Writing Down the Funny Bones: Combination Jokes
The following is an example of a series of combination jokes. The basic premise of a "Combination" joke is to take two different activities, combine them, and see what jokes appear. Once the audience buys the premise, the comical connections present themselves.
The premise: Combining a juggling convention with a public bathroom
Several years ago some students at die Etage (a circus-arts school in Berlin) were invited to perform at the first-ever juggling festival held in Wurzurg, Germany. One of the students was going to emcee the public show.
The logo for the Wurzburg Convention, WC, reminded me of the story that ended Jack Paar's career as the host of The Tonight Show. Jack Paar wanted to tell a story about a misunderstanding when someone interpreted the initials, WC, asa water closet while another person thought the letters meant Wayfarer's Chapel. As I recall, the censors didn't let Paar tell the story, and he walked off the show.
I wrote a juggling-oriented version for Jochen Weiss, based on a similar confusion, to use as emcee of the gala show. Jochen read the story, appreciated it, and told me it wouldn't work because the German article requires a die WC in one sense and a das WC in the other. Jochen is German and ought to know.
Anyway, I m including the story here as an example of a Combination joke. In English one doesn't have to worry about distinctions between articles such as der, die, and das.
THE WC, or Wurzburg Convention
(Imagine an emcee talking to the audience at the public show of the juggling convention.)
The local Department of Tourism has done a fine job to help and promote this, the first ever Wurzburg Juggling Convention, WC. They may have even done too good a job. Here's one example of how well they have elicited the support of the citizens and local businesses.
A few months ago, a retired English couple wrote to Wurzburg asking for some information about the town, local activities, and places to stay. They were looking for a pleasant, interesting locale to visit during the Easter Holiday. The Wurzburg Department of Tourism sent the couple several brochures listing local sights, festivals, and different hotels where they could stay. The couple pored over the brochures and picked one particular hotel which they thought would be a pleasant place to spend their vacation.
The husband had recently had a minor medical operation which, while it did not prevent him from traveling, did require him to use the rest room rather frequently. Wanting to make sure this condition would not interfere with their vacation plans, they wrote back to the hotel, asking about the nature of the WC where they would be staying.
The tourism council had done such a good job of preparing everyone for the juggling convention that the hotel manager instantly interpreted the letters 'WC' as meaning the Wurzburg Convention. Whereupon he wrote this reply:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith,
As you know, Wurzburg is a small town. So small it did not seem necessary until recently to have its own WC. Certainly our modest hotel was not big enough to even consider hosting its own WC. Any of the local residents who wanted to participate in such an activity were forced to travel to other, larger cities.
However, while in years past it was true that we had no WC, I can now proudly state that the first ever WC is going to be officially opened by the mayor of Wurzburg on the 16th of April. The opening ceremony will be preceded by a parade through the town for all those who would like to join and participate in the event, residents and visitors alike.
The WC, itself, will be open for four consecutive days and nights. We expect over five-hundred visitors during this time. A one-time registration fee of 30 DM per person gives each participant access to any and all of the facilities at the WC. Enough room has been reserved at the WC so that everyone who chooses may join in.
Reports from other communities who have hosted similar events tell us that even if things become a little crowded, the festive air assures us that participants will feel no qualms about bunching up together in tight situations. People from all over Germany and several nearby countries have already expressed interest in participating.
We expect many beginners to attend, as well as more advanced enthusiasts, and even some professionals. Several vendors have already committed themselves to setting up sales stands so you can try out and purchase all the latest equipment you may need while at the WC.
Bystanders who prefer not to enter the main floor and participate directly in the WC can choose to sit in well-situated bleachers above the main hall so they can watch the more advanced performers in these activities. I am told that the sight of literally hundreds of objects spinning and flying through the air and being bounced off the ground is truly breathtaking. Of course, a small spectator fee will be charged for these seats. Should anyone get swept up in the excitement and enthusiasm of all the goings-ons at the WC and feel the need to actively participate, they will certainly be most welcome to come down and join the more seasoned members.
Special workshops will be given throughout the week-end for both newcomers and advanced so that everyone can increase their skills while at the WC. On Sunday evening a special WC gala show will be presented for the public featuring professionals in almost every area of this ancient art.
The citizens of Wurzburg are sure that the first ever WC will be a huge success, and we already look forward to sponsoring another one next year.
copyright 1996 by Todd Strong
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