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CBS (ended 1967)

There's No Escaping Your Pun-ishment

  • Avatar of agent_0042

    agent_0042

    [1]Jun 5, 2008
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    Bennett Cerf's Treasury of Atrocious Puns is a book, that according to its jacket features "Here, in one awe-inspiring volume... all the puns Mr. Cerf has hoarded over the years." Whether or not this book really contains all of Mr. Cerf's infamous puns is doubtful, but no doubt this book, coming in at 123 pages and 19 chapters, contains as near to all of Mr. Cerf's puns that one could ever hope for (or hope dearly against.) The book comes "With Illustrations by Michael K. Frith." Frith was the former Executive Vice President and Creative Director for Jim Henson Productions and later co-founded Sirius Thinking Ltd. along with Bennett Cerf's son (the company founded the program Between the Lions, which in explaining the title, show executive producer Judith Stoia explained "Every good idea begins with a bad pun" -- crediting the line to Christopher Cerf.) The illustrations (there are sixteen total) are, by the way, quite excellent and several of them feature an amusing caricature of the pun-dit himself. The book jacket goes on to note of the puns "...Many never have appeared in print before. Dozens should never have appeared in print at all. But there always will be somebody to chuckle wholeheartedly at the very worst of them-- as long as Mr. Cerf is around, at any rate." And, in fact, there are still plenty of people to chuckle at them well after Mr. Cerf has passed on. On a similar note, Mr. Cerf comments in his opening chapter ("A Thumbnail History of Punmanship" -- almost all of the chapter titles are, in fact, puns themselves) on the durability of puns noting that "a pun that is priceless in 1969 may be utterly worthless a year later." Yet I'd say that at least 85% of the puns in the book should be understandable to today's readers without any special effort necessary. Some of the more notable puns from the book I specifically recall having heard on the program: - "A horse of a different cruller" - a pun first inflicted on Episode #767 that Bennett was so enamored with that he recycled it on Episode #851. - "Mr. Oppornokity" - the spelling of whose name we now know thanks to Bennett's book. Recited for our amusement (or annoyance) on Episode #831 - "Rudolf the Red Knows Rain, Dear" -- a pun with a holiday theme brought to us on Episode #692 Those who think they can bear it can find any of a number of used copies of the book on Amazon.com. I personally checked it out from the library after spotting a co-worker reading it. One other thing of note -- though "Mr. Daly" is implicated in all three puns when they're presented on the program, the only one actually referencing him in the book is the "horse of a different cruller" pun.
    Edited on 06/06/2008 11:55pm
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  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [2]Jun 7, 2008
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    Wow, that's a nice review of the book, agent_0042!

    I see that Bennett Cerf has his own page at "Pun of the Day"

    http://www.punoftheday.com/bennet-cerf.html

    There is a search feature to "Search over 2,500 puns"

    If the puns are like Bennett's puns, one a day is all we can take!

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  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [3]Jun 7, 2008
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    Good thing Bennett never used this one (below) on WML? or he'd have been hissed off the stage. I guess the "joke" is that there is no joke at all? Or maybe I'm missing something?

    From: Bennett Cerf's Book of Riddles (1960)

    Question: What is big and red and eats rocks?

    Answer: A big red rock eater.

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  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [4]Jun 7, 2008
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    With apologies to Douglas Fairbanks -- here is a Bennett Cerf pun:

    All the puppies in an Alaskan city recently were expelled.

    Ever since, it's been known as Dogless Fairbanks.

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    astorino

    [5]Jun 7, 2008
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    One more by Bennett Cerf!

    A celebrated swami had a cousin who, understandably enough, was a whirling dervish in the Ringling Circus. One day an uncommonly handsome damsel picked up this dervish and took him out for a row on the lake in Central Park. Suddenly the boat tilted, and the damsel quavered to her companion, "I'm afraid I've lost my oar, Derv."

    Edited on 06/07/2008 12:22am
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  • Avatar of agent_0042

    agent_0042

    [6]Jun 8, 2008
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    astorino wrote:
    If the puns are like Bennett's puns, one a day is all we can take!

    Heh. Unless one is reading that book and does eventually have to return it to the library, eh?

    astorino wrote:


    Good thing Bennett never used this one (below) on WML? or he'd have been hissed off the stage. I guess the "joke" is that there is no joke at all? Or maybe I'm missing something?

    From: Bennett Cerf's Book of Riddles (1960)

    Question: What is big and red and eats rocks?

    Answer: A big red rock eater.

    No, you're not missing anything at all. This is about as low a form of humor as you can get, but it does pop up from time to time. Here's another from the Treasury book that wasn't all that much better:

    Do you get fur from skunks?
    Yeah, you get as fur as you can!


    I think I may have seen the "oar, Derv" joke in that book as well. I mentioned before that almost all of the chapter titles were puns. Here were a couple others - "When Punsters Get Verse" and "Crime and Pun-ishment." There were also "Daffynitions" -- a few of which may have actually fitted quite nicely into Jeff Foxworthy's popular Redneck Dictionary series of books.
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    stopettearoma

    [7]Jun 8, 2008
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    You all realize, don't you, that Bennett didn't create many of these puns? He made it known in the literary scene and in his social circles that he wanted to use other people's puns, and they provided them. Gil Fates used the polite euphemism "cadged" to describe how Bennett got the goods. I know of just one person who has admitted giving Bennett material. He's a retired CBS news producer named Marlin Swing, who is 83 years old today. He was more friendly with Dorothy Kilgallen than with Bennett, but Marlin's employment at CBS allowed him to attend many What's My Line? broadcasts where he became friendly enough with Bennett to give him some stuff. I did not ask Mr. Swing whether he thinks Bennett Cerf stole anything. He's 83.

    I hope Bennett was more innocent than Milton Berle, who was notorious (over a period of many decades) for stealing other comedians' jokes. You can hear him joking about his bad reputation for doing that on the October 17, 1965 episode where he's a panelist. Bennett is there but he does not participate in or react to the joke. Dorothy laughs, apparently understanding the joke without explaining it. You won't get the joke unless you know in advance that Mr. Berle did that so many times.

    I am told that many of today's super comics who get their own HBO specials visit comedy clubs to listen to poor, aspiring comics and then steal stuff. If the comic who loses out tries to copyright his/her stuff, he/she would have to pay a separate 50-dollar fee (to the U.S. Copyright Office in DC) for each joke. That gets expensive. Is it any wonder that the most successful comics, such as Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy, impersonate others and fake accents so well? That can't get stolen.

    Edited on 06/08/2008 9:57pm
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  • Avatar of agent_0042

    agent_0042

    [8]Jun 9, 2008
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    Oh, I think we're well aware that a fair bit of it isn't original material -- though some of it could only be his. You make a good point that a large portion of it is in the presentation -- it doesn't matter whose material it is if you can't present it worth a dime.
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  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [9]Jun 10, 2008
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    Does Bennett credit the "other authors" in the books?
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  • Avatar of agent_0042

    agent_0042

    [10]Jun 11, 2008
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    Sometimes, I think. Of course, as we know, part of the game is sometimes crediting material to people who didn't come up with it.
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