Jewish World Review March 12, 2004 / 19 Adar, 5764
Didya hear the Anti PC Irish Joke about …?
Christie Davies has made a startling observation about Americans. We're losing our sense of humor.
Davies, a British academic and joke theorist, says Americans have become as nervous about swapping jokes as people once were in communist countries he visited to collect jokes. Why? He says political correctness has hijacked the harmless gag. And I can't think of a better time to fight this PC trend than St. Patrick's week.
Which reminds me of the time Pat and Mike got stranded in a snowstorm in Switzerland. After several hours a St. Bernard came to save them, a keg of brandy tied under his chin. "Here comes man's best friend," says Pat. "Aye," says Mike, "and look at the size of the dog that's bringing it!"
Such jokes do not demean the Irish, Davies would argue. They mock the stereotype that the Irish are perpetual boozers.
Like the one about Father Murphy lecturing McClanahan for imbibing. After the lecture, McClanahan says, "Father, can you tell me the cause of arthritis?" "Absolutely," says the priest. "It's caused by cheap whiskey, gambling and carousing. How long have you had arthritis?" "I don't," said McClanahan. "The Bishop does!"
Other jokes mock another stereotype that the Irish are lazy.
Like the one about St. Patrick going to an Irish pub. Donovan, McNalley and Finnegan see St. Patrick and each buy him a beer. Before leaving, St. Patrick, shakes Donovan's hand. Donovan says, "My arthritis! St. Patrick, your touch has cured it!" St. Patrick shakes McNalley's hand, and McNalley says, "My blind right eye! St. Patrick, you've cured it!" St. Patrick goes to shake Finnegan's hand. Finnegan shouts, "Get away from me, St. Patrick. I'm on disability!"
The Irish have long used humor to outwit the oppressor.
"While driving, an Englishman and an Irishman crash into each other on a dark night. Amazingly, neither is hurt. The Irishman opens a bottle of whiskey and hands it to the Englishman. "May the English and Irish live side by side forever," says the Englishman. He drinks a big gulp, then hands the bottle to the Irishman. "No tanks," says the Irishman. "I'll wait until after the police get here."
Resistance to government authority is another favorite target of Irish wit.
Seamus was caught with a bucket of fish in a no-fishing zone. "You've got it wrong," he explains to the policeman. "These here are my pet fish. I bring them to the reservoir every day for exercise. After they swim for 10 minutes, they come back to the bucket." "Prove it," says the cop. So Seamus dumps his fish into the reservoir and off they swim. An hour later, they still haven't returned. "Ha, you lying rogue," says the officer. "Where are your pet fish?" "Fish?" says Seamus. "What fish?"
In his book "Mirth of Nations," Davies says many academics see evil intentions in the average joke. Freud thought jokes were a sneaky way of saying something demeaning about a person or a group. But Davies says hogwash. A joke celebrates spontaneity and uplifts the human heart. Even edgier jokes can help us clarify and express complex or painful feelings. We have far more to fear from those who wish to repress American expression and censor jokes than the jokes themselves.
Which reminds me of Paddy and his wife Maggie. Maggie was so happy Paddy stopped spending all his time at the pub, she decided to make him his favorite meal, escargot. She told him to go to the market for the snails then come right back home. But on the way back, he passed by the pub and his friends called him in for a pint.
Well, several hours later Seamus looks at his watch and says, "Sweet goodness, my missus is going to kill me!" He runs home and trips at his front gate, sending the snails flying all over his front yard. His wife opens the bedroom window and shouts down to him. "Paddy, what in blazes took you so long?" Paddy looks up to his wife then shouts at the snails, "Hurry up, boys, we're almost there!"
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© 2003, Tom Purcell