Saturday, March 24, 2007

Jay's Jokes

I am not a collector, not by any real meaning of the word. Unless you count stories, I love stories. There are a few books inhabiting a few shelves and boxes that are collectable. I have first edition Dracula, a Blackstone’s Secrets of Magic (signed), a valuable edition of Edgar Allen Poe’s poems with drawings by Edmund Dulac, and there are a few others.

As far as the magic world goes, it is just too darn expensive to amass a collection.

Although, I have acquired some nice pieces on that remarkable worldwide rummage sale, eBay. If you watch closely and keep a budget, you can find some deals. You have to be patient and not worry about losing something. I bought a broadside 6 months ago for $60. The same broadside sold recently for $179. But I like mine too much to sell.

This all leads me to my point. I just paid $300 for a notebook on eBay. A very special notebook.

For some time now, Sandy Marshall (son of Jay), his wife Susan, and their family have been selling many of Jay Marshall’s non-magic books on eBay. Many are circus and entertainment related books. Some are much more interesting like, How to run a Bassoon Factory for Fun and Profit.

Sandy first approves most of the books sold, just to make sure a treasure doesn’t slip through. Despite the safety checks, one such treasure did slip through.

The notebook, my notebook, is part of Jay Marshall’s private joke file. Talking to the Marshalls, there are about 20 volumes of joke that Jay collected and hand typed. This is the only one that should go to auction, but that may change seeing the worth. There was one other persistent bidder, but he topped out at just under $300 not even close to my high bid of $350. Whew!

It is a shameful thing, I think, not wanting anyone else to have it, but it meant a great deal to me.

Jay, for those who may not know, knew every joke ever. No, really. It was a supreme achievement to be able to tell him a joke and not have him finish it for you. I never tried. (My achievement was to bring him some advertising from the 1800s that he just had to copy.) My favorite memories of Magic, Inc. are going to lectures. A lecture could not, would not start without Jay sharing a ribald joke or bawdy limerick. Jay knew how to tell a joke.

Jay’s joke book collection is huge. Knowing him, he read them all. And could tell them all.

The binder smells of dust and age. The notebook is a standard 8 ½ X 11, much of it thin onionskin paper. The years of shelf wear has blotted the type making some of it difficult to read. It must date to the 1930s or 1940s because he included some WPA jokes. The book is 2 ½ inches thick. It divided into 26 categories from Juggler to Zoo. Some subjects contain a single page of jokes, others multiple pages, and a few only half pages. They are impeccably organized. After a visit to the magic shop during Jay’s tenure, this is a surprise.

Remember there are 19 other volumes, I cannot imagine how many jokes are collected in totality.

Does this sound like gloating? It is not meant to be. (Okay, well maybe a little.) This is just such an amazing thing. I want to share a piece of it, so I’ll close my eyes and pick one random page.


Girl with fur coat goes through the woods and a mother rabbit says to her children, “There’s your father-second pelt to the left-still hanging around other females.

Rabbit: We certainly know how to multiply.
Snake: I’m a tricky little adder myself.

Rabbits have shiny noses. That’s because their powder puffs are on the other end.

If Peter Rabbit gets sick, should he be given some hair tonic?

“I bought a pair of rabbits while you were away on your trip.”
“Where are they now?”
“Some of them are back in the coal shed, some are in the pen in the yard, and the rest are down in the basement.”

Two rabbits talking:
“I hear brother skunk has been drinking again.”
“Yes, he sure is stinko.”

The thoughts of a rabbit on sex,
Are practically never complex.
A rabbit in need, Is a rabbit indeed,
And his actions are what one expects.

“What happened to all these dead rabbits? Did you kill them?”
“Heck no, the boll-weevils run ‘em to death trying to get the cotton out their tails.”

Maybe I should have read the page first.
Some of the joke are dialogues, a few sound like they were captions for cartoons. I did edit out a couple that just did not make any sense. Like this one:

Three rabbits. Xmas story. Hungo, hungo.

What? I have no idea.

This is fun I think I will make it a regular feature. Jay’s joke page.

Thanks, Jay....For everthing.

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