What makes me laugh on Monday

Dropped into my ear whilst innocently whiling away a dull Monday afternoon with a random Bob & Ray show from 1949, in which a station staffer walks in with some junk he wants the guys to try and sell for him on-air:

“Ooh, a vibrator!” Ray exclaims with what can only be described as pure childlike eagerness. “I’d love to have one!”


Turns out – mercifully, only a few seconds later – that it’s a barbershop gadget for foaming up the shaving cream.

Of course, natural language drift over time makes for all sorts of incidental fun like this – it’s the same process that’s seen a 1950’s Batman comic in which the Joker starts a ‘boner war’ beloved of myriad modern meme-smiths – but as per standard, with these two things get complicated real fast.

It obviously wasn’t totally ingenuous…as for instance the ‘tiny tin teddy bear’ incident, in which the hifalutin accent Bob’s using transforms the phrase to something like ‘tiny tin tetty…’ only with a vowel swap that can’t be made here on account of this being a family blog, if the drift is clear. The entire studio erupts in giggles, and Bob repeats, archly, “Tiny tin tetty bear…and I’m the only one who’s allowed to say that.”

Other times, it’s just ambiguous enough that one starts wondering if their biggest joke of all wasn’t pulled on the listeners they convinced of their ‘innocence’. Thus Bob – the slight, softspoken one, if you’ll recall – trying to sell a shipment of mismatched dinner plates at the Overstocked Warehouse: “Be gay! Be mad! Be modern!” This was reprinted in a script collection as late as 1985.

And then there’s Ray…again…in a 1973 Word Wizard skit after Bob suggests ‘plunging straight into the mail’: “Male and female serve only to differentialize one type of living creature from another. Now, undoubtedly some male members of the animal kingdom would be softer, say, to plunge into than others; but in any coincidence, the act of literally plunging into the male would in all probabilitiness be injureful!”

…Now, I firmly believe that that one had to do with, uh, swords or something. I really do. If for no other reason than it allows me to cherish a mental image of Ray wondering why his teenage children were looking at him funny all through supper that night.


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