Oldies but Goodies
18th November 2008
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There's nothing new under the sun. A joke book from Greece that's 1,600 years old features the prototype of the famous Dead Parrot Skit:

A man complains that he's just bought a slave that's died. The seller answers 'By the gods,when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"

The English-language book, called "Philogelos: The Laugh Addict," is bound to appeal to everyone who thinks that the old jokes are the best. Many of the jokes in its 265 pages will seem very familiar, suggesting that the same old subjects of sex, dimwits, nagging wives and flatulence have raised laughs for centuries.

Student Dunce

The dimwitted 'student dunce' appears as the butt of many of the jokes, a replacement for the 'nationality' or 'blonde' figure we use today? For example: the student dunce goes to town where a friend asks him to buy two 15-year-old slaves: 'That's ok,' says the dunce.'If I can't find two 15-year-olds, I'll get one 30-year-old.'

Hierocles and Philagius probably the compilers of the book but not the original joke writers.

You can buy a multi media verson of the 'book' at http://www.yudu.com/oldestjokebook with 71 year old British comedian Jim Bowen telling the jokes to a 21-century audience. Some of the jokes will be familiaf if you just replace the chariot with a car, but othes will fall by the wayside unless you understand their context - for instance, there's a series about a lettuce but you need to know that it was considered an aphrodisiac otherwise they won't make much sense!

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