After the intense two weeks at the Orff course of life lived full throttle, it has been days of boring catch-up work. Six hours answering e-mails, closing out course business, arranging Fall flights, paying bills, beginning the Sisyphusian task of sorting through piles of papers and folders. The piano sits behind me always ready to charge me up when needed and Chick Corea’s Further Explorations CD helps keep the electrical current running. “Whatever it takes” is my professional motto and though the work itself is always imaginative, thrilling, intimate, challenging, affirming, all that good stuff that good work should be, the organization necessary to arrange it and keep it going is the same as any other field of work. We all need help slogging through it all and besides music, I found the perfect thing to put a little fun into the mix—The Mammoth Book of Jokes.
Memorizing poems, fairy tales, songs and such became a necessary part of my vision of an integrated education and an indispensable part of the way I teach children in school and adults at workshops. But after the workshop, around the dinner table with my hosts, it also became a great pleasure—and indeed, necessity when the conversation flags— to saddle up the old warhorses of the jokes I’ve memorized:
“So a priest and a nun get caught in a snowstorm…”
"A guy is on a dessert island when Michelle Pfeiffer washes ashore…”
“An old man just married goes to the rabbi…”
And so on. (If you want to hear the rest, invite me out for dinner!)
Besides, these longer jokes, I’ve often felt a need for some short zingers, little time-fillers for when I’m up on stage at the Spring Concert waiting for the kids to find their mallet. Things like:
“Did you know 5 out of every 4 people has trouble with fractions?”
“There are three kinds of people in this world. Those who can count and those who can’t.”
“Zebra: Let’s switch roles.
Lion: OK. I’m game.”
“A man walks into a bar. Ouch!”
It’s handy to have little jokes like loose change in your pocket— you never know when you need them. And the last one— a mere seven words—felt like the shortest joke I knew. But looking through the Mammoth joke book, I found a shorter one—four words!
“Florida: God’s Waiting room.”
By now, there was no way I was going to finish entering the new addresses on my mailing list. Off to Google to look for the World’s Shortest Joke and I found one attributed to John Cleese at a record two words:
If anyone knows a one-word joke, let me know. Meanwhile, I thought about novels, poems, songs, etc. The novel is a famous six-word story by Hemingway:
“For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”
The shortest poem I remember is from Gary Snyder.
“Pissing watching a waterfall.”
The shortest song in my record collection is from the Incredible String Band. It’s titled The Son of Noah’s Brother, the melody repeats each note four times, descending from D to E in a minor scale, the text is “many were the lifetimes of the son of Noah’s brother, see his coat, the ragged riches of the soul.” And it lasts for 14 seconds.
Shortest text for a song’s chorus goes to Wilson Picket’s Land of a Thousand Dances: “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah…” etc.
Shortest text for an entire song goes to Tommy James and the Shondells: “My baby does the Hanky Panky.”
Shortest text for an Orff lesson I’ve developed that ends in a remarkably complex mutli-faceted piece of music: “Johnny Whoops!” Close behind “Criss-cross applesauce.”
Shortest professional motto: “Whatever it takes.”
Prize for the longest time spent procrastinating by thinking about pointless world records goes to: