So I came across this Henny Youngman joke the other day on this site.
A father is explaining ethics to his son, who is about to go into business. "Suppose a woman comes in and orders a hundred dollars worth of material. You wrap it up, and you give it to her. She pays you with a $100 bill. But as she goes out the door you realize she’s given you two $100 bills. Now, here’s where the ethics come in: should you or should you not tell your partner?"
When I read this I immediately started laughing. Now, it's by no means the funniest joke I've ever heard or even the funniest one on that webpage, but it is funny. So I emailed it to a couple people and told it to a coworker. None of the three people laughed. Instead, they each tried to analyze the situation and evaluate the ethical parameters involved so as to arrive at the proper answer. To my mind, this says two things. One, these people are not funny. But more importantly, they are not ethical. You see, the whole basis for the joke is that the OBVIOUS ethical thing to do is to give the woman her money back. It's funny because that's not even given as an option--it is assumed that the son is going to keep the money--a very unethical thing--and the only matter up for debate is whether to share this ill-gotten gain with his partner.

Anyway, I'd be interested in any of your comments. Am I the only one who thinks this is a funny joke?


Blogger Evan Jones  said...

Henny Youngman never told a joke that wasn't funny, though he told a lot of jokes that didn't get laughs. Master of the one-liner and the unexpected ending, he was the essence of sophistication wrapped up in a low-brow package. The people who don't laugh are still working on he details. Of course, it could have been the delivery. Take my wife... um... Take my... Well, you get the point. There's a wonderful biography that I see from time to time in used bookstores. Also, various collections of his jokes. I given up taking them out at parties because my... um ... timing isn't ... always good either.

I bought a book on Kabbalah from the sale table at a Jewish supplies business in Orange County that has long since gone out of business. The lady at the cash register said, "This book is on sale."

"Yes. I know." I replied. "That's why I'm buying it."

"You should know," she went on, "this book is not returnable."

"I promise to like it," I said. "My only worry is that it might be even cheaper down the street."

"Not to worry," she said, "after you leave, we call."

Thursday, February 17, 2005  

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