I shall endeavor to be brief, lest I submerge my intention in extraneous superfluity. (I fear that my continued reading of Les Miserables has infected my writing style with the revered Monsieur Hugo’s signature flowerliness.)
My solitary purpose herein is to delineate a specific genre of joke, a delightful example of which – which I shall introduce in due course – never fails to enliven my spirits when it materializes spontaneously, and always appreciatively, in my consciousness.
The fortunate few whom the Good Lord has seen fit to bless with comedic capabilities ascribe to the genre to which I was heretofore referring the name…
The “Picture Joke.”
A “Picture Joke” is a form of laughter elicitation in which a skillfully crafted arrangement of words conjures a crystal-clear image in the audience’s mind’s eye, the ensuing merriment incited not by the words themselves, but by the hilarious “picture” they so artfully evoke.
I encountered the joke in question in the early nineteen-sixties on The Ed Sullivan Show, then the showcase arena for the preeminent comedians of the day, and some lesser practitioners as well. The soon to be revealed object of my amusement emerged, sheathed in the quavering tones of Pat Buttram, a perennial “Sad Sack” who attained the peak of his popularity as the bumbling sidekick of B-movie cowboy/warbler Gene Autry, Buttram, that night, venturing a solo turn as a standup comedian. (The man, those of the appropriate age may recall, later resurfaced as the amiably larcenous “Mr. Haney” on Green Acres.)
Pat Buttram, a journeyman comic, delivered his invariably cornponian concoctions in the yodelly timbre of a voice-cracking adolescent. It enhances a comedian’s – or comedienne’s, if that distinguishing terminology is still in service – chances of success, I have learned, if their material reaches the listener’s ear, saturated in a humorous tonality – the proverbial “funny voice” if you will. This joke, I hasten to add that, to me, requires no assistance whatever in attaining its objective.
“To me”, I say, since experience reflects the precarious nature of recommending a favored joke to another, the response to all comedic offerings being wildly and indisputably subjective.
And now, with no further detour or delay, I present for your adjudication this “Picture Joke”, and the perennial object of my unwavering enthusiasm.
Hewing to the hayseed terrain with which he was inextricably identified, Buttram’s “Picture Joke” colorfully describes two identifiably non-urban lovebirds thusly:
“He was so bow-legged and she was so knock-kneed that – and here it comes –
“...when they walked down the street together, they spelled ‘Ox.’”
Do you see it?
And half a century later – or perhaps longer – that “Ox Picture” can still elicit an expansive smile on this humble chronicler’s rapidly aging physiognomy.
Though not originally written that way, this blog post, inexplicably, reads funnier in French.