Category Archives: jokes

Books about, or of, jokes.

Review 156: Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys

Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys by Dave Barry

If you’re reading this, and there’s a good chance that you are, you probably know a guy. You may even be a guy, though the way Barry talks about them, you wouldn’t think that guys would be into book reviews. If you know a guy, then this book is for you – it will illuminate some classic guy behaviors and shine some lights into the dark corners that your rational mind has been unable to penetrate. If you are a guy, then this book is also for you. Guys aren’t famous for their introspection, but perhaps it will allow you to understand why it is your wife and/or girlfriend get so frustrated with you from time to time (hint: it’s not her, it’s you).

This book is a tribute to guys (not men – those people have enough advocates as it is) and the ways in which they live. It’s like a documentary in print, really, giving us a rare glimpse into the lifestyle and habits of the modern guy.

So, what exactly is a guy, then? Well, you’re lucky – Barry has included a self-analysis quiz in the first chapter. For example:

As you grow older, what lost quality of your youthful life do you miss the most?
a. Innocence
b. Idealism
c. Cherry bombs

Complete this sentence: A funeral is a good time to…
a. … remember the deceased and console his loved ones
b. … reflect upon the fleeting transience of earthly life
c. … tell the joke about the guy who has Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

What is the human race’s single greatest achievement?
a. Democracy
b. Religion
c. Remote control

I think you can guess which answers reveal your guyness.

Being a guy means more than just being a man, and in fact there is a very definite difference between men and guys. Men are people we of the male persuasion wish we could be – Superman, Edward R. Murrow, George Clooney. Guys are who most of us turn out to be – Homer Simpson, Bill O’Reilly, Tom Arnold. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s just that as long as we assume that guys will act like men, we’re bound to be disappointed. Guys are terribly misunderstood in modern society despite the very important role they play.

Definitely a guy. (photo by John B. Carnett)

For example: without guys, we wouldn’t have a space program. Don’t believe it? What other type of person would deliberately design a rocket, watch it shoot up and then say, “I wonder if we can make a bigger one?” Guys, that’s who. The Saturn V is a tribute to guyness, as is the space shuttle – an endlessly tinkerable machine that almost never blows up.

Without guys, there would be no professional sports, to say nothing of the parasitic fan industry that has sprung up around sports like a remora. Guys have an undying and unyielding attachment to sports teams – you might see a guy leave his wife of twenty years and the children they raised together, but I’d be willing to bet that he would sooner die than switch his team allegiance from, say, Red Sox to Yankees. The unshakable, irrational dedication of these guys is what keeps modern sports afloat despite scandal and disappointment. Now I’m not a sports fan, I’ll admit, but I can certainly relate – I’ll support NASA until the last breath leaves my body, and no force on earth will ever get me to switch from DC Comics to Marvel, no matter how badly DC messes with the characters that I’ve always loved, the bastards.

I also don’t get to play a part in the endlessly frustrating relationship that exists between guys and women, seeing as how I’m, well, into guys. As a side note, The Boyfriend is also a guy, but less than I am – he cleans, for example. And I don’t mean that he cleans the way a real guy cleans – spray a little, wipe a bit and say, “Good enough.” He actually cleans. Like, every day. I know – weird, isn’t it?

Her: "I wonder what he's thinking about right now...?" Him: "Juuuuust sit right back and you'll hear a tale / a tale of a fateful ship..."

Women and guys will always frustrate each other, you see. Women love to read meaning into every nuance of conversation, every raised eyebrow or dropped word. Women want to know what the guy in their life is thinking. The answer is that he probably isn’t thinking. At least, not about what she would want him to think about – her and the relationship they share. In fact, as Barry takes pains to point out, he may not, technically, be aware that he’s in a relationship at all. You ladies have a lot of work to do if you’re hooked up with a guy.

But before you go thinking that the life of a guy is sweet ignorant bliss, think again. You ladies will never know the pain of the Urinal Dilemma, or the feeling of knowing that, no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to fix anything in your own home – your wife will have to call a man (probably named Steve) for that. Guys’ minds aren’t terribly complex, but they do run on certain rules. Know these, and your relationship with the guy in your life will go much more smoothly.

It is true that the man/woman divide is an old one, and it’s a place that nearly every comedian has gone to once or twice. Or three times. Or they’ve just staked a claim right there on the joke and built an entire career out of it. But here, Barry isn’t so much talking about the difference between men and women as much as he’s talking about men and guys, which is a fascinating idea.

He's just so disappointed in you...

As I said before, those of us with XY chromosomes and little dangly bits generally want to be Men (with the exception, of course, of those who don’t), and what’s more are expected to be Men. We’re told as youths to “be a man” or be the man of the house. Our role models are Men, our cultural icons are Men. Even in our commercials, we have the Old Spice Man and the Most Interesting Man in the World.

But most of us are fated to be Guys. And deep down, we know that we’ve somehow missed the mark.

Fortunately, we don’t do introspection really well, so it doesn’t bother us all that much.

This is really one of Barry’s classics, a book that everyone can easily enjoy. Whether you are a guy or just know a guy, there are laughs to be had here.

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“To understand guys, it’s essential to remember that, deep down inside, they are biological creature, like jellyfish or trees, only less likely to clean the bathroom.”
– Dave Barry, Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys
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Dave Barry on Wikipedia
Dave Barry’s website
Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys on Amazon.com

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Filed under Dave Barry, gender, gender roles, humor, jokes, parody, society

Review 11: Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar – Understanding Philosophy through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein

Like most Liberal Arts undergrads, I took a few philosophy courses while I was in college. In fact, my sophomore philosophy final has the distinction of being the only one I have ever actually slept through. My roommate woke me up at 11:30 and said, “Didn’t you have a final this morning?” I don’t remember anything between that moment and arriving in the professor’s office, apologizing profusely.

The point is, philosophy never really made an impact on me. I mean, I get it – Philosophy is supposed to be the essence of what makes us human, the ability to think about the way we think about the world. Dolphins and monkeys may be clever, but do they sit around and ponder whether there’s actually a real world out there or if it is only a product of our senses? I doubt it, as it seem like they’re more preoccupied with frolicking around and having sex, which means that Douglas Adams really was on to something.

I don’t quite get the kick out of philosophy that I feel like I’m “supposed” to, being an educated, intelligent, un-American Elitist and all that, so I’m glad that someone has boiled down four millennia of human thought into a 200-page joke book. Definitely more my speed.

The book begins with Aristotle and his belief in a telos, an ultimate purpose for everything, and continues on through ethics, political philosophy, and religious philosophy, as well as existentialism, logic, epistemology and much, much more. Be warned – if you already know a lot about philosophy, then there’s really nothing new in this book for you except the gags. It’s written as a kind of Philo 101, for people who’ve always wanted to know about the different branches of philosophy, but always fell asleep fifteen minutes into the lecture.

By using jokes, the authors make complex philosophical and logical ideas much more immediate and understandable. Take post hoc ergo propter hoc, for example. I know what the Latin means – “After this, therefore because of this,” which is a definition that never struck me as being any clearer than the original Latin. As a logical fallacy, I never really convinced myself that I understood what it meant, until I read this joke. (warning: high bawdiness content follows):

An older man marries a younger lady, and they’re truly in love. However, no matter what the old man does, he is unable to satisfy his young bride sexually. He tries everything, but cannot finish the deed, so to speak. 

So, they go to a sexual therapist, who makes a rather unusual suggestion. “Hire a handsome young man,” the therapist says, “and have him stand over the bed and wave a towel over you while you make love. This will help your wife fantasize, and should help her have an orgasm.” So they follow the therapist’s advice, hire a handsome young man, and try it out. But still, no success.

They return to the therapist, who thinks for a moment and says, “Okay, why not reverse it? Have the young man make love to your wife while you wave a towel over them?” They return home, and the young man climbs into bed with the young wife, while her husband waves a towel vigorously. Within minutes, the wife has an amazing, ear-splitting orgasm.

The husband smiles, looks at the young man and says, “There, you idiot – that’s how you wave a towel!

See? Now I get it! Post hoc is where you assume that because event B happened after event A, event A caused event B. No amount of hypotheticals or dull as dirt lectures have ever explained that to me quite as well as this one ribald joke.

I think these guys are on to something, too. Philosophy has always been the pursuit of the super-intellectual, and anyone who tells you, “I’m a philosopher” is assumed to say next, “And would you like fries with that?” Being an intellectual in America is hard enough as it is, but once you start trying to deconstruct the very essence of what “good” means, much less whether it is actually worth being good, people start to look at you funny.

But tell folks a joke, and all that erudite navel-gazing becomes crystal clear. Of course the GOP is run by Utilitarians – this joke makes perfect sense:

A young widow belongs to a country club, where she enjoys sunning herself by the pool. One day, she sees a handsome stranger poolside, so she sits next to him and says, “I don’t think I’ve seen you here before.” 

“You wouldn’t have,” he said. “I’ve been in prison for the last twenty years.”

“Good heavens,” she said. “What did you do?”

“I murdered my wife,” he replies.

“Ah,” she says. “So you’re single!”

Just replace the young widow with Dick Cheney and the handsome man with, say, Halliburton and you have yourself the GOP in a nutshell!

If you’re an old hand at philosophy, check it out for the jokes – there are plenty of good ones in there. If you’re new to philosophy, or you were put off by the classes you took in college, check it out. You’re not as dumb as your philo teacher made you feel. All you needed was the right sort of explanation.

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“A blind man, a lesbian and a frog walk into a bar. The barkeep looks at them and says, “What is this – some kind of joke?”
– from Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar
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Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar at Wikipedia
Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar at Amazon.com
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Philosophical Humor compiled by David Chalmers

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Filed under Daniel Klein, humor, jokes, philosophy, Thomas Cathcart