A moose in the punch line…

One of my favorite movies is “The Sunshine Boys” adapted from the play by Neil Simon.  George Burns and Walter Mathau are by turns hilarious and poignant, and Richard Benjamin is the perfect foil for the two.  There is an exchange between Walter Mathau’s character Uncle Willie and his nephew Ben dealing with what words are inherently funny.  Uncle Willie, who was once a Vaudville comedian, says that words with the letter “K” are funny… chicken, cupcake, cucumber…

Willie. 57 years I’m in the business, you learn a few things.  You know what makes an audience laugh.  Do you know which words are funny and which words are not funny?

Ben. You told me a hundred times, Uncle Willie.  Words with a ‘K’ in it are funny.

Willie. Cleveland is funny…  Maryland is not funny.

Interestingly, Neil Simon borrowed the concept of “K” words as being funny from H.L. Mencken who said that towns that had “Ks” in their names were regarded as jokes…  Hoboken, Kalamazoo, Yonkers.  Similarly, George Carlin used to talk about foods that are “too funny to eat” like succotash, kumquats, and garbanzo beans.

And I’d say that any joke with a moose in the punch line is a funny joke.  I don’t have empirical evidence for that, but I’d say the odds are pretty good.  Moose is a funny animal.  I always laugh at Bullwinkle.

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