Ms. Waxy Dragon here.
Now, instead of telling jokes this weekend, I would like to talk about them.
The question is: "If it is possible to update a joke, should it be?"
I'm not referring to something simple like substituting another animal for the chicken in the infamous crossing the road routine or turning a bar into a coffee shop for the location where something funny allegedly took place, but truly reworking a gag from the past for a more modern audience.
Does it spoil the joke/befoul the classic?
On one hand, you are exposing a whole new generation to humor they have probably never heard before. Yet what about those who know the original? A new version of anything is always going to be compared to the source material, and not always favorably. Just look at all the remakes Hollywood has made over the years that have not held up to the material they were based upon.
So it boils down to: do you or don't you?
Let's look at an example.
"Who's on first?"
Bud Abbot and Lou Costello's classic baseball theme routine is a staple of comedic duos everywhere. A video of the routine is on continuous play at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and Time magazine even named it the Best Comedy Sketch of the 20th Century.
Now let's look at a couple of the more modern retellings.
In an episode of Eight Is Enough, Tom Bradford (Dick Van Patten) tried to teach the routine to his son Nicholas (Adam Rich) for a Father and Son Talent Contest, but the child could never get into it until the father changed the main focus from baseball players to rock groups. So now it was The Who's on first, etc.
Of course, similar takes on this version were also performed on SCTV and by Slappy and Skippy Squirrel at the original Woodstock Music Festival during a segment of Animaniacs.
And somewhere with the Johnny Carson Tonight Show archives, there is a version featuring an attempt to brief then President Ronald Reagan before a meeting with Chinese leader Hu (Who) Yaobang, Yassar (Yes, sir) Arafat, and then Secretary of the Interior James Watt (What).
So, as you can see in this example, it does not necessarily have to be fictitious baseball player nicknames, as long as you use similar sounding substitutes along a common theme.
Now for those interested, there are a couple of different recordings of the Abbot and Costello version amongst the movies One Night In The Tropics (1940) and The Naughty Nineties (1945), as well as a few radio recordings between guest appearances on other programs and their own show.
But you will never find the skit performed exactly the same way twice, for Bud and Lou always tried to keep things fresh.
So what's the answer? Personally, I say never forget the original, but make sure the new rendition is funny too.
Your opinion counts. Just e-mail me in care of The Free Choice e-zine and we can discuss the matter further in a later edition of THE SUNDAY FUNNIES.
And don't forget, next Sunday we celebrate the first annual (Inter)National "Don't Worry" Day!