Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One Needs To Be Drunk To Enjoy The New York City Bartender's Joke Book.

The Good: One or two good jokes
The Bad: A number of disappointing jokes, Short for the money
The Basics: For $6.50, readers are given a little over four hundred fairly lame jokes in "The New York City Bartender's Joke Book," making it easy to pass on it.

It seems that I shall, in short order, find myself reviewing in books several of a type of book I have not reviewed before now, namely simple humor and joke books. It seemed to me that this would be a tough nut for me to crack, writing a very helpful review on a book that is a simple list of jokes, but I decided to give it a shot. After all, on my recent trip to New York City and back to Michigan, my fiance picked up a couple of joke books and read them to me as I drove. This was definitely not my idea, but it did offer some decent bonding opportunities and it passed the time, which is pretty good either way.

One of the two jokebooks was a simple one, The New York City Bartender's Joke Book and it yielded few laughs for me and very little to review, much less recommend. After all, how much can one truly say about a joke book packed mostly with simple question/answer style jokes? As I am discovering, not much at all. This condition is made even worse when the jokes are either predictable, obvious, often-told or just plain bad. Such is the case with The New York City Bartender's Joke Book.

The New York City Bartender's Joke Book is a small, short book by Jimmy Pritchard and it is worth noting that while Pritchard is responsible for typing, compiling and editing jokes, he is not so much the author as he is the transcriber. After all, the stated purpose of the book is to record jokes that are known and appreciated, though one suspects both the groups that know and appreciate the humor in the book are relegated to bars. The jokes range from the mildly amusing type of joke a bartender might use to start banter with to the downright filthy and degrading that drunks and misogynistic drunks might appreciate best. With only 173 pages, The New York City Bartender's Joke Book crams in a little over four hundred jokes. The "more than" four hundred figure comes from the fact that some of the jokes use a single setup, but offer multiple potential punchlines to the reader.

The book is a fairly lame little collection, but it is a very fast read. Most readers will be able to get through the entire book in under two hours. Fortunately, readers are not likely to lose a lot of time having to pause for laughter. Instead, the book speeds along as most of the jokes are simple question and answer style jokes like "How can you spot a blind man in a nudist colony? It's not hard" (26). The result is a book that is essentially a long list of simplistic jokes with minimal humor that most readers will rip right through.

This is not to say all of the jokes are so simple. Instead, for about every ten simple jokes there is a joke that is at least a paragraph in length. There are about ten jokes in the book that are more than a page long as well. These longer jokes, though, are not clever or complicated in their wit. Instead, they just have extended setups for similar one-line punchlines, like the classic sleeping Scotsman in the kilt joke. I did not find any of the longer jokes particularly funny, though one or two did make me smile.

Unfortunately, The New York City Bartender's Joke Book is poorly organized. After a brief introduction, the book leaps right into the collected jokes and they are generally presented without any rhyme or reason. There are no sections and the jokes roam from general observations to one or two joke runs on Scots, dogs, women (though jokes against women are prevalent throughout the book), and lawyers. Pritchard illustrates little ability to organize the jokes in a way that is in any way meaningful or clever, instead condemning the reader to a collection that meanders.

The list format of the book is tiresome and harmless jokes about bars are mixed in with more potentially offensive jokes, like "How do you change a woman's mind? Buy her another drink" (112). Because there is little sense of organization to the overall book, readers are likely to find little that is easy to reference after they read the book. Moreover, because of the simplistic nature of the jokes in The New York City Bartender's Joke Book, few are likely to need the book after a single read for reference and certainly not for entertainment. The jokes are often not complicated enough to need a second read to recall, unless one is drunk, and they are hardly entertaining enough to be worth the bother.

The thing is, with the prevalence of free joke sites on the internet and books with decent collections of enduring humor, The New York City Bartender's Joke Book becomes too tough a sell. In order to get excited about purchasing a joke book, one has to present humor that truly is incredible. This book, alas, is not it. The best joke I found in it was one with a pretty obvious punchline: "What's the difference between ignorance and indifference? I don't know and I don't care."

Pritchard records the jokes in an easy, common English which is very easy for readers to read and repeat the jokes with. Anyone with a fourth grade reading ability will have no problem reading and understanding the humor in The New York City Bartender's Joke Book. And for what it is, it might be adequate, listing jokes for people who want something simple and vaguely amusing to read or listen to. But for those looking for more, even a little more, this book will not provide it. And most readers who want a worthwhile humor experience will find there are vastly better sources for material than this.

For other humor books, please check out my reviews of:
The Onion Presents Our Front Pages
When You Are Engulfed In Flames - David Sedaris
Letters From The Earth - Mark Twain


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here for an organized list!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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