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Who’s picking up the Czech?

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Nothing like a little humor to make your day. Good humor travels with the greatest of alacrity these days, which means that happening upon a fresh collection of humor is soon gone with the wind.

In the olden times, the bards were the purveyors and distributors of humor. Then along came the printing press, which led to widespread distribution of musings by humorists like Mark Twain, for example.

Radio was next, and there were many who were given to imparting wisdom on the air. But what gave humor its greatest “legs” was the telephone. People, even today, enjoy gossiping on the phone. Somebody tells you a good story, and you can’t wait to dial up a friend and share a good punch line.

If I hear something really good, I am likely to call Whispering Bill Anderson, the country singer. If the message carries a real zinger of a punch line, Bill will laugh generously and say, “That will be all over the Opry Saturday night, and it won’t be long until it will be all over Nashville.”

Most people, when they hear a new story today, likely put it on the Internet. Sometimes, some stories are recycled over and over. Almost every year, someone sends out the story of a hilarious headline that is supposed to have been concocted by the late Lewis Grizzard when he was working for the Athens Daily News during his college days.

Seems that someone is always recalling Lewis sneaking a bawdy headline into the paper. The story goes that he came home after work and told his fraternity brothers that unless a savvy editor took note, he would have a side-splitting headline in the morning paper.

Only problem — and, unfortunately, Lewis is not here to set the record straight — is that it didn’t happen. That, however, doesn’t keep it from being an interesting and funny story. It contained no four-letter words, but it remains a story that can’t be repeated in a daily paper, not even in these risqué times.

I have found, over the years, the best stories are the ones that are true. And, as always, the spinning of the tale is vitally important-as in some people can tell a joke and some can’t. I can’t imagine Jerry Clower changing his script over the years.

Every time I go to the Grand Ole Opry, Little Jimmy Dickens seems to tell the same stories over and over again. Why not? The audience keeps changing, which means he doesn’t have to change his stories.

You don’t hear a lot of traveling salesman jokes any more. There are plenty of blonde jokes, and there will always be lawyer jokes galore. One of the best lawyer jokes came to me the other day from my best friend growing up — Hodges Rowland in Wrightsville.

Seems that this wealthy lawyer vacationed in the backwoods of Maine each summer and often invited friends to visit. One summer, he invited a lawyer from the Czech Republic. They had a wonderful time as the American lawyer showed his Czech friend the beautiful outdoor setting in Maine.

One day while they were exploring, they came upon two big bears, a male and a female. The host lawyer ran for cover, but the male bear approached the Czech and swallowed him whole. The lawyer ran and got the sheriff who grabbed his high-powered rifle and raced to where the bears were. “That’s him,” the lawyer exclaimed as he pointed out the male bear who had swallowed his friend. “Maybe there is time to save my friend.”

With that, the sheriff took aim and shot the female, which prompted the lawyer to exclaim, “Why did you shoot the female bear? I said he was in the other bear.”

“Exactly,” replied the sheriff. “Would you believe a lawyer who told you the Czech was in the male?”

Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.