In lieu of original material (it's coming, I promise), here's a few random selections from a facsimile of Joe Miller's Jests, or The Wit's Vade-mecum, the most popular of the first-wave joke books (published in 1739). All the flaky style issues are as they came out of the original book, so you can't pin that one on me, but it does show that the classics never die, no matter how hard we try to kill them:
- A melting Sermon being preached in a Country Church, all fell weeping but one Man, who being asked why he did not weep with the rest? O! said he, I belong to another Parish.
- A Gentlewoman growing big with Child, who had two Gallants, one of them with a wooden Leg, the Question was put, which of the two should father the Child. He who had the wooden Leg offer'd to decide it thus. If the Child, said he, comes into the World with a wooden Leg, I will father it, if not, it must be yours.
- A Gentleman happening to turn up against an House to make Water, did not see two young Ladies looking out of a Window close by him, 'till he heard them giggling, then looking towards them, he asked, what made them so merry? O! Lord, Sir, said one of them, a very little Thing will make us laugh.
- A Countryman passing along the Strand saw a Coach overturn'd, and asking what the Matter was? He was told, that three or four Members of Parliament were overturned in that Coach; Oh, says he, there let them lie, my Father always advis'd me not to meddle with State Affairs.
- A Gentleman said of a young Wench, who constantly ply'd about the Temple, that is she had as much Law in her Head, as she had had in her Tail, she would be one of the ablest Counsel in England.
(2011 note: Since I first ran this one through the mill, Google Books posted a full scan of Joe Miller's Jests, so now you can beat yourself over the head with it at full strength, if you're so inclined.)
--Original post: Oct. 2, 2004