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August 6, 2012 4:13 PM   Subscribe

"It’s a long, long time from now, and machines have developed into sentient beings. Starting with the high-tech space stuff, a whole new set of different mechanistic species have come into existence. The machines are not only sentient; they are alive in other ways as well. They even produce offspring and evolve.

At first, it was just the super high-tech orbiting stuff that achieved self-awareness, but soon more terrestrial devices gained intelligence. Unfortunately the machines loathed each other, and war broke out between orbiting and earthly devices. Humankind had already moved out into space, but at the discovery that our original home world was in a crisis situation, we returned.

By the time we reached Earth again, all the original machines had been destroyed. The descendants of those original devices were still battling, trying to obliterate each other, an ancient blood feud where one planetary region wasn’t big enough for the two mechanical clans.

The future humans had to make a decision that would end the war. But it was clear that humankind had been in space too long as there was no sympathy for the terrestrial machines. And that’s when we found ourselves backing the satellite kin."

Tarzan's Tripes Forever is the oldest online archive of shaggy dog stories and their brethren. Founded in 1995, it is still being updated regularly today. Shaggy dog stories, and the robust subspecies known as Feghoots, are a type of joke of unknown origin, but which definitely came into maturity in America. Renowned artists from Annie Dillard to Isaac Asimov have been fascinated by them. And the phenomenon known as "The Aristocrats" (NSFW) is a clear variant on the same formula.


In defence of Shaggy Dog Stories by Tarzan's Tripes Forever maintainer Alan B. Combs.
posted by 256 (62 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Eh, he's not *that* shaggy.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:22 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pssh. Zelazny did this way better roughly 50 years ago. See For a Breath I Tarry.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:22 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"...and that's when the fit hit the Shan"
posted by Sebmojo at 4:28 PM on August 6, 2012


I'm getting a little frustrated that none of these links are telling me how the machine war turned out.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:29 PM on August 6, 2012 [18 favorites]


Pssh. Zelazny did this way better roughly 50 years ago. See For a Breath I Tarry.
posted by Chekhovian at 1:22 PM on August 6 [+] [!]


(whoosh, i suspect)
posted by Sebmojo at 4:30 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The pun in "backing the satellite kin" must be so obvious that I'm missing it. What's the gag?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:32 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"back in the saddle again" i guess?
posted by thedaniel at 4:33 PM on August 6, 2012


Oh. Thanks, thedaniel. I was switching the first letters around and getting mostly "sacking the bat, a light kin."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:42 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's an old one about inebriated baseball: The beer that made Mel Famey walk us.

(I am deeply sorry.)
posted by tommyD at 4:53 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm getting a little frustrated that none of these links are telling me how the machine war turned out.

The original satellites were superior reolutionaries, but unfortunately their descendants lost the high ground.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:58 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The real joke is on me as I spent time looking for the link that would take me to the rest of the story.
posted by Mojojojo at 4:58 PM on August 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Back in the eighties, one of the D&D miniatures companies (Grenadier?) had a catalog/publication that had one of these feghoots in the back of every issue.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:00 PM on August 6, 2012


reolutionaries? Mods, hope me!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:00 PM on August 6, 2012


Too much Dick Syndrome: I sat there wondering why someone was re-writing Second Variety.

And it took me a while to get the pun.


Also Its Raining Florence Henderson: Turns out the Satellites Descendants weren't very reactionary and that led to their fall from grace.

posted by djrock3k at 5:41 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Better Nate than Lever.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:45 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Turns out the Satellites Descendants weren't very reactionary and that led to their fall from grace.

One thing I never could get used to with those damned orbiters: first they decay, and then they die!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:47 PM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


.

/orbit thread
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:48 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


> "backing the satellite kin"

It'd be funnier if it bore some phonetic resemblance to the phrase alluded-to.

I assume it works better in a US accent.
posted by raygirvan at 5:51 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, raygirvan, I chose this one specifically because the pun is so lame and forced. I think that, once you get to understand this class of joke, the closer the punchline come come (on either side) to the line of not being a punchline at all, the better.
posted by 256 at 5:57 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not noticeably.
posted by 7segment at 5:57 PM on August 6, 2012


I had a collection called (I think) "Isaac Asimov's 100 Best Science Fiction Short Short Stories" which was essentially a collection of these. Well, at least half were.
posted by maxwelton at 5:59 PM on August 6, 2012


I assume it works better in a US accent.

No, not really.
posted by erniepan at 5:59 PM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Backing the satellite kin,
out where an engine's your friend"

(Apologies to Firesign Theater as well as to Gene Autry)
posted by Philofacts at 6:10 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


But when the war ended, human nature compelled the future humans to scavenge all the spare parts they could from the ravaged machines on both sides. "Those humans," said one surviving giant robot to another, shaking its great, creaking head. "There they go -- sacking the battle again!"
posted by xenophile at 6:10 PM on August 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that for one of his books, Terry Pratchett invented a fantastic and thought-provoking method for building a computer in a fantasy setting - one that involved tiny mechanical gates integrated with an ant colony, with the ants moving through the sections acted as bits and operations - and Pratchett wrote part of the story about this machine, purely so he could insert that one-line throwaway joke about the operator wanting his computer to have more bugs in it. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:27 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


"The sum of the squaw and the hippopotamus is equal to the sum of the squaws and the other two hides."

"Well, only Hugh can prevent florist friars."

*sung* "Well, that's a long way to tip a Rairie..."

Sorry, I used to "collect" shaggy dog stories. At this point I hardly even bother with the joke and just tell the punchlines.
posted by hippybear at 6:29 PM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


The brick.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:34 PM on August 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


seanmpuckett: I would favorite that a hundred times if I could. Thank you.
posted by hippybear at 6:38 PM on August 6, 2012


My dad loved them and young though I was, I picked up quite a few while being otherwise bored out of my mind as a bright child dragged to cocktail parties. I still have Asimov's joke book and jokester practicum and though the laughs are long faded I still recall the joy of my first read through.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:54 PM on August 6, 2012


Pssh. Zelazny did this way better roughly 50 years ago. See For a Breath I Tarry.

Actually, Zelazny did this way better 45 years ago. See Lord of Light, and the unfortunate incident with the Shan of Irabek's new, epileptic body.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:19 PM on August 6, 2012


NO.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.


NO.

NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO.

I HAVE SPOKEN.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:20 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The bullshit pun in Lord of Light is an unfortunate flaw in an otherwise brilliant work. I have no idea what Zelazny was thinking.
posted by Justinian at 7:24 PM on August 6, 2012


Actually, Zelazny did this way better 45 years ago. See Lord of Light, and the unfortunate incident with the Shan of Irabek's new, epileptic body.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 4:19 PM on August 6 [+] [!]


AHEM

"...and that's when the fit hit the Shan"
posted by Sebmojo at 1:28 PM on August 6 [+] [!]
posted by Sebmojo at 7:28 PM on August 6, 2012


... he left no tern unstoned.

... pardon me, Roy, is that the cat who chewed your new shoes?

... because people who live in glass houses shouldn't stow thrones.

I had one a day for MONTHS, to the consternation of all my coworkers.
posted by mph at 7:36 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]




The poor little Dutch boy, after jumping from the top mast of the boat on which he stowed away to reach America: "It's OK, I'm used to hardships".

(I used to make this story last forty five minutes, with a half dozen vignettes that would make you laugh, cry, and fall in love with the poor little guy. The look on people's face when they realized the saga ended in a pun was always priceless)
posted by Popular Ethics at 7:41 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


These peole were clearly unaware that the bun is the lowest form of wheat.
posted by Sparx at 7:54 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


A fellow notices some change to dental health, sees dentist, is asked about dietary changes, admits to new food addiction.

Dentist recommends chrome-plating patient's teeth.

There's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise.

Add embellishment and serve over ice.
posted by Graygorey at 8:39 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tear a bull.
posted by Skygazer at 8:52 PM on August 6, 2012


[Quoting Samuel Johnson] He who would pun would pick a pocket, sir.

—Stephen Maturin
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:56 PM on August 6, 2012


Shaggy dog stories were a fixture of my upbringing, being beloved of my Dad's side of the family. This particular genre didn't end with a pun, but with some spectacular inversion of logic (much like the 'oh, not that shaggy' joke which gives the form its name).

A particular favourite of mine:

A visiting village team arrives for a cricket match only to find themselves a player short. In the next field, however, there is a horse who surprises everyone by speaking up in fluent and educated English, offering to fill in for the missing man. After they get over their astonishment (and here is where the joke is filled in according to the skill of the teller) they are doubly astonished to find that the horse is quite the best batsman they've ever seen. A spectacular innings later, they approach their equine team-mate and ask if he'll lead off with the bowling. 'Hahaha!' cries the incredulous animal, 'have you ever seen a horse bowl?!'

I have many more of these stashed away in my brain in the abbreviated form that Popular Ethics and Graygorey describe. I often think that the hours I spent listening to them evolve in the retelling taught me the fundamentals of storytelling.
posted by Dreadnought at 8:58 PM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you live where you can listen to rebroadcasts of My Word, Denis Norden and Frank Muir spend the last third of the show spinning the most outrageous feghoots they can come up with for a quotation they'd been given a few minutes earlier.

There's not much about My Word online, but I did find these mp3s. The entire show is enjoyable and guaranteed to make you giggle and groan.
posted by PueExMachina at 9:28 PM on August 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


You’ve just blown my mind. I had no idea My Word wasn’t a current show.
posted by bongo_x at 10:02 PM on August 6, 2012


"Even Hans that does dishes is as soft as Jervaise with mild green hairy-lip squid"

All the Asimov short stories like "Shah Guido G" (geddit?) and how Atlantis disappeared under the waves for a second time, or the one that ends with "A Hitch in Time saves Stein" is what got me my sense of humour. No wonder I get hit more than laughed with when telling jokes.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:37 PM on August 6, 2012


The one Feghoot that I will never forget concerns the fate of the three unfortunate kittens: oon, du and twa. The lived by the side of a lake that was surrounded by reeds. Despite their mother's constant warnings, they always wanted to get out to the island in the middle of the lake. So one day, while their mother was away hunting up dinner, they constructed a raft from the reeds. They sealed the ends of the reeds with mud and set off on a grand adventure. Of course, the mud washed away as they left the shore of the lake and the kittens and the raft all found themselves at the bottom of the lake soon after. Their mother came home, wept over her lost kittens and put up a sign by the lake as a memorial and warning. To this day, the sign says oon, du, twa cat sank.

(Still not getting the horse bowl one though.)
posted by Hactar at 12:43 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did you hear about the professor who translated all that poetry from Sumerian cuneiform into hip-hop lyrics? They called him the Pimp of the Ur-Verse.

256, you have unleashed a terrible monster.
posted by xenophile at 2:20 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hactar, the story itself confounds our expectation that horses cannot bat. The horse's position of disbelief in horses' ability to bowl at the end of the story mirrors the attitude we held at the beginning, that was confounded. It is a good joke.

Back on topic, I'm an ex-tractor fan.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 4:16 AM on August 7, 2012


Hectar, my 3rd-grade French teacher told a much shorter version of that feghoot. (Childhood attention spans...)
posted by Philofacts at 4:21 AM on August 7, 2012


I was brought up on My Word (amongst other BBC comedy shows) - I still remember "on his walkies, Mallie pants" (it's a latin phrase used on ceremonial robery).

Couple of links to My Word I found, not sure if they worth looking at: BBC page and Listen to My Word.

My favourite one which hasn't been mentioned is the Story of the Glopmaker - it has to be spinned as long as possible, because the punchline deserves death by a thousand sharp balloons.
posted by arzakh at 6:01 AM on August 7, 2012


Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.

He was arrested for making an obscene cone fall.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:34 AM on August 7, 2012


My father-in-law and I used to trade these back and forth to see who could elicit the largest groan. This was one I learned from him.

A young mother was forced to give up her identical twin sons by circumstance. Years later, she hired a detective to find out what happened to the boys. He discovered one had been adopted by an Iranian family and had been named Ahmal, while the other, named Juan, had Mexican adoptive parents. Since Juan lived closer, she went to see him first.

After the first meeting went well, the detective was puzzled when the mother showed no interest in meeting the other twin. When asked the reason, she replied "When you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:41 AM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


> I had a collection called (I think) "Isaac Asimov's 100 Best Science Fiction Short Short Stories" which was essentially a collection of these. Well, at least half were.

Hmph, that's selling that book short. There are some amazingly chilling stories, like this one.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:43 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


For De Mille, young fur-henchmen can't be rowing!
posted by mubba at 8:04 AM on August 7, 2012


So this rabbit, right, walks into a pub. Lunchtime, quiet, barman's cleaning a glass. Rabbit walks in - hops in I suppose- hops onto a bar stool. Raps its paw on the bar. "Ham and cheese sandwich, ta," t says, "and toast it wills ya?"

The Barman serves him up his toastie - bit surprised, thinking rabbits were all about the greenery, but you take your days as they come when you're behind the bar. Never know who's going to walk in off the street.

By the time he's finished that thought the rabbit's gobbled up his snack, hopped off the stool and out the door he goes.

Next day - same thing! Rabbit hops in, maybe ten past midday, onto the stool, rap rap rap. And maybe he noted the barman's expression because this time he orders a toasted sandwich with lettuce and tomato. Now your lettuce doesn't go too well toasted, but the barman thinks a bit, toasts the bread and then jams the salad in between the bits and it all looks tasty as I don't know what with a bit of salt and pepper and clearly the rabbit agrees because down the hatch it goes!

And then, sure enough, he's out the door hippity hop.

Next day - well what do you think? Lunchtime, barstool, rap rap rap - "Lamb cheese and chutney, barkeep!" goes the little bunny. Barman's an old hand by now, has the sandwich maker all heated up and it's the work of a moment to pop out a delicious lunchtime snack fitting that description to a 't'. And the rabbit scoffs it down then off he hops.

But the next day... no rabbit. The bartender had got used to his little furry customer, so he's a bit put out, but the game is on so there's a bunch of folk in the pub and he's to busy to give much thought to it... until that night, when he's cleaning up the place ready for another day, and he hear's a faint noise. 'rap rap rap', it goes. He turns, but sees nothing in the darkened pub. But there's the noise again - 'rap rap rap'.

He squints and - good gravy. Sitting in that exact same barstool, what does he see but the trembling transparent form of his lunchtime customer!

He is a professional, our man, and so he approaches this ghost rabbit to take its order but before he asks another question pops out, almost unbidden - "what... what happened to you, mr rabbit?"

And the ghost rabbit looks at him, with ravaged ghostly eyes, and in an eerie whisper murmurs:

"Mixin' me toasties".
posted by Sebmojo at 5:00 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


why do people...do this?
posted by eustatic at 9:20 PM on August 7, 2012


why do people...do this?

In the case of shaggy dog stories, it's because if you manage to hold a crowd's attention for a half hour with a brilliant bit of storytelling and then end it all with a dramatic flourish that is actually a horrible pun, you end up with this odd conquering hero feeling. Plus, people NEVER forget it. EVER.

In the case of "the brick"... it's because you told the first half of the joke quite a while earlier, and the joke just ends with no punchline, and everyone thinks you're an idiot. Then a half-dozen other people tell their jokes of various lengths and uneven results, and then you start your next joke and everyone just KNOWS that it's going to be a complete flop because your first one just completely sucked, but they're kind to the village idiot so they let you talk, and then you deliver the final line and the combination of stunned silence, utter admiration, and ultimately hysterical laughter is one of the most sublime things you can ever experience.

Plus, the audience will NEVER forget it. EVER.
posted by hippybear at 9:50 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was brought up on My Word (amongst other BBC comedy shows) - I still remember "on his walkies, Mallie pants" (it's a latin phrase used on ceremonial robery).


Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense - "Evil be to he who think evil".
posted by Sebmojo at 2:53 AM on August 8, 2012


what?!?! the koala tea of mercy is not strained!
posted by russm at 8:09 AM on August 8, 2012


Carrying a coil over dead lions for immoral porpoises.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:24 PM on August 8, 2012


Carrying a coil over dead lions for immoral porpoises.

Transporting two gulls over state lions for immortal porpoises.
posted by hippybear at 4:28 PM on August 9, 2012


I think this goes here.
posted by idiopath at 7:44 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


maxwelton: "I had a collection called (I think) "Isaac Asimov's 100 Best Science Fiction Short Short Stories" which was essentially a collection of these. Well, at least half were."

You too, huh? :) Still have it on my shelf somewhere, I think.
posted by WCityMike at 7:03 AM on September 1, 2012


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