Shaggy Dog Story Archive
I love a good joke, and I love a bad pun, so I am particularly fond of “shaggy dog stories” and “feghoots,” the latter being good jokes based on a narrative punctuated by an exceptionally bad pun. For example, a well-known (and uncharacteristically brief) feghoot is the Story of the Separated Twins:
A young mother gave birth to twin boys, but being poor she had to give them up for adoption. One boy went to a family in Egypt, where they named him Ahmul. The other boy went to a family in Spain, where they named him Juan.
When Juan grew up, he decided to send a picture to his birth mother. When the picture arrived, the mother was at first ecstatic, but then suddenly started to cry. When her husband asked what was wrong, she said, “Oh, I wish a had a picture of our other son too! “
The husband smiled. “Honey, they’re twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmul.”
A very famous (and more traditionally lengthy) example, one invariably told by my friend The Glick at social gatherings involving alcohol, is the Story of Larry Lobster and Sam Clam:
Larry Lobster and Sam Clam where best friends. They did everything together. The only difference between them is that Larry was the nicest Lobster ever and Sam was, well, he was not so good. Larry and Sam did so much together that they even died together. Larry went to heaven and Sam, of course, went to hell.
Larry was doing well in heaven and one day St. Peter came up to him and said, “Larry, you know you are the nicest clam we ever had up here. Everyone likes you but you seem to be a bit depressed. Tell me what is bothering you, maybe I can help.”
Larry said, “Well, don’t get me wrong, sir. I like it up here and everything, but I really miss my good friend Sam Clam. We used to do everything together and I really miss him a lot.”
St. Peter looked at Larry with pity and said to him, “I tell you what, I can arrange it so that you can go down to hell tomorrow and visit Sam all day. How would that sound?”
This made Larry very happy and he got up bright and early the next morning and grabbed his wings, his harp, and his halo and got in the elevator to hell. When the doors opened he was met by Sam. They hugged each other and they were off. You see in Hell Sam owned a disco. The spent the day there together and had a great time. At the end of the day Larry and Sam went back to the elevator together said their goodbyes and Larry got back in the elevator and went up to heaven. He stepped off the elevator and was greeted by St. Peter who blocked the doorway to heaven. He looked at Larry and said, “Larry Lobster, didn’t you forget something?”
Larry looked around him and found his halo and his wings and his… “Oh no!” he gasped. “I left my harp in Sam Clam’s Disco.”
I myself am especially fond of mathematically influenced feghoots (see here and here and here and here, for example), but I love the utter pointlessness of the stories involved to get to the painfully bad punchline that is the hallmark of any good shaggy dog story.
Well, if you’re a fan of feghoots or shaggy dog stories in general, then Tarzan’s Tripes Forever: the Web’s First Shaggy Dog Story Archive is for you. At last I checked, there are over two thousand of these stories, including the aforementioned Separated Twins (story 115) and a variation on Larry and Sam (story 155). Let me conclude with story 656, the Story of Nothing:
A man traveling through the Orient passed a small courtyard and heard voices murmuring. He went in and saw an altar with a large stone O in the middle. White-robed people were kneeling before the altar, softly chanting “Nil… nil… nil…” while ceremonial priests sang prayers to The Great Nullity and The Blessed Emptiness.
Eventually, the man turned to a white-robed observer beside him and asked “Is Nothing sacred?