In 1971 Isaac Asimov published a book of jokes and limericks interspersed with additional anecdotes and suggestions for the best way to tell the jokes. It was called Isaac Asimov’s Treasury of Humor, and like many of the books that Asimov published, I scooped it right up.
There was one joke in it that I found especially memorable, but as Asimov correctly pointed out, it requires a Swedish accent to bring it off properly, and that I cannot do. So I have rarely even attempted to tell that joke. But, I thought, I can always reprint it on my blog, right?
Alas, finding it turned out to be more difficult than I expected, as that 400+ page book contains over 600 entries. Gamely I went through it entry by entry, joke by joke, but to no avail.
Hmm, could my memory of where I saw that joke be wrong? No, because I clearly remembered Asimov’s commentary about needing an accent to bring it off.
Hmmm. Could I have possibly have seen it in the subsequent volume of jokes, Asimov Laughs Again, that was published in 1992 posthumously? No, I was certain it was in the first volume, so I carefully went through the book again.
Still no joy.
Exasperated, I picked up the second volume, with no expectations of success, and to my great surprise there on page 112, entry number 157, was the joke.
Here it is:
It was during the war and Ole Johnson had come back on furlough to his little town in Minnesota. He was an air pilot and had done wonders, and the principal of the local high school thought it might be very nice if Johnson would give a small talk to the students and recount his air adventures.
Johnson was perfectly willing to do so, and there he was on the stage of the auditorium, with red, white, and blue bunting everywhere, and with the eager faces of the high school students listening eagerly.
The talk went swimmingly as Johnson spoke of training and preparation, and finally of air battle.
He said, “At this time I managed to fly far behind enemy lines, but didn’t know it. I thought I was safe and I was even singing a little Swedish folk song, when all of a sudden, out of the clouds, came two Fokkers. I snapped to attention and sent my plane climbing in a wide circle and, descending, I got one of the Fokkers in my sights and shot him down. I then turned to the other Fokker, who was closing fast, when I noticed that three other Fokkers were approaching from the other direction—”
With each repetition of the word Fokker there was increasing hilarity from the students, and it was clear that they were getting out of control.
The principal was equal to the occasion. He rose to his feet, held his arms high for silence, and said, “Students, the Fokker is a German warplane that was first designed by an engineer named Anthony Fokker.” And, turning to the speaker, he said, “Isn’t that correct, Mr. Anderson?”
Anderson looked confused. He said, “Yah, you are right, Mr. Principal, but these Fokkers I was fighting were Messerschmidts.”
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