Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Laughs of the Titans

A newly discovered ancient Greek joke book called Philogelos: The Laugh Addict contains a premise eerily similar to Monty Python’s famous parrot sketch. But while the Pythons found humor in John Cleese returning a parrot to a pet shop because it was sold as a corpse nailed to its perch, the ancient comedy duo of Hierocles and Philagrius created a scene wherein a man returns a dead slave to the slave trader. Ah, slavery. Is there anything about it that isn’t funny? It’s sort of amazing how similar these old jokes are to the kind we tell today, only with a horrible twist of contemporary Greek society. Take the one about the dunce sent to fetch two fifteen-year-old slaves. “No problem,” he says. “If I don’t find two fifteen-year-olds, I’ll get one thirty-year-old.” Hilarious. Unfortunately, not all the jokes in The Laugh Addict are as easily relatable these days. There are several sexy zingers about lettuce, for example, which only make sense when you consider the ancient Greeks thought lettuce was an aphrodisiac. Actually, that still doesn’t make any sense. More details here.

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