'We can be absolutely certain only about things we don’t understand.'
- Eric Hoffer, The True Believer


Die Laughing: Killer Jokes for Newly Old Folks

William Novak

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Oct 23, 2016
Category: Humor

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Have you read a memoir by Lee Iacocca, Nancy Reagan, the Mayflower Madam, Oliver North, Magic Johnson, Tip O’Neill, or Tim Russert?

If so, you’ve read a book by Bill Novak, the king of ghostwriters. (Fun fact: Many years ago Novak turned down an offer to write Donald Trump’s second book because “I had a strong feeling he was not my kind of guy.”) It’s a tricky job: the ghost does most of the work, the celebrity gets all the praise. So it takes a strong talent and a great ability to suppress his ego to be Bill Novak. As he well knows: “My wife jokes that when we go to parties, she should wear a sign that reads, ‘With William Novak.’”

His wife jokes? Well, so does his son B.J., author of The Book with No Pictures. And so, I imagine, do his other kids, all of them writers.

Bill Novak, it turns out, is serious about jokes. He’s the co-author of The Big Book of Jewish Humor, still in print after 35 years. And now that he’s getting older — “I was born in 1948, which brings up an important question: How much longer can I still pretend to be middle-aged?” — he’s turned his attention to his generation.

Is there anything funny about getting old? (Yes, but I forget what it is.) Novak is sure of it:

I couldn’t be the only one who would appreciate a chance to laugh about the approach of sixty, seventy, or some other significant birthday. So I started looking for jokes on age-related topics, and when I finally had enough, I selected the best ones, along with some wonderful cartoons, for this book.

Remember jokes? A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar. Three nuns meet Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. Although comedians stopped telling them long ago, jokes are still around, and one purpose of this book is to make sure they stay around.

“Die Laughing: Killer Jokes for Newly Old Folks” is a collection of very good/bad jokes, salted with 20 terrific cartoons from the New Yorker. I suspect it will be popular with boomers (although there should also be a large-print edition) and even more popular for children of the boomers, who are running out of things to give their parents, and as a gift book for aging friends (did you know that 10,000 people turn 70 every day?). [To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

But you want some samples, just like Costco. You’ll have to supply virtual rim-shots and ba-booms and exclamations of “I’ll be here all week.” Here you go.

A long-married couple are having dinner at the home of their good friends. When the meal has ended and the wives get up to clear the dishes, the men remain at the table and continue talking.
“I meant to tell you,” says the host, “that we went to a terrific new restaurant on Thursday. I think you’ll love it.”
“Great. What’s it called?”
“Damn, now I’m blanking. Help me out here. What’s the name of that red flower?”
“A poppy?”
“No, the other one.”
“A tulip?”
“No — you know, with thorns.”
“A rose!”
“Thank you.” Turning toward the kitchen, he yells, “Rose! What’s the name of that restaurant?”

An elderly gentleman, well dressed, nicely groomed, and rather handsome, walks into an upscale cocktail lounge. He sits down next to an elegant woman of a certain age and orders a drink. Turning toward her, he says, “So tell me, do I come here often?”

Two old friends are having lunch. Over coffee, one of them says, “Arlene, I know this sounds ridiculous, but every time I look at you I think I see a suppository in your ear.”
“Very funny,” says Arlene.
But when she checks her ear, sure enough, she finds a suppository.
“Well, what do you know? But I guess there’s a good side to this. I think I know where I put my hearing aid.”

Maurice was proudly telling everyone in assisted living that today was his birthday.
Alice came up to him and said, “Happy birthday, Maurice. Would you like me to guess your age?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Okay,” said Alice. “Pull down your pants.”
The birthday boy complied, and Alice fondled his genitals for a good half a minute.
“Maurice,” she said, “I do believe that you’re eighty-six.”
“You’re right! How did you figure that out?”
“You told me yesterday.”

Two older men, acquaintances but not really friends, are sitting on a park bench.
One turns to the other and says, “Remind me, was it you or your brother who died last winter?”

Brendan was driving home when his wife called.
“Honey, are you on the turnpike?”
“Well, be careful! I just heard on the radio that some maniac is driving in the wrong direction.”
“It’s not just one maniac. It’s hundreds of them!”

A woman goes to consult her doctor about reviving her husband’s libido.
“I’ll give you some Viagra,” he says.
“Thanks, but he’ll never take it. Joe hates pills.”
“In that case,” says the doctor, “when Joe’s not looking, drop one in his morning coffee. He won’t even know it’s there. Call me next week and let me know if it helped.”
When the woman calls, the doctor says, “So how did our little experiment work out?”
“We had mixed results,” she says. “The pill worked immediately. Within minutes, he leaped to his feet, tore off my dress, and made love to me right there on the table.”
“That’s wonderful,” says the doctor. “So what was the problem?”
“I’m pretty sure they’ll never let us into that particular Starbucks again.”

Jokes about death? “At a certain age, we’re ready to laugh at death,” Novak says. “Bad taste I’m willing to do. Life is in bad taste. But I drew the line at terrible taste. There’s very little toilet humor. One joke is about a new wine that will stop you from getting up to urinate. It’s called Pinot More.”


Short takes

A Rare Exhibition: The Storytelling Art of Bali

When David Irons went to Bali in 1973, he wasn’t planning to become an expert on Wayang painting or become its most important foreign collector. But as he learned about the original painted art of Bali, created almost a thousand years ago to tell epic Hindu-Buddhist stories, he became fascinated by its power and persistence. In 2013, his collection was the centerpiece of an important show in Bali. Now it’s coming to New York — a rare opportunity for the curious to see 20 important Wayang paintings. Preview the show here. See it Monday through Friday, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, October 24 through November 7, at the Indonesian Consulate, 5 East 68th Street.

Nam Prik Asian Chili Hot Sauce: the next Sriracha?

When I met Erick Yi, he was an investment adviser at Merrill Lynch in Los Angeles. (I can personally attest: honest, creative, successful). And then he was gone — to launch a hot sauce. I thought he was having a pre-midlife crisis. In fact, he was having a genius insight: He invented Nam Prik, an Asian chili sauce that was both spicy and sweet. Erick launched Nam Prik at farmer’s markets in LA, and was soon as popular as Adele. Again, deservedly: Nam Prik (pronounced: nam-preek, literally “fluid chili”) isn’t like all the other smartly-labeled sauces you see on grocery shelves. It delivers fire and flavor, adding personality to eggs, Mexican food, Asian dishes, meat and chicken entrees. Now Erick’s in the big leagues —you can buy Nam Prik on Amazon as well as on his web site. And in the full-service spirit of the banker he used to be, Erick offers some recipes. Try the crispy Nam Prik chicken wings — you’ll forget all about Buffalo.

My New Favorite Song: “Your Wife Is Cheating On Us”

from 1984, by Richard “Dimples” Fields. Sample lyric: ‘If she’s not here with me/and she’s not there with you/Your wife must be cheating on us.’ Listen closely. Raunchy!

I’m no seer. But Joan Pancoe just might be.

When two friends whose opinions you respect praise a movie, book or service, it’s actionable. That’s how I found myself in Joan Pancoe’s East Village apartment for a Soul Reading. Joan has been a karmic astrologer, psychic therapist and spiritual teacher since 1976, and has written several books. (The most recent is “Cosmic Sugar, The Amorous Adventures of a Modern Mystic,” published with a pen name for good reason; it’s explicit in the extreme. I mean, it made me blush. To buy the Kindle edition, click here.) Joan’s seen everyone from believers in past lives to skeptics. I’m somewhere in the middle. So I only felt moderately silly showing up at her Lower East Side lair with my list of Big Questions and Important Names. Then Joan went into trance and rolled out the kind of Spiritual Truths that are generally applicable… and Specific Insights that make you wonder if she’d hacked your email. Was I glad I saw her? Yes. Will you? I’m no seer. More information here.