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Category Archives: Incomprehensible humor

The Inter Ocean, July 13, 1878.

Dallas Morning News, February 1, 1886. Said Frenchmen would in fact have been Quebecois rather than F.O.B. cheese-eaters. Now, your Quebecois gene pool is (no aspersions intended) a tight and tidy affair, which raises the possibility that the behavioral oddities manifested by these Gallic lumberjacks stemmed from some kinda mutation. But I’m more inclined to think that this was a culture-bound syndrome like latah, piblokto, bulimia or Republicanism. Read More »

Wilkes Barre Times Leader, October 28, 1913. The basic thrust of old-timey Halloween pranks was vertical: You took some mobile piece of your neighbors’ property and hoisted it onto their or someone else’s rooftop.

The Duluth News Tribune, November 21, 1918. The global flu pandemic of 1918 was a doozy–somewhere between 30 to 50 million people died from it, disproportionately young and hitherto healthy adults. In the U.S., the death toll was around 675,000–about as many as in the Civil War. Oddly, the plague didn’t produce much in the way of cultural ripples. Blind Willie Johnson sings about the “influenzy” in a couple of his songs, but by and large the whole thing was a dead letter. Anyway, life goes on even when the world is ending, and here’s this Runyonesque jeu d’esprit making light of the fact that Duluth public health officials had ordered citizens to carry a 200-square-foot buffer zone around with them in public.
By “cash carrier” is maybe meant one of those little belt-mounted change dispensers that transit train conductors used to have?
Drunks–inherently funny.

“Shootin’ snuff into his wrist with a hatpin”–more Burroughs than Runyon, that bit.

Macon Telegraph, August 26, 1911. Let’s take a break from sorrow and tragedy and share a moment of mirth with cartoonist H.B. Martin’s beloved cartoon protagonist, Mr. Inbad, and his dog Ajax. Scoring opium to rub on a sick dog’s backā€”there’s a situation I think we can all relate to! Read more.

Sunday Picayune, n.d. The mince pie joke ostensibly plays off this closing speech by Prospero in The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The hairpin gag eludes me entirely.

The Daily Picayune, February 24, 1888. Like a gentleman what? Is pounding him into ecstasy?

diss on piesKansas City Star. Got no exact date for this one, but it must needs antedate 1895, because that’s when author Eugene Field kicked the bucket at age 45. You probably remember Field best from such children’s rhymes as “Wynken, Blynken and Nod” and “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat,” but he also had some pretty deep thoughts on pies and the womanly makers of pies. I guess by now I don’t have to tell you what the climactic pie on his list will be. Read More »

mince1New York Herald Tribune, December 1, 1924. Ha ha ha! Get it? Get it?

No? Hmm. Okay, how about this one, from the New York World, April 26, 1925? Read More »

Fat acceptanceJun191857AChicago Tribune, June 19, 1857. A woman before her time. Damned if I know what is meant by the phrase “Hoops can’t shine alongside of her.” “Whalebone and steel” are the materials that corset ribs were made of, but corsets didn’t shine.