him for the newspaper. He said, “Dad, that’s so last century. We don’t buy newspapers in this house; here – use my iPAD.’ I tell you, that fly never knew what hit him.”

17. Big Bill also writes: “Back in 1990. The U.S. Government seized a brothel in Nevada, The Mustang Ranch, for tax issues. As required by law, they kept it open as a business, but they failed. Mustang Ranch went into bankruptcy, and it closed. Now we are trusting the economy, banking system, Social Security, and Medicare to a bunch of people who couldn’t make money running a cat-house and selling cheap whisky!”

18. Finance: Stan the Economist does stand-up comedy on his weekend. He tells several “gross” national product jokes.

19. Seniors: Colleague Bill Nicholas is in his 80’s now. One of his great lines is: “Time has passed me by; as you would pass by a hitchhiker with a chain saw.”

20. Q. What is one thing that can never be said about a school teacher?

A. “That’s her new Porsche.”

21. Conservative Humor: Cal may be my most extreme right wing subscriber. He once said: “If I moved any further to the Right, I’d fall off. The world is flat, you know.”

I asked him once if he believed in Global Warming. He replied: “If there is such a thing as ‘Global Warming,’ it’s probably caused by Illegal Immigration and Obamacare.”

22. Cal also writes: “My grandkids ask me about everything: ‘How much do you make?’ ‘What are you worth?’ What happened to the good old days when no one talked money within the family, or anything else personal for that matter? We just bottled it all up inside and became bitter old men and women. Let’s go back to that!” Thanks, Cal, for your reasoned inputs.

23. Christmas Story: Here’s one from my favorite Sunday School teacher:

A Sunday School teacher asked an 8 year old: “Where was Jesus born?”

The child replied: “Pittsburgh.”

The teacher said: “No, try again.”

The child thought for a moment, then said: “Philadelphia?”

The teacher said: “No. Jesus was born in Bethlehem.”

The child replied: “I knew it was somewhere in Pennsylvania.”

24. Which reminds me of the local cop who allegedly stopped a reader from Philadelphia and asked to see his license. The cop said, “Where are you from?”

The motorist replied, “Philadelphia.”

The cop said, “Yeah? How come you’re driving a car with Pennsylvania plates?”

25. Marty writes he discovered a new unit of measurement that can relate to any concept of size, temperature, or attitude. It’s called the “freaken.” It is used with the Arabic number two. For intense heat, for example, you would say it’s “two freaken hot.” Excessive size would be “two freaken big.” A bad attitude toward work could be “two freaken lazy.” Now that I’ve learned this concept, I realize that I hear it several times each day.

26. This update on the Higgs bosun particle that may have been discovered by CERN physicists: “Okay, so they’ve announced the Higgs bosun particle, but still no word on pricing or whether or not it will ship by Christmas.”

27. Insight: In an article on music appreciation in the NYT, Dwight Garner made this observation: “It’s said that the music you listen to when you’re first steaming up car windows is the music you’ll want to hear for the rest of your life.”

28. Competition Evolves:

My grandfather saw his competition across the classroom.

My father saw his competition across town.

I looked to New York and California for my competition.

My children look to Europe.

My grandchildren will watch Asia.

28. Montana Bill collects signage. He found this one in his company’s lunchroom: “Please do not operate the toaster oven and microwave at the same time, as the Earth will spin out of orbit and crash into the Sun. Thank you.”

29. Oyster Snobs? I love Wine Snobs. I even make up little things to say myself: “What an amusing little vintage. I’m enthralled by its pretensions.” Sometimes it works.

Kerry gave me a list of oyster choices from an upscale resort area Oyster Bar:

1. “French Kiss:” Canada; deeply cupped, profound salinity; mildly sweet finish.

2. “St. Simon:” Firm, mild salinity, subtly sweet, citrus fresh

3. “Onset:” Mild salinity, very meaty, slight seaweed finish, silky

As my old boss used to say, “What wine goes good with beer?”

4. Mike Tyson on Broadway: A live show, featuring Tyson’s career recollections, opened in New York for a limited run (“Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth”). It’s getting mixed reviews but Tyson does have a certain charm in this tale of success and failure, convictions (just and unjust), and lifetime anecdotes. One I liked concerned the dumps he had to fight in early in his career: “If the crowd didn’t like your performance, they didn’t just boo you. They started fights among themselves to show you how it should be done.”`

5. Gospel Reflections: I write personal little Gospel reflections for my own edification and amusement. Sometimes, like now, I share one with friends: The Gospel of John tells the story of how Jesus fed a crowd of five thousand with five small barley loaves and two small fish.

Suppose that happened in today’s all righteousness and little empathy environment. Suppose Jesus blessed the small baskets of bread and the fish and gave it to the disciples saying, “Feed the crowd – but – don’t give anything to someone who looks like they’re in a same sex relationship, or living together in sin, or practicing contraception, or generally leading what you think may be an immoral life.” Well, no wonder they had so much stuff left over!

6. I Can’t Hear You! Many of the jokes I write are based on true stories. Funny things I read or hear, or are reader submitted. I take the true story and joke it up. This is one example:

A woman had hearing problems and decided it was time to buy hearing aids. They cost over $3,000 each, are not covered by most insurance policies, so it’s a big decision.

The first night, she went to a restaurant with her husband and friends and made an interesting discovery: Unlike the human ear, which can filter out table and kitchen noises from conversation, hearing aids just makes everything louder. Halfway through dinner, she removed one from her ear, set it down by her plate, and continued the conversation as best she could.

Later, she looked for the hearing aid. It was gone. She panicked. She told her friends, and they immediately began to search the area for the missing, and expensive, hearing device.

Her husband never moved. He just sat there. She asked him: “What did you do now?”

He replied: “I thought it was an olive.”

7.  Child Psychology: JC is my favorite shrink. He sent me an update on a Golden Oldie:

The teacher assigned her kindergarteners a class project: She passed out four uncolored pictures of the seasons, and gave them the weekend task of coloring and turning them in the following Monday for seasonal classroom decorations.

Monday, everyone turned in their colored pictures. One little girl turned in hers. They were all in red and black, or red only, or black only. The teacher was disturbed. She took them to the school nurse and asked for her advice. The nurse had no answer, so she called the Child Welfare Department. Early next morning, the little girl was taken for a private chat by a child psychologist and a plainclothes police detective. They put her at ease, chatted about this and that, and then gently asked her why all her seasonal pictures were colored in just red and black.

The little girl seemed embarrassed, hesitated, and then replied: “I only had two crayons.”

8. Celebrities on Age: AARP ran a series of quotes by aging celebrities: Pete Seeger, at 93, is on tour with Arlo Guthrie. Pete said: “Arlo, I can’t sing like I used to sing.” Arlo replied: “That’s all right, Pete. The people buying our tickets can’t hear like they used to hear.”

9. Music Shtick: Peter Sellers, comic actor and comedian, went to a number of private parties where his musician friends performed. Once he was asked, “Peter, do you sing?” He replied, “Yes, I sing Rogers and Hart.” The amazed host asked him to do so.

Sellers stood by the piano, cleared his throat, and sang: “Ro…gers annn…d Hart.”

Before the host had a chance to respond to this inspired nonsense, Sellers added: “I also sing Gershwin: ‘Gersh…win.’”

He then bowed, said thank you, and sat down … to a great deal of laughter and applause.

(Anecdote swiped from a musical impresario on Sirius Satellite Radio)

10. Language: John Garvey, a language instructor, offers the old gem:

What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Answer: Bilingual.

What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Answer: Trilingual.

What do you call a person who speaks just one language? Answer: An American.

That reminds me of the similar joke I heard in England a few years back:

What do you call a person who likes the French? Answer: A Francophile.

What do you call a person who likes the English? Answer: An Anglophile.

What do you call a person who likes the Germans? Answer: A Collaborator.

11. Clergy: A woman was marketing with her husband when they bumped into their church pastor. They chatted for a bit, and then the pastor turned to go, saying: See you next Sunday.” As they walked back to their car, the husband asked: “Does he play golf on Sunday?”

12. Bureaucracy: Carl, our “Amateur Historian,” contributes this: “In 1944, the U.S. Air Force carpet bombed the Krupp Munitions factories, Hitler’s war machine, into total rubble. There was nothing left. Krupp corporate headquarters in Berlin, which was untouched, immediately went on a three shift, seven day work schedule. There were no factories left, but there was still a lot of paperwork to be done.”

13. Legal: Jim Gordon is law professor at BYU, and author of several books. He says: “the point of law school is not to teach you the law, but to teach you how to think as a lawyer.”

To loosen kids up, he presents this legal quandary: “Mark is an honest lawyer. He learns that his client is guilty of a heinous crime. Should he (1) Tell the judge? (2) Tell the police? (3) Withdraw from the case? (4) Defend his client but not argue that the client is innocent?”

Answer: “That was a trick question. There’s no such thing as an honest lawyer.”

14. New Books by Subscribers: Leo, the management coach, says he has two works-in-progress. The first is a self help book entitled, “How to Survive Depression after Self Insight.”

The second book is called, “People I Never Should Have Met.” He’s accepting nominations. They sound like best sellers to me.

15. Medical Errors: The WSJ published a Dr. Marty Makary article (from his new book: “Unaccountable”) entitled “How to Stop Hospitals from Killing Us.” He made this point: If a jumbo jet crashed, it would be front page news. Medical mistakes in America kill enough people to fill four jumbo jets each week. That’s 98,000 deaths from medical errors every year. If medical errors were a disease, they would be the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.

The causes are the usual suspects: infections, bad diagnosis, wrong meds, surgical mistakes, and bad practice. He related how at a Harvard Medical affiliated hospital, he heard the medical team call one well-known surgeon “Dr. Hodad.” There was no one by that name on staff; he asked about it. He was told it was an acronym: “… for Hands of Death & Destruction.”

I just thought I’d cheer you up in case you were going into the hospital. Maybe you should consider being sick at home instead.

16. Sports Commentary: A BBC announcer on the new coach of a troubled soccer team: “He was hired to take them in a new direction, and he did. Unfortunately, it was backwards.”

17.  Sports Records: Matt was talking about motor cycle jumps, ala Evel Knievell. He said: “The current record holder for double decker bus jumps is Eddie Kidd. In 1978, he set the world record by jumping 14 double deckers. The last guy who tried to top that didn’t make it, but put in a tremendous effort: He jumped 13 ½ busses.”

18. Sports Quote: They were interviewing a college athlete on a bad call by the ref and he said, “Yes, Coach wasn’t too happy with that.” Then, he paused and added, “Of course, Coach is never actually that happy anyway.”

19. Sports Titles: When Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France titles were withdrawn over doping allegations, someone wrote in the WSJ: “I’m seriously beginning to doubt Armstrong’s claim that he was the first man to walk on the moon.”

20. Sports: Golf: Charlie’s golf club caters to seniors and he says they offer an interesting challenge: The 18th hole is the trophy hole, and it’s next to the parking lot. Whoever gets their ball closest to a car, wins a pin.

21. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Walt Disney introduced us to these gentlemen in 1937. This is their 75th Anniversary. You might be interested in what they’re up to these days:

1. Sleepy watches a lot of political discourse on C-Span, and is doing product endorsements for Ambien.

2. Sneezy doesn’t get out much; he’s on an organic diet and confined to a sterile environment. He thinks his allergies are under control, but is worried about COPD.

3. Grumpy is a media consultant and Fox talk show host, appearing under his stage name of Bill O’Reilly.

4. Happy was finally told he is neither bi-polar nor manic-depressive. He’s only manic. He was released from the BettyFordCenter and has his life under control.

5. Dopey went back to school, earned an MBA, and is an adviser, specializing in Financial Derivatives, at a large Wall Street firm.

6. Doc has gone corporate, and is now CEO of one of our largest HMO’s, and a presidential adviser on Medicare.

7. Bashful has good days and bad. He gave up listening to Rap, reading tabloids, or watching most new movies. He doesn’t want to spend more time on that respirator.

And Snow White? Well, she drifted, got a tattoo, took some music lessons, and is on tour under her stage name: Lady Gaga.

22. Religious Education Update, Rev 2012: Jerry writes: “I was sitting with a friend of mine talking about the church today. He visits many churches throughout the year. He told me what happened in a local church last Easter. The pastor of this Baptist church called the children, dressed in their Easter outfits, to the front of the Church to sit with him. He said, “Today is Easter. We’re going to talk about the Resurrection. Does anyone know what the Resurrection is?”

One boy raised his hand, and the pastor said “Please, tell us: What is the Resurrection?”

The boy, proud that he knew the answer, said in a clear and loud voice, “I’m not sure, but when you get one lasting more than four hours, you gotta call a doctor!”

It took a solid 10 minutes to restore order in the church.

23. Yiddish Curses for Jews Who Vote Republican: Sondra thinks that all Jews should vote the straight Democratic ticket. She submits a collected list of “Yiddish Curses for Republican Jews” from an Obama/Biden web site. I offer you the Top 10:

10. May you feast every day on chopped liver with onions, chicken soup with

dumplings, baked carp with horseradish, braised meat with vegetable stew, latkes, and may every bite of it be contaminated with E. Coli, because the government gutted the F.D.A.

9. May you live to a hundred and twenty, without Social Security or Medicare.

8. May you live to a ripe old age, and may the only people who come to visit you be Mormon missionaries.

7. May your son win his party’s presidential nomination and may you have to sit through a keynote speech that mentions him once, eighteen minutes in.

6. May you spend your whole life supporting and voting for and sending money to Israel, and may you one day be actually forced to move there.

5. May your son give his Bar Mitzvah speech on the genius of Ayn Rand.

4. May your grandchildren baptize you after you’re dead.

3. May you grow so rich that your widow’s second husband is thrilled when they repeal the estate tax.

2. May you be reunited in the world to come with your ancestors, who were all socialist garment workers.

1. May your insurance company decide constipation is a pre-existing condition.

Bonus: May you have a rare disease and need surgery only one doctor in the world, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, is able to perform. And may he be unable to perform it because he doesn’t take your insurance. And may that Nobel Laureate be your son.

24. Equal Time: Republicans Only: In her WSJ column, Peggy Noonan, retells a story told her by a Hollywood writer, a gifted Conservative who quietly toils there: Joe Biden had a speech draft prepared for the Democratic Convention in Tampa in which he allegedly used this stirring and inspirational statement: “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Tampa. Therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words: ‘Ich bin ein Tampon.’”

25. Saudi Arabia: Women’s Rights Update: The NYT reports on a popular TV show on Saudi TV: “Every Day A Car:” The announcer asks a traffic safety question, and whoever calls in first, with the correct answer, wins a brand new Kia. It’s wildly popular.

Women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, but they have been calling in with the correct answers. Sometimes they’re even the first caller. What to do?

After study, the leaders decided that (1) Women could call in; (2) If they are first caller with the correct answer, they win the car; (3) They can register and insure it; (4) They just can’t drive it. Well, they got 3 out of 4.

26. Men from Maine: Radio FM107.5 in Boston features Loren & Wally, two amusing guys. They’ve come out with a CD, “Men from Maine”, in which they tell Maine stories in the laconic Down East way: Jeb met Holly at the feed store and asked, “Have you heard about Waldo Bemis’ accident?”

“No, I haven’t,” said Holly, “What happened?”

“Well,” says Jeb, “he was down at the road house way too long, and tried to drive home over that windy back road. He came to that sharp turn between Jeremiah Ball’s farm and the Smith Sister’s farm, and went right off the embankment. The car tipped over, and he was stuck there, pinned in by the steering wheel.”

“That’s terrible news,” said Holly. “Did they get him out all right?”

“Yes,” says Jeb, “both families heard the crash and came running out to help. Fortunately for him, he was pulled out by the Smiths.”

27. Men From Maine II: Holly called Jeb and said, “I’m redoing the wallpaper in my bedroom and I know your room is the same size as mine. How much wallpaper did you buy last year when you repapered your room?”

Jeb says, “I bought ten rolls of wallpaper.”

“Thanks,” says Holly, and he hangs up. A week later he calls Jeb again: “Jeb, I bought ten rolls of wallpaper like you did. I got the whole room papered, and I had two full rolls of wallpaper left over.”

“That’s a funny one,” says Jeb, “so did I.”

28. Romans Said it First: Henry Beard, Latin scholar & humorist, published several books of Latin proverbs and sayings: Original, phony, and new. My favorite is the all purpose, phony Latin translation for the inscriptions you see carved on campus, civic, or religious buildings: Haltingly tell friends that it says: “Having done these things, they made the sacrifices prescribed by custom lest they be found lacking in filial piety.” It shuts them right up.

1. Excuse: Canis meus id comedit: “My dog ate it.”

2. Boast: Lege atque lacrima: “Read ‘em and weep.”

3. Insult: Podex perfectus es: You can claim it means, “You did a perfect job!” In reality, it means, “You are a total a****le.” (Note: I have also seen it written as Podex Maximus, but I think having the “perfectus” in there sounds much better.)

29. A Typical Summer Friday Afternoon in Corporate America. Where is Everybody?

1 The executive staff is on the golf course.

2 The sales and marketing guys are still at lunch.

3 Finance is watching their portfolios and doing tax prep for their friends.

4 Security is watching movies in the CCTV room.

5 The programmers and software guys are designing their own computer game.

6 Manufacturing is planning another seminar on “Total Quality.”

7 The lawyers are drafting irrevocable trusts for their private clients.

8 Engineering is surfing the web.

9 The admins are hosting a baby shower for Mildred in the lunchroom.

10 R&D is watching the new “Star Wars” release on their iPads.

11 Maintenance is helping Harry build his dog house.

12 Customer Services switched on the answering machine and are hanging out; while people trying to call hear: “Please listen closely as our menu has changed; all our agents are busy helping other customers; your call is very important to us…”

13  And – Human Resources is in another all day meeting, asking each other: “What is our Mission?”

And that brings to a close the final chapter of our 28 year (1984 – 2012) humorous interlude. I started The Jokesmith in 1984 after publishing my first book (“We’re Roasting Harry Tuesday Night, How to Plan, Write, and conduct the Business/Social Roast” (commercial: It’s still available from here for $24 postpaid).  The Jokesmith was a part-time venture, as I roamed around the corporate world until 2000, and then work expanded to fill the retirement time available, along with speech augmentations (adding jokes and one-liners to executive speeches).

I still remember what must have been my 3d retirement party (roast). The emcee said, “How can we miss you if you never go away?” That was Linda. I called her my “Girl VP.”

She is bright, talented, experienced, and headed for the top. Once, at lunch, I told her she was aggressive too. She said, “I am not aggressive, and if you say that again, I’ll hit you.”

Now, grandson Kevin set me up with a blog. I write essays on non-controversial subjects such as religion and politics, but it’s mostly stories and anecdotes from my own checkered business career. If you have a chance, please check it out at .  I will be interested in your feedback.

Some of you have been with me for years. I thank you for that. I also thank Bill Nicholas who has been a contributor and counselor since Day One, and all the people over the years who stuffed envelopes, licked stamps, stuck on labels (the youngest was 5, the oldest was 90). I wish you all well in the New Year and beyond. I now close with a piece I heard from Charles Kuralt, formerly of CBS Sunday Morning (Copyright 2009 CBS) when he moved on:

“There is a rhyme by Clarence Day which says what I want to say: ‘Farewell, my friends, farewell and hail; I’m off to seek the holy grail; I cannot tell you why; remember, please when I am gone, ’twas aspiration led me on; tiddly-widdly-toodle-oo, all I want is to stay with you, but here I go, goodbye.’

Here I go, Goodbye!



Roast Round-Up:


1. Comedy Central’s Roseanne Barr Roast: Jeffrey Ross and his cohorts did it again with an irreverent and off-color roast of comedian/actress/presidential candidate Roseanne Barr. We’ve come a long way from the family-friendly Dean Martin roasts (with the likes of Johnny Carson, George Burns, Jack Benny, etc.)  and if this current gang doesn’t kill off roasts for the multitudes, no one ever will. We begin by striking the Joe Paterno/Aurura shooting jokes that were told at the roast, but thankfully cut for the TV audience.

1. Referring to Roseanne’s attempts to get a presidential nomination from the Green Party, Amy Schumer said: “I was surprised you were running for president. Most people were surprised that you were just … running.”

2. Seth Green said: “Roseanne has enough money not to work, but she still does a TV show every few years to punish us. She’s even had two reality shows, which is a lot for someone out of touch with reality.”

3.Katey Sagal said: It’s good to see Roseanne back in the spotlight. Technically, it’s two spotlights, but you get the idea.”

4. Gilbert Gottfried, referring to RB as “Godzilla,” said: “Tonight we can end the reign of Rozilla forever. Everyone, grab your torches, and lead her to the pit. She’ll think it’s a barbeque.”

5. Ex-Husband Tom Arnold appeared, after an ugly divorce from the guest, and said: “Roseanne once had ‘Property of Tom Arnold’ tattooed on her hip. That makes me the fourth largest property owner in California.” Later, he said: “I learned a lot from my marriage to Roseanne. For one thing, my current wife signed a pre-nup.”

6. Jane Lynch said: “Roseanne is one of those few celebrities so famous you can refer to her by one name: ‘Bitch.’”

7. In her wrap-up, Roseanne had one great line: “If I can smile and welcome Tom Arnold, regardless of how much I hate him, we all have a real chance for World Peace.”

2. A Cardinal and a Comedian walked into an auditorium…. No, it’s not the start of a joke, it’s a report on the appearances of comedian Stephen Colbert and New York Cardinal Timothy Dalton appearing together onstage at FordhamUniversity before 3,000 cheering students. It was billed as two Catholic celebrities discussing how joy and humor infuse their spiritual lives. It was emceed by Rev. James Martin S.J., who writes joke books to show there is no contradiction between happiness and holiness.

The evening was not open to the media, but of course that didn’t work (when will the Church learn?) and several journalists were admitted as guests and naturally Twittered out live updates and the veil of secrecy, if there ever was one, disappeared forever.

The evening began by the two principals meeting on stage, where the Cardinal kissed Colbert’s hand. Colbert tweaked the Cardinal on the Church’s new liturgy, which hardly anybody likes or even thinks was necessary, by saying of a new translation: “You changed the Nicene Creed from “of one substance” to “consubstantial?” Come on, it’s the Creed not an SAT prep!”

The audience offered questions by Twitter. One asked the Cardinal if he should give up dating while trying to determine if he had a calling to the priesthood. The Cardinal said no. “It will help you discern if the celibate life is what you really want.” Colbert chimed in: “And it’s a great pick-up line: ‘Hello. I’m considering the priesthood, but you could change my mind.’”

Another question was asked about religious hatred and bigotry, especially against homosexuals. Colbert responded: “If someone preaches hate, they’re not your religious leader.”

The Cardinal asked Colbert: “Do you feel pressured to be funny all the time?” Colbert replied: “No, do you feel pressured to be holy all the time?”

In all, it was a great success and the organizers are being urged to present it on TV. It blended both humor and faith in a mutually respectable way. Colbert summed it up nicely: “My Faith brings me great joy. The Church brings me great happiness. I love my Faith, warts and all.”

The Cardinal said: “If I’m ever elected Pope, and that may be the night’s biggest joke, I’ll call myself Stephen III.”

P.S. Delegating Upward: The Cardinal told a story about Pope John XXIII: “Every night about midnight he’d kneel at the altar and say: ‘Lord, here are the things I am ready to take a bottle of grappa over.’ And he’d list all the crisis of the day. Then, he’d say: ‘Lord, it’s Your Church, not mine. I did the best I could. I’m going to bed now.’ And he was done for the day.” Try it.

3. Don Rickles: Milton Berle called him, “The Merchant of Venom,” and Johnny Carson dubbed him, “Mr. Warmth.” Frank Sinatra partly discovered him when he walked into a restaurant where Rickles was performing and Rickles adlibbed, “Hi, Frank. Be yourself: Hit somebody.” Sinatra loved his fearlessness and got him on Ronald Reagan’s inaugural banquet agenda by threatening not to attend himself without Rickles.

Whatever you call him, Don Rickles is 86, still around, and even occasionally working.

Don was recently awarded the Johnny Carson Award at the second annual Comedy Awards program. It was presented by last year’s winner, David Letterman.

Robert De Niro showed up and gave a Ricklesesque tribute: “I worked with Don on a picture for Martin Scorsese. We did 8 pictures together. We had success, awards, stardom and then – bam! One picture with Rickles and it’s all down the toilet.” Well done, Don.

Finally: I am asked what I think was my best joke. Here ‘tis: “My greatest fear is that I will end up in the Final Judgment line behind Mother Theresa, and God will be telling her: “That’s all very nice, but you could have done more.”

Remember the blog. I may cover the upcoming Al Smith Dinner and I’ll publish it there.

Have a Happy Holiday Season, a Happy and Healthy New Year, and a good “the rest of your life.”

Regards, Ed M.

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