As I set off to my 2:30 dental appointment, I called my brother Stu to ask him to regale me with our father’s old joke about going to the dentist at 2:30. All I could remember was our father chuckling as we recapitulated the joke about “tooth hurty.”
Repeating the story to my husband, he said with conviction, “Now, there’s someone who appreciated his own jokes.” Well, guess what? I am going to scout through my old tapes; I know that I recorded my father telling some of his old favorites. A barrage was told in English, others in Yiddish and still a few in a combination of the two languages.
While some of our father’s jokes were off-color, politically incorrect by today’s standards, and in most cases, just downright corny, they bring to mind a simpler time. Plus, they give my three older brothers and me a chance to go down memory lane when we are reminded of any of our father’s lighthearted and silly jokes. Whenever we think of one nowadays, we all have a good laugh as one of us repeats it.
At times, our father would just lighten a moment by giving a belly laugh while belting out one of those “sure to get a laugh” “funnies”—as our mother, half-annoyed, referred to the line-up—from his repertoire. Our father had a deep Mediterranean skin tone and I was tickled whenever someone would ask him if he was Greek. His answer was always the same. He would taunt, “Say something to me in Greek.” When the person did, he would deadpan, “That’s Greek to me.” Then, I would watch for the subsequent display by his belly that would assuredly follow.
A family road trip would often end with our father, “wound up” from all the driving, trying to get everyone to settle down by telling jokes to get us to sleep. I specifically remember the thin-walled room at a roadside motel in Creve Coeur, Missouri, to which the police officer escorted us after a traffic stop (when my father talked the officer out of giving my brother Al a ticket, explaining that his wife was tired - our mother looking fried). Notably, the cost of that room was $6.00 per night for the five of us.
Just as our father was on a roll on that hot summer night in 1970, shouting out joke after “lame” joke, as we were responding with gut-splitting laughter, the people in the next room started banging on the walls. We all fell asleep pretty quickly after the jokes were halted, but we never stopped reminiscing that story with a hearty round of laughter. Too bad our eldest brother was already married and not on that trip.
No, our father was no nightclub headliner, but corny or not, I am glad that I had the foresight to record his jokes. When I find that tucked away tape, I’ll have a good laugh while sitting and listening to our father's humor. Maybe my three older brothers will join me for a recap of those oft-repeated funnies. Our father would be so happy. Undoubtedly, we’ll all picture him beaming with an impish grin as he habitually turned toward our mother for approval. Making it even funnier, she would often not be able to resist laughing at first, than characteristically begin to mutter under her breath as he went on, chiding him to stop.