City Journal Spring 2014

Current Issue:

Spring 2014
Table of Contents
Subscribe
Tablet Editions
Click to visit City Journal California

Readers’ Comments

Andrew Klavan

View Comments (55)

Add New Comment:

To send your message, please enter the words you see in the distorted image below, in order and separated by a space, and click "Submit." If you cannot read the words below, please click here to receive a new challenge.

Comments will appear online. Please do not submit comments containing advertising or obscene language. Comments containing certain content, such as URLs, may not appear online until they have been reviewed by a moderator.


 
Showing 55 Comment(s) Subscribe by RSS
You're right, Andrew. But for the wrong reasons.

It's funny, because the guy THOUGHT ABOUT IT,... & wished for an orange for a head.

No amount of reflection upon this wish creates, for him, a bedrock principle that he might have strayed down the wrong path.

People who don't think this is funny, never will because they are certain that having an orange for a head is a bad thing.

WE think this is funny, because like the man in the joke, ... the salmon of doubt resides within our collective heart.

& i'm kind of happy about that.

Good article. i found it by chasing a Charles Fleischer Joke that i heard when i was ten. It is also hilarious and no one laughed at it. If i ever find it, i'll send it along.

Yew rite goode!
i think the punchline of the old joke whereby he realizes the genie is a babe too and asks her for a "little head" is funnier. Must be my low IQ

www.nickathens.com
ah, what are we talken about?
Dear Mr. Klavan,

I liked your "joke". I wanted to let you know I was able to utilize it with a couple of kids who are big fans of your Homelanders Series. I told them the joke and they just looked at me, they didn't get it - at first. The brother, "I would never wish to have an orange for a head." Me, "Oh, really, you have never done anything stupid in your life?" (understanding sinking in) sister, "well, if you put it that way...maybe a few times...." I have ordered a few copies of you new book, thank you for sharing your stories.
Fun article, Andrew. Thanks.
With all due deference to your undoubted writing abilities, I am here to tell you that your orange-head joke is only marginally funny. It didn't grow on me, either. I'd hate to think that this is the gold standard for evaluating narrative talent.

Now here's one that IS funny:

An imam walks into a bar.

"What'll it be?" says the barkeep.

"A double Maker's Mark, up. Oh, hell, leave the bottle," says the imam.

"Whoa," says the bartender. "I thought you folks were prohibited from drinking alcohol."

"Yeah, well, my wife died at 6:00 p.m.... I returned from my hajj around 8:00 and decided to have farewell sex with her."

"So...?"

"So I just found out it was 6:00 p.m. a week ago Friday."






There's nothing of superstition in the belief that carbon dioxide has absorption (and emission) lines in the infrared. That this tendency to be opaque at those frequencies has consequences for the surface temperature of the earth. That we are dramatically increasing atmospheric CO2---from a preindustrial level somewhere around 275 parts per million, up to near 400 today.

At some point, this has to push temperatures beyond optimal for our own purposes. There's a lesson in self reliance and chastity here. Grabbing every good thing (e.g. cheap electricity from coal) in the here and now, without thinking ahead to long term consequences, is nicely analogous to cheap and heedless sex. Yeah, maybe it feels good. But what then?
I think it's really funny, but I'm weird.
Love you Mr. Klavan, your really funny.
Not subtle but obvious. Many many folks asked me in 2008 and they ask me now why I wouldn't vote for Obama. My answer then and now is that I am not ready to see my country become a Socialist Republic. I am not a member of the upper middle class; not wealthy by any definition; in fact, I was born into a poor dependent class family and at 61 I am barely above that strata now. It doesn't take a genius to see that even at that strata, my life and lifestyle, compared to that of the billions of folks all over the globe, is better than 99% of their lives/lifestyles. I feel like I won the lottery having been born in this country in the middle 20th Century. I don't have to to hit myself over the head with a hammer and I don't have to have an orange for a head to know that I wouldn't like either. Too often the obvious analysis/solution is deliberately perversely overlooked. Loved reading this little essay.
ajaxoftherockies June 08, 2012 at 12:12 PM
I'm troubled that I laughed out loud. the troubling part is that I've never written any fiction.
wonder what that says
I don't read a joke for my own enjoyment so much as to learn it and repeat it. The fun is in the telling for me. So, if I laugh, I am immediately thinking of my friends, victims.
Hey Andrew,
Here's the funniest one I've heard in a long time. it runs along the same lines as your joke, which I think is hilarious, so here we go: So, a man walks into a bar with a monkey. I forgot the rest of the joke but your mom is a whore.
Bill Carrothers June 07, 2012 at 9:15 AM
It is amazing that a Luddite who does not recognize the reality of the consequences of increasing global atmospheric concentrations of Carbon Dioxide attendant with fossil fuel consumption is considered worthy of publishing in City Journal.
So, why are we not rational? Someone said that most people would rather feel happy than be honest. But, some prefer to achieve true happiness, by being honest. No wonder the Delphic oracle said: "Know Thyself". How many of us do?
We didn't elect a man to the presidency. We elected a demonic entity who was from his infancy designed to dismantle the U.S. by making it dependent upon the designs of the last communist nation on earth. He bows to Muslim royalty and will not do so to European royalty. He is the most fiendishly dedicated administrator in U.S. history to the destruction of the populace by giving abortion rights their fullest implementation ever. He has for 4 years made it impossible to prove his birth certificate doesn't exist, and whose grandmother in Kenya testified twice of his birth there, making him no U.S. citizen and therefore unfit for his current job. He is a 5th columnist destructive force which over 1/2 of our nation's populace is blind to his plans and crimes. Ann Coulter calls liberals Traitors, and Obama is at the apex of their sociopathic notions.
We? Speak for yourself there Mr. Orange.
"...chastity make human beings happier and healthier."

Now THAT'S funny!
Hollywood film makers as rich idiots.

Ecologists as influential idiots.

Obama as a powerful idiot.

A sick joke, indeed.
Reminds me of the man who prayed every night to win the lottery, detailing the numerous miseries in his life.
But he never won.
So he cursed God, berating him for never letting him win.
The clouds parted and a voice boomed:
"Buy a damn lottery ticket."
It is said the English have just that perverse sense of humour. As an ex-pat, I can attest to that. In fact, I would venture to say that the experience of Empire has bred in the English a great love of the absurd, though that was not a necessary condition. I think the Americans have it too but are not as comfortable with it (I have a theory about that). After all, the inimitable words of SpongeBob Squarepants cannot be improved upon, I think: "Dumb people are blissfully unaware of how dumb they really are".
Lynne Lechter, Esq June 06, 2012 at 2:49 PM
I thought your joke was so funny and your article so apt, I linked both on my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Alas, none of my " friends" so far, thought them funny, either.
I'm going to keep laughing at that joke despite your last line if only because I believe that life is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think.
It's funnier in the original Latin. Trust me.
Great article and great joke. I laughed out loud repeatedly upon reading it and I'm laughing again now. It's reminiscent of Wodehouse—I'm a big fan—and, yes, I am currently trying my hand at writing fiction. That orange-for-a-head is a bit of validation for me.
It must be all in the delivery; I don't get it either.
I first heard this joke from the Amazing Jonathan on the "Aristocrats" DVD - the fact I loved that film might explain why I love this joke.

I've told this joke a hundred times and about 2% like it - and they love it. These are definitely the creative types, the imagineers.
I do like these sort of jokes. Perhaps we have more of them in Ireland. Reminds me of:

A man is walking down a road, eating an apple. He passes another man, who asks him, 'Can I have a bite of your orange?'

He replies, 'It's not a plum, it's a pear!'
I laughed at the joke. I write. By the end of the article, I agree, taken in that light, its not that funny. But still, I'm laughing.
Thank you for that.
Creation! A huge global flood buried all that oil, but also... oil is just... oil. It is still being replenished today. Organic refuse, no mystery here.

Remember, the fossil record... the layers exist only in textbooks! And dating methods are all erroneous... 100k, 50k, 20k... they pick the result that matches the fossil layer they think it is. Because, otherwise... they'd have to believe in God.
Started in the Garden of Eden man.
My brother read this and never stopped laughing -- that is until he had a fatal heart attack. Please give me your address, so his lawyers can serve you.
But orange you glad that your story had such ascorbic (or was that acerbic?) a-peel?

Yeah, a bit seedy punnery, so beet my veggie(well-fruity?) bottom-line-tale to a pulp.
"Consider that the earth, as if beneficent, has poured millions of years’ worth of energy into the fossils of its dead creatures"

I'm all for fossil fuels. They are, perhaps, the most important natural resource that exists. There can be no computers or cell phones, no HDTVs or modern housing or modern infrastructure without them. And I also reject AGW - I don't think we know nearly enough with certainty to assert climate change, and certainly not to assert climate change caused by humans. Even so, isn't it ironic that we take the very precious resource, this gift of fossil fuels, and burn it like trash? That is an exemplary illustration of the perversity, not of humans, but the perversity of the human condition. We extract value by destroying our great from Gaia.
I tell stories but only to friends and family, and yet I laughed (sitting alone in my office) and am struggling not to laugh loudly again lest the envious and curious around me intrude on my privacy.
Perhaps there is something about transplanted New Yorkers. I forwarded this story to my children, who have long known that their dad comes from another planet called Long Island. Their response was to wonder if I had taken Andrew Klavan as nom de plume. I was honored. Quirky I am, but Andrew's control of the keyboard leaves me jealous. Masterful thinking and expression.

For those who don't "get the joke". "Getting the joke" has different meanings depending on the nature of the joke. Growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s jokes all made perfect sense. They were, in their own way, like the convention of the well constructed play or movie narrative Klavan writes about, with the humor (or narrative power) never coming at the expense of the undermining of the all-important structure.

Then in the mid-sixties things changed some. A joke from that period: What is large and purple and sits at the bottom of the ocean? Moby Grape (I assume the joke is where the band got its name).

What's funny about that? At the moment, not much. But in the moment, it was hilarious because it was a subversion of the genre. In laughing at it you were laughing at Henny Youngman.

So what's funny about the orange-head joke? I think it is a little similar to the Moby Grape joke in that it tries to break out of, and subvert, the man-walking-into-bar joke genre. But as Klavan points out, the subversion is not just of the narrow conventions of jokery but of the broader conventions of narrative. Are stories supposed to make sense or not? And if they are to make sense, how slavishly must they follow the conventions we have developed for making sense, and how far should they go in embracing the vagaries of life, which often don't make a lot of sense. I am assuming it is this frisson that Klavan is talking about when he says that writers find it funny.

Me? I don't get it.
The joke is that after getting 2 wishes that many people would really really want, he throws it all away by wishing for an orange for a head.

It isn't some kind of pun or in-joke.
Hm...I'm a writer of fiction, and I thought this joke was funny.So QED I guess.
Francis W. Porretto June 06, 2012 at 8:57 AM
Mr. Klavan, you have outdone yourself. So much penetration and irony, packed into so few words. Bravo!
Actually, when I started to read this piece, I thought that Andrew was about to tell the joke about the guy with a small head who walks into a bar. It has to do with a mermaid. I heard the mermaid joke years ago from a truck driver over my cb radio (the internet of its day) as I drove through Pennsylvania one dark and stormy night.
I was surprised that this kind of joke, a bit off-color as it were, would be printed in a class journal like City Journal.
It wasn't the same joke. The mermaid joke is funny. This one with the orange, well, my advice to Andrew is cherish your wife, she is very understanding. I'm single. Does she have any sisters?
Howard
I have a story that I believe can precisely sort people by intelligence. If they laugh, they are intelligent, if they don't get it, not. Sometimes there is hesitation, then a laugh, indicating an intermediate state. Here it is: I once worked at a resort by a lake in a rocky chasm. it looked deep, and people often asked how deep it was at its deepest point - something like 100 feet. Then one day a woman heard the answer, looked impressed and asked: "Then how deep is it at its shallowest point?"
Well, are you laughing?
I'm obviously not a writer. I don't get it.
Or, it's the only joke in world history that becomes funny after you explain it!
I still don't get the joke. Could someone please explain it to me? Thanks.
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Sorry, that should read the first three answers.
Funny it is not,confused?
Is the last three answers an extention to the joke?
If so I dont get it.
Getting a joke and thinking it funny are not the same thing Im afraid---I think.
Roberta....

it wasn't funny the first time.

Now Klavan's joke...that's hilarious.
I don't get the joke. What makes it funny?
The best thing I've read in weeks and funny, too.
meh.....
If Andrew thinks that joke is funny, he has an orange for a head.
While I was cooking last night, my husband called me to come into our den pronto, in order to read me the Orange Head joke from our newly arrived City Journal. And much to his surprise I "didn't get it" (like a true female Orange Head). Now, as a person born in 1948, who has long witnessed and repented of all the foolish stupidities of our self-defeating generation, I should have got this joke right away. So this morning I read your column in full - and wow, I couldn't agree more - and officially LOVE this joke. Thank you for this tender smile. God bless America. God bless the Founders. And God bless the many creative and young families I see today, who are alien to the crappy culture of moral equivalence - and encouraging honesty, striving and creativity in their children. So on behalf of my husband and myself, I urge you to continue to Live Love as you obviously do, in our funny old world.
Carl and Roberta Hodges May 30, 2012 at 3:00 PM
While I was cooking last night, my husband called me to come into our den pronto, in order to read me the Orange Head joke from our newly arrived City Journal. And much to his surprise I "didn't get it" (like a true female Orange Head). Now, as a person born in 1948, who has long witnessed and repented of all the foolish stupidities of our self-defeating generation, I should have got this joke right away. So this morning I read your column in full - and wow, I couldn't agree more - and officially LOVE this joke. Thank you for this tender smile. God bless America. God bless the Founders. And God bless the many creative and young families I see today, who are alien to the crappy culture of moral equivalence - and encouraging honesty, striving and creativity in their children.

So on behalf of my husband and myself, I urge you to continue to Live Love as you obviously do, in our funny old world.
Carl and Roberta Hodges May 30, 2012 at 2:59 PM
While I was cooking last night, my husband called me to come into our den pronto, in order to read me the Orange Head joke from our newly arrived City Journal. And much to his surprise I "didn't get it" (like a true female Orange Head). Now, as a person born in 1948, who has long witnessed and repented of all the foolish stupidities of our self-defeating generation, I should have got this joke right away. So this morning I read your column in full - and wow, I couldn't agree more - and officially LOVE this joke. Thank you for this tender smile. God bless America. God bless the Founders. And God bless the many creative and young families I see today, who are alien to the crappy culture of moral equivalence - and encouraging honesty, striving and creativity in their children.

So on behalf of my husband and myself, I urge you to continue to Live Love as you obviously do, in our funny old world.