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King of the punsters?

May 4, 2018

Edwin Newman was a broadcast journalist who began his career in the wire services before transitioning to radio and eventually to television. He may have also been one of the greatest punsters of all time. This is frequently attributed to him. I reproduce it here for your dubious benefit and with no apologies for the pain it may cause. I should note, it does require some familiarity with the 1970s.

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“Out walking the dog,” he said, “looking for the old familiar feces.”

“Your shoes are wet,” she observed.

“Naturally,” he said, “nobody knows the puddles I’ve seen. That is why I am standing on these newspapers. These are the Times that dry men’s soles.” He took off his jacket and tossed it aside. “This”, he said, “is so sodden.”

“I’ll never forget the time they brought you in frozen stiff,” she said,

“I was afraid you’d never come out of it.”

He shrugged. “I thawed, therefore I am.”

“I believe the dog has distemper or worms or something,” she said.

“Maybe so,” he replied, “but his bark is worse than his blight. By the way, I’m thinking of giving him to the Longshoremen’s Union as a mascot.”

“What kind of dog do they want?”

“A dockshund.”

“I’m lonely,” she said, and pointed to a button she was wearing that bore the words “Kiss me. I’m Irish.”

“I’m hungry,” he said. Quiche me. I’m French.”

She gave him instead a pastry consisting of thin layers of puff paste interlaid with a cream filling. He cut off a corner and ate it. “Very good,” he said. “Also the first square mille feuille I’ve had all day.”

“Your French is getting better, she said. “I can remember when you thought the French for throw out the bag was cul-de-sac.”

“O solecism mio,” he said. “And I can remember when you thought a porte-cochere was the entrance to a Jewish restaurant.”

There was a moment’s pause. Then:

“I had an apprentice French hairdresser once,” she said.

“What did he have to say for himself?”

“Je ne sais coif.”

“Having a man around the house does make a vas deferens,” she continued.

“And a woman around, too,” he said gallantly. “You’re a wonderful housekeeper. You keep everything polished.”

“Maybe so,” she said, “but I wish I could chamois like my sister Kate.

I meant to ask you, did you watch the space shot at the office?”

“No,” he replied, “To me the space program is a mere shirrade. I decided to go to a movie instead, the one in which Montgomery Clift plays the founder of psychoanalysis.”

“What was his name again?”

“Pretty Boy Freud.”

“I notice that in the early days of photography he had his picture taken with his coat on and looking furtive. Any idea why?”

“He must have been a cloak and daguerreotype.”

She changed the subject. “I’m glad we’re out of Vietnam.”

“So am I. It was time to let Saigon be Saigon’s.”

“What do you make of the situation between the Russians and the Chinese?” she asked.

“Dogma eat dogma”.

“You said a Maouthful.”

“Tell me, how was your trip to Washington?”

“All right,” she said, “but the taxi driver insisted on talking. I felt that I was a cabtive audience.”

“What was it you had to do there?”

“Deliver two messages.”

“To whom?” he asked.

“One was to the junior senator from Mississippi.”

“Any trouble?”

“No. I was directed to a room where the Armed Services Committee was meeting, and I simply went in and asked, `Stennis, anyone?'”.

“What was the message, by the way?”

“Just what you’d wish on any politician during the festive season: a Merry Charisma and a Happy New Year.”

“And the other?” he asked.

“That was more difficult,” she said. “The nonferrous metals industry was holding a meeting and I had to find the one ferrous metals man who was there. Luckily I was able to go into the ladies’ room and say,

`Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the ferrous one of all?'”

“Any luck?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” she said.

“What did you do about lunch?” he wanted to know.

“I had Chinese,” she said.

“Not Korean?”

“No, though I do like Seoul food.”

“Was the Chinese any good?”

“Not really. I sent back the soup.”

“Any reason?”

“I told the waiter it had been tried and found Won Ton.”

“You’ve done better.”

“When?”

“That cold day at the Four Seasons when you didn’t like the cooking and you told the head waiter, `Now is the winter of our discontent.’ But what happened after you sent back the Won Ton?”

“They brought me some consommi.”

“How was it?”

“Much better. It was a consommi devoutly to be wished.”

“I’d like to have a Chinese meal in Alaska someday,” he said musingly.

“Why is that?”

“I’d like to try lo mein on a totem pole.”

She was lost in thought for a moment, then blushed lightly. “I don’t think I’ve every told you that I originally intended to marry a clergyman.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Because,” she said, humming softly, “I picked a layman in the garden of love when I found you.”

I was his turn to hum.

“What are you humming?” she asked.

“The volcano’s torch song,” he said. “Lava, come back to me.”

She pouted.

“This time of year seems to bring out the worst in you.” he said.

“I know,” she replied. “I’m often jejune in January.”

“Sometimes I think you’ve never got over your regret at not being born a blond.”

“Not quite true. Actually, I dream a genealogy with the light brown hair. Wasn’t it a shame about Father O’Reilly being mugged the other night after the ecumenical meeting?”

“He can’t say he wasn’t warned. Rabbi Goldstein was most explicit.”

“What did he say?”

“Do not go, gentile, into the good night.”

“And that did not stop Father O’Reilly?”

“I’m afraid not. He left without further adieu.”

“Do they know who did it?”

“No, but they do know that the muggers were young and were laughing as they left.”

“Jubilant delinquents?”

“Exactly.”

“I bought a book of British seafood recipes today.”

“May I guess the title?”

“Please.”

“What Hath Cod Wrought?”

“No. It’s Cod et Mon Droit.”

“By the way, the cod war between Britain and Iceland did end, did it not?”

“Yes, it was followed by the cod peace.”

A sweet voice came from the kitchen. “Would you like some tea, Daddy?”

“Yes, my darjeeling daughter.” He turned back. “She sounds so sad these days. You’d think a girl pretty enough to be a model would be happy.”

“It’s the modeling that’s done it. It’s turned her into a mannequin-depressive.”

The sweet voice rose in anger. “It isn’t. It’s these hot, cross puns.

Will you two ever stop?”

They did.

Like I said, no apologies.

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