Decades ago, right out of out
of college, the ad in the joke magazine read:
“Become a witty talker in five days. Make active use of your sense
of humor. Make people laugh AT ONCE. No course to study. No lessons
to learn. Never over one sentence long.”
The first comic dictionary, the grand daddy of one-liners, was born.
“The funniest wisecracks on politics, Congress, communism: Numerous
belly laughs and button busters on the human body. Barrels of breezy
gags on women and girls. A sidesplitting collection of sports humor.
Hilarious humor on different types of criminals. Loads of laughs
about the military. No end of food laughs from soup to nuts.”
Then the sales pitch:
“Only $3.95 plus postage for a deluxe edition, bound in genuine
buckram, expensively engraved in 22-Karat (CQ) gold.’
No kidding! Maybe this was the open door to a career.
With book in hand, I compiled a personal joke file, “borrowing”
zingers from the top Mister Nasty’s of that day.
Could I make it as a writer in the world of comedy? Surely, TV is
going to need a lot of material. But as they say in show biz, let’s
cut to the chase. My horse quickly ran out of the money.
Instead, I spent four decades as a news producer and writer in radio
and television. Rubbing shoulders with network suits, politicians,
public relations flacks, many of who could easily have auditioned
for a gig at the local comedy club.
Anyway, the other day, while rummaging thru my storage bin in the
basement, I found that gag file from the 1950’s.
Talk about showing age! They’re almost quaint now.
Judge for yourself, but comics made a living off these one-liners.
“Well things could, be worse, you could be here in person.”
“How could you be a split personality? You haven’t got enough to
split with anyone.”
“You’re the swashbuckling type. From the waist up, you swash and
from the waist down, you buckle.”
“You’ve got a head on your shoulders, and it’s the little things
“Why don’t you take a long walk on a short pier.”
“You’d make a great pause for station identification.”
“The next time you wash your mouth out, leave it out.”
“How would you like to come out to my car and smell the exhaust pipe
“Your mind if so weak, you ought to wear crutches under your ears.”
“You’re a cad. No, you’re lower that a cad. You’re a Pontiac.”
“With a little more schooling, you could become mentally deficient.”
And let me say this in closing:
I don’t have to do this for a living. I could go always go back to
my old job --
“Selling hatchets for splitting headaches”
“Putting talcum powder on chafing dishes”
Gene Farinet, an award winning veteran newsman, spent much of his long
career at NBC News as a writer and producer working with Frank McGee,
Ed Newman, John Chancellor and Tom Brokaw, covering space, politics
and special projects everywhere in the world.