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Bennett's Cerf's Bumper Crop of Anecdotes and Stories, Mostly Humorous,…

by Bennett Cerf, Bennett Cerf

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Time is not kind to many things – books, movies, history, people. (I still do not believe that elderly gentleman in the mirror is me.) But it may take its hardest toll on humor. Let’s face it, humor is hard, and it is much more dependent on what the audience is willing to accept than any other art form. (It is an art form; do not let anyone tell you differently.)

If you need no further proof, than just visit this collection of Bennet Cerf’s jokes, anecdotes, and stories. This is part one of a two-part collection of his (according to the title) five best-selling collections. So, we will have to take it on that authority that this is the pinnacle of humor in the mid-50s. That length of time could cause enough problems, but it is apparent that many of these were written in the 40s (during the war) and some from even before then.

Let’s get this out on the table right now. What was common treatment of some people in that time is no longer acceptable. Minorities, women, you name it – they all take a beating here in the name of humor. Every cliché possible is brought out and used as the basis for humor. In some situations, it is cringe-worthy.

However, that may be one reason to take a look at this book. The book may not be a belly laugh (more on the humor in a minute), but it is fascinating to see the mindset – the accepted mindset – that was foundational to the way people behaved.

Now, to the humor. I have read joke/humor books since I was a kid. I still tell jokes I read in books from the 60s. (I’m a killer when it comes to elephant jokes – if anyone remembers those.) I recognized some of these jokes – often hiding as stories that actually happened to specific individuals. Which came first? Well, this book came out first, but I’m willing to bet these are the kind of stories/jokes that have been passed down for a very long time.

All this means that there were a few chortles, a smattering of snickers, and even one or two laugh-out-louds, but nothing of the quality I had hoped for from as big a name as Bennet Cerf.

But let’s not throw the book out yet, because it has one other redeeming quality – references to people who we think of as history who are included as modern-day figures. Salvador Dali, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Thurber, Steve Allen, Stan Musial, George Burns, I could go on for pages and pages. Cerf is quite the name dropper, because he actually knew these people – knew, talked with, consorted, and lived a life with. There are more names than you can imagine. Some dropped for one small paragraph; others with pages devoted to them. Some you will know; others you won’t. But, at the time, each and every one was “somebody.”

For pure humor, this is not a great book. However, it has a few decent stories about people whom we even know of today. But its biggest value may be the interesting insights into the people who lived at that time. ( )
  figre | Jun 3, 2017 |
Cerf is charming, witty, and erudite. As always, he stays out of the way of his stories and anecdotes. ( )
  AlexTheHunn | Sep 18, 2005 |
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