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Benjy Gore's Joke Reasoning Test

1) Larry Gore, speaking of his wife: "In Selma's kitchen you can eat off the floor - that's where all the food is."

The logic at the core of the above joke is most closely paralleled in which of the following?

(A) "My father never raised his hand to any one of his children - except in self-defense" - Fred Allen

(B) "Joe Bowers was a huge, good-natured, flax-headed lubber; lazy, sentimental, full of harmless brag, a grumbler by nature; an experienced, industrious, ambitious, and often quite picturesque liar, and yet not a successful one, for he had had no intelligent training, but was allowed to come up just any way." - Mark Twain

(C) "It was a European club, and I was on with weird Greenwich Village acts: Myself; an Eskimo vocalist who sang "Night and Day" six months at a time..." - Woody Allen

(D) "He is a writer for the ages - the ages four to eight." - Dorothy Parker

(E) "The Buddha Project, a convocation of scholars meeting at Cambridge University, has judged all the evidence regarding the life of Buddha, subjecting it to the rigorous standards of modern historical scholarship, and has issued its findings. Announced Professor Lipidus, 'Oh, sure, there are plenty of stories about what Buddha supposedly preached and what "miracles" he performed, but all we really know for certain about Buddha is that he had a cholesterol level of 2,654,000, which was a bit high, but his HDLs, the "good cholesterol", were 602,600, and so his risk for heart attack was really much lower than you would have thought to look at him.'" - Benjy Gore

ANSWER: The problem's joke begins with words that are readily taken to be a compliment - "In Selma's kitchen you can eat off the floor" - but the next phrase - "that's where all the food is" - forces a reinterpretation of the very same words and turns the entire line into an insult. In the same way, answer choice (D) begins with a phrase readily taken to be a compliment - "He is a writer for the ages" - and the rest of the line - "the ages of four to eight" - forces a reinterpretation of the first phrase and turns the entire line into an insult, and so (D) is the credited response. The joke at my mother's expense was said with affection, and presumably Dorothy Parker's line was not, but there you are.
(A) begins with a compliment, but what follows does not turn it into an insult, rather, the second phrase hurls an insult at a different subject, the children. This joke's topic relates to family members, as does the problem's joke, however, the question asks not about the jokes' topics but their logic.
In (B), "liar" and the adjectives that precede and modify it form a compliment - in itself funny - but the core of this terrific joke is in Twain's directing the humor toward himself for having such an odd idea of what good parenting requires.
If there is a compliment in (C) it is not turned into an insult, Right? Please don't ask me to analyze this joke any further; if I did I'd never again enjoy it as much.
If you can make any sense at all of (E) or any other joke that I've written and posted to, please explain it to me. I'd be very grateful.

by Benjamin Gore

©Copyright 2004 Benjamin Gore, all rights reserved. From

The Tuppenny Times Correction Page

by Benjamin Gore | December 17, 2002

Our chi-chi film critic has regularly dismissed the humor in Steve Martin's movie, "The Man with Two Brains" as being silly and inane, as if Mr. Martin had been operating at some trifling level of comedy.

Surely, if our critic were not such a snarky little ponce, he would have written of this peak in comedy that it was the great might of Steve Martin's wit that created its powerfully hard hitting jokes, often leaving no trace of any formula by which Martin could have arrived at a joke, and many times leaving you utterly unable to explain why a thing struck you as being so extremely funny.

Perhaps critics exalt much inferior kinds of humor as being at the highest levels of wit, because these inferior sorts of humor are not so very, very far out of their own trifling wits' reach.

— —

We have fallen into the most wicked habit of mendaciously referring to Conan O'Brien as being clever, fresh and witty, while all but ignoring his rival, Reg Tinniswood, who is at times these very things. A thousand apologies. We, with this corrected text, do make amends:

"Conan O'Brien fans consider TBS's daily production of his television show to be just the right schedule. Others speculate that just one Conan O'Brien Show a week would be optimal. And yet others, no doubt with the exciting research concerning primitive diets and colon health in mind, would have TBS produce three of his shows a day, emulating the members of a most primitive Amazonian tribe, each of whom produces one Conan O'Brien Show for each and every meal he eats."

— —

Jim Carrey is an abundantly talented comedian, but our reviewer merely mistyped, you see, when he inadvertently lavished praise on his last dramatic film, "The Majestic."

What our reviewer meant to type was, "Look, I'm not an attorney, but Jim Carrey just might have a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the dart with which he has been choosing his dramatic scripts."

— —

We recently ran our usual story on the recipients of the MacArthur "genius" grants, with their predictable expressions of gratitude and promises of even greater work to come. How delightful it would have been had we run what follows!

"We reached an astounded Benjy Gore, the correction artist, who said upon absorbing the news of his MacArthur grant, 'Thank you, MacArthur Foundation, for your most generous and urgently needed award. This will free up my time, I will have more free time.'

Path breaking cancer researcher Dr. Quaint Irene exulted, 'Thank you, MacArthur Foundation, thank you, thank you, thank you! The average person has absolutely no idea of the spirit crushing, soul annihilating tedium that goes by the name of "path breaking cancer research." And the people with whom I have to work, with their morbid obsession with morbidity! Thank God for this foundation! Now I can cease doing research! If I never again discover a substance that can be easily extracted from an abundant natural herbal source and that will cure half of all childhood cancers, it will be TOO...BLOODY...SOON!'"

— —

You were no doubt wondering why that big blank space was in yesterday's issue. Actually, we meant to run this paragraph:

"The Buddha Project, a convocation of scholars meeting at Cambridge University, has judged all the evidence regarding the life of Buddha, subjecting it to the rigorous standards of modern historical scholarship, and has issued its findings. Announced Professor Lipidus, 'Oh, sure, there are plenty of stories about what Buddha supposedly preached and what "miracles" he performed, but all we really know for certain about Buddha is that he had a cholesterol level of 2,654,000, which was a bit high, but his HDLs, the "good cholesterol" were 602,600, and so his risk for heart attack was really much lower than you would have thought to look at him.'"

— —

Just like Buddha, I really love Chinese food, and it was while waiting to be brought my Lion Head Soup that I noticed the jade and ivory adorned Time Machine standing in the corner. I rose, walked over to it, entered, and then flew forward through the barrier of time.

A man of the future greeted me. "What year is this?" I asked.

"You can deduce that for yourself, oh Sherlockian One! 20 years ago was born the second man who ever wanted to see a movie made about the very minor comedic talent, Andy Kaufman."

"My God, this is the year 26,820 AD?!! Just as I predicted long ago, before you were born!" We laughed and laughed, and we talked about this and that, and then...I suddenly found myself at pretty much the exact time from which I started.

That's right. I went to the Chinese restaurant and traveled through time, but an hour later it was an hour later. <<

©Copyright 2002 Benjamin Gore, all rights reserved. From

Postcards from Prison 1, 2, 3 and 4 were originally posted to the web on January 27, 2003. I have since changed the Postcards' order, some of the names, and I have done some minor editing. That so many who have known me have read these Postcards and mistakenly thought that I myself must surely have been imprisoned I take as a tribute and as a confirmation that my efforts at literary realism have met with success. So here it is, Postcards from Prison, a testament to the indominability of the human spirit, an inspiration to all my fellow creatures who find themselves thus ensconced.

Postcards from Prison 1
by Benjamin Gore

Dear Kingsley,
I simply CANNOT rave enough about the new warden!

His bubbly idealism! His refreshing and infectious faith in the bright promise of this penitentiary! His cheerfully defiant refusal to accept second best, not only from himself but from all those here rotting away on Death Row or serving multiple life sentences - I am so THRILLED to be part of it all!

Yes, Kingsley, I am just giddy with every hope and expectation that Warden Leo McKern will, in time, lift this sleepy little prison into the very front ranks of hoosegows and slammers, making it an exemplar for hell-holes everywhere!

Now, if only he'd do something about that bully, Flashman.

Anyway, the good Warden, so that he might better know each and every one of us, is having us fill out a gently probing questionnaire. In it he queries, "What makes YOU YOU-nique? Get it?"

Yeah, I get it. What makes ME ME-nique? Hmmm...What makes me different from anyone else who has ever lived or will ever live in this or any other universe?

Oh, that's easy. I would like to have Gilbert Gottfried for a friend.

Dear George A. Coe
Did you miss a helluva trial! Mine!

I was hilariously represented by Mr. Horace Rumpole, surely the greatest wag at the English bar. His side-splitting japes, droll cross-examinations and witty asides left me in stitches, and in prison for the rest of my life.

Dear Professor D. L. W. Fahrquar,
The wondrous things a fellow can find rooting around our cozy little library! Behold this little gem.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli reported to his sovereign, Queen Victoria. 'Larry, Duke of the Bronx, has just returned from the East, Ma'am, having intrepidly traversed Near and Middle Asia, from Al-Qardahah on the Mediterranean to Zyryanovsk at the foot of the Altai Mountains. He tells of a great variety in custom and religious practice, but, still, the Duke notes an essential cultural unity that, he says, gives common definition to all the many proud peoples of this vast region.

'And so, Your Majesty, I have decided to give this entire territory but one name, "Wipe My Ass With My Handi Stan."'

'Capital idea!' rejoiced Queen Victoria. '"Wipe Our Ass With Our Handi Stan!" Jolly good show, Dizzy!'"

Dear Anne,
I've made a lot of good friends here and have learned even more from the other prisoners than I had ever hoped, but, jeez, I just have to get on with my life, already. So I was happy to hear from Folsom Prison, which had speedily approved my application for transfer.

I was delighted to hear from Alcatraz.

Warden Ronny Hollander has very kindly written to say that while he and the committee have not yet decided to accept me, they have not rejected me, either, and would very much like me to send them any further information about myself and my crimes that would help them make their decision. Reading between the lines, I just may be picking up where the Bird Man left off.

Of course, mon rêve is to be accepted by The Black Hole of Calcutta for its 28-year combined undergraduate and graduate program leading to an advanced degree in Aromatherapy. If I were to somehow make it through there, and nobody in its glorious 840 year history ever has, I would then be able to practice in any high security lock-up in the world, including the deepest dungeon of La Bastille, with all its glamour and romance. I know that if I give the maître d' there a handsome tip, he will clap his hands and have me hung up on a wall and shackled to it, right next to Edith Piaf.

With all my best wishes,
Benjy of Green Gables Prison

©Copyright 2003 Benjamin Gore, all rights reserved. From
Postcards from Prison 2
by Benjamin Gore

Dear Dr. John Mortimer,
As you may or may not know, homeopathy utilizes extremely minute concentrations of an active substance to achieve its therapeutic results, with ever more dilute mixtures achieving, paradoxically, ever greater effects.

We felons are fortunate to number among us the great Dr. De Minimus, who says he can cure just about anything with homeopathic doses of comedy.

For very serious cases, he uses the writings of Calvin Trillin.

For cases that are so desperate that even establishment physicians decide they would rather not bother prescribing their useless therapies and operations, De Minimus doses with recordings of Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" radio show.

Bill Sykes, my dear friend and colleague, a normally placid and even-tempered gent, was beside himself with disbelief. "Garrison Keillor?! He has never ever said anything even the SLIGHTest bit funny!"

"That's right! That's absolutely right!!" De Minimus exultantly replied. Far from being defensive, he was alit with a righteous fire, positively proud and defiant. "We analyzed every single show Keillor ever did, and we did not find even ONE SINGLE PARTICLE OF WIT!...But his shows have the molecular memory of 'Car 54, Where Are You?'!"

Dear Mom,
Send me a low cholesterol cake with a file in it. The file will be an excellent source of an array of trace minerals that are oh so important to proper heart function. While you're at it, throw in a second file. I can trade it for cigarettes.

My dear Jenkins,
I have decided to file my own appeal, so I will need a good LSAT tutor. It is through a well balanced set of four tastefully selected logic games to be done in 35 minutes that I will evoke the mercy of the fine, sensitive eminento who will be my Grand Inquisitor.

If that does not work, I will recite a haiku involving parallel reasoning. This would certainly doom my chances for freedom, but it just might bring a tear to the distinguished Spanish gentleman's eye.

Dear Jim Dixon,
Why am I in prison for the rest of my life?

Well, I can't say it's for any glamorous or romantic reason. You see, there is a big ol' iron lock on the door of my cell, armed guards patrolling outside it, and a sixty foot high concrete wall surrounding the prison.

That's funny, I thought you knew.

Dear Diana,
As you well know, the pride of this prison is The Cube, a special cell measuring three feet by three feet by three feet. I spent the weeks before I was to betake myself into The Cube in serene and blissful contemplation of its classical symmetry. I was as one who is in a reverie, as would be anyone as well grounded as I in the aesthetics of the ancient Greeks.

However, this dreamlike state began to fade just a wee bit a few weeks after I was shoved into that living hell, in which I could not even straighten myself out, let alone stand up, and was given nothing but one bucket into which all my excreta were to go. Just ONE bucket! ALL my wastes - REGARDLESS of the source - into JUST ONE bucket!...which the five Yale lawyers in the next cell now tell me violates a right they just found that had been napping all this time in the penumbra of the relevant Old Testament case law.

Well, Diana, I know you are really high on this prison and so excited about coming here this fall, but I have been asked to tell you that you will not be able to enter The Cube right away, but will have to wait a year just like everyone else, because the prison is no longer granting credit for work done in Advanced Placement courses.

With all my best wishes,
Benjy of Green Gables Prison

©Copyright 2003 Benjamin Gore, all rights reserved. From
Postcards from Prison 3
by Benjamin Gore

Dear Dilys,
Yes, I have come to greatly admire the Master of the Rack, who currently holds the Lucasian Chair of Torture - that's the same one Isaac Newton held.

No, the Master of the Rack is not trying to win any popularity contests. He is not one to pander, telling jokes and pretending to be your best friend. Rather, it is his total and subtle command of the instrument that inspires first respect, and then affectionate regard. Believe me, he doesn't just phone it in.

Some, mistaking his taciturnity for indifference, think he would be more effective were he not so frugal with his commentary and explanations. However, I always knew that if I were to form a question that showed I had put some thought into what I was asking, I would be given an answer that was pertinent, helpful and edifying. Even so, I never did quite get around to putting any question to him at all, for fear that anything I might ask would give away my absolutely total and complete ignorance as to how to cope with the hellacious agony SCREAMING from every joint of my frame as he nimbly demonstrated his time honored art. And rather than propose that he crank just a bit more softly, I affected an air of insouciance, ostensibly directing my attention to the bucolic tableau to be seen through the window, as I looked to all the world, I suppose, like one dreamily contemplating the pleasures of rusticity.

I dare say my little charade must have worked, because the Master of the Rack never did stop giggling - not even once - during my entire six-month pupilage.

Dear Miss MacEwan,
I'm sure you would like to know about some of the other chaps in here with whom I serve.

Claudius has a soul as damned and black as hell whereto it goes. Richard is a wretched, bloody and usurping boar. Robert, the dirty coward who killed Mr. Howard, is lower than a snake's belly in a wagon trough.

You know, Miss MacEwan, my kindred spirits aren't as scarce as I used to think.

Dear Gilbert Gottfried,
This morning I awoke, as usual, to the scurrying of rats across my body. This always makes me a little angry. Warden McKern is a good man, but if he had told me when I first enrolled in this prison that I would have an endless supply of free range vermin, I never would have signed up for the meal plan.

But...maybe the warden could not have done otherwise. Was there any way for him to tell me of the natural abundance of these wholesome rats, raised free of antibiotics and synthetic hormones, without the other health fanatics here finding out, leading to the decimation of the indigenous rat population?

Where the heck is John Nash when you need him?

Dear John Nash,
First, let me tell you something about myself.

I really exist.

Now let me get right to the point.

I am guessing that Sylvia Nasser will be receiving a "profit" statement from the producers of "A Beautiful Mind" for the use of the title (and apparently little else) of her book, and that this will include "costs" deducted from revenue.

Assume that the accounting for the movie is typical for Hollywood. My problem for you is this: If {the interest on the overhead1 on the interest on the overhead2...on the interest on the overheadk}= A, solve for (k-1). Explain.

Would this result change if the screenwriter had not put in all that dishonest and sappy stuff? Discuss.

Can the above formula be generalized to cover all Hollywood screwings? Keep talking to yourself.

I wish I didn't have to tell you this, but today is just the first day of the rest of our hell on earth.

Look, you're the Emperor of Antarctica, and I'm the Hall Monitor of the Five Towns. I have an elegant and classy proof of this, but it' s too big to write in the margin of our grip on reality.

With all my best wishes,
Benjy of Green Gables Prison

©Copyright 2003 Benjamin Gore, all rights reserved. From
Postcards from Prison 4
by Benjamin Gore

Dear Mr. Clemens,
I now gaze upon a picture of my 2nd grade class. How I would love to say that every girl and boy in it ended up dead or in prison! But, alas!...I was the only one to turn out really, really bad.

There stands Mrs. Perilla! She was just one of the many outstanding teachers it was my great fortune to have at good old P.S. No. 3 School.

She tried to teach me right from wrong!...but if she hadn't already had tenure, I think she would have tried harder, which is why I am now for school choice.

Dear Phyllida,
Within these stone cold, pitiless prison walls, I hear songs of desperation and despair, and none sing it so lonesome as does Merrick Avenue Moe.

He sings of heartless women, endless whiskey drinking, endless gin drinking, and...well, a real lot about drinking. I think he might have been a bartender - before rot gut whiskey and a no good woman done caused his heart to bleed, that is.

And some nights after lights out, I lie in my cell and hear him moan his blues - blues of the lonesome road and the cruel, cruel world, and I just wish, I just wish...I just wish he'd put a goddamn cork in it, already. I'm trying to sleep. Besides, I have my own problems. I don't need to hear about his problems. I'm in prison for the rest of my life.

Hey, Moe, maybe you wouldn't have "dem ol' diabetin', pants wettin', livva dyin' blues" if you hadn't been "droppin' bourbon in the Bosco, ouzo in the Ovaltine." Why don't you try writing an upbeat tune and singing about wheatgrass with some milk thistle and boldo thrown in? Maybe then you wouldn't look 103.

Really, Moe, I want to help. Instead of your incessant keening, why don't you just tell all your troubles to our fabulous new chaplain, Father Notorious?

Dear Senator John McCain,
The truth be told, some of the people here are not of the very highest integrity. It pains me to say it, but a few of the guards take far too lightly their oaths of confidentiality, cutting all too close to the quick of the screw-prisoner alliance that is so vital to all that we aim to achieve here.

Well, the resourcefulness of the inmates here will amaze you. Naturally, we now and then like to have a discussion beyond the prying ears of these undependable "guards," and so we have developed a very simple code using taps upon the bars of our cells.

One tap means "Explorers have found an Esquimeau they call Marlon Brandeau, who has 17 different names for 'Fettuccini Alfredo.'"

Two taps means, "Did you know that animals can smell the fear that Reality Television won't go away?"

Three taps means, "Tonight, I am going to order the man-eating lion entree. It tastes just like chicken."

Using unique combinations of just these three taps sets, we can discuss matters of every conceivable sort, from the most simple and concrete to the very Frenchiest of metaphysical abstractions.

It's easy. For instance, if I want to say "YES," that's just 163,478,836 taps. If I want to say "NO," that's just 48,235,225,470,803,403 taps. If I want to say "MAYBE,"......well......I try not to say "MAYBE."

With all my best wishes,
Benjy of Green Gables Prison

©Copyright 2003 Benjamin Gore, all rights reserved. From

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