Dedicated to Irwin James Reif (1915-2001), my dad.
of the qualities I admired my dad for when I was little was his ability
to make people laugh. I grew up in the days of great TV comedians
like Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Red Skelton, and Danny
Thomas. Dad emulated them. He loved to tell jokes. In his pocket he
always carried a card with something like a hundred punchlines on
it, numbered in a list. Idolizing him, I made a card of my own.
I still remember a lot of his jokes.
I loved the ridiculous setups and the surprising, but inevitable,
punchlines. If the punchline was good, a single joke could keep me
laughing uncontrollably for five minutes. I'd finally wind down, but
I'd start up again whenever the line came back to my mind. One joke
could keep me laughing for days.
The jokes dad used to tell are still going
around. He didn't make them up, of course, any more than the people
who tell them today did.
I hear these jokes on the radio. I see them
passed around on the Internet. I still laugh. They're so damned funny!
They're funny because they distill all the absurdity of life itself,
of every day a person spends on earth, into a single line.
Here are some of the jokes my father told,
and some others that have kept me laughing the way his jokes made
me laugh. Welcome to my Hall of Famous Jokes!
Remains Is the Essence", the home pages of Max Reif
Baba, children's stories,
"The Hall of
Famous Jokes", whimsical
prose, paintings, and