If We Laughed At Brilliance The Way We Laugh At Idiocy

By: Michael Fowler

Franklin did the trick with his hands where his thumb appeared to separate at the joint.

“Pshaw pshaw pshaw pshaw pshaw pshaw!” laughed Jefferson, slapping his thigh and then wiping spittle from his grinning mouth. “That’s as funny a sight as a mule wearing slippers, Ben.”

As usual, the two philosophers were the center of attention at the Peacock and Hen.

Now it was Jefferson’s turn to crack wise. “Do you know, Ben, that I hold certain truths to be self-evident, namely life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?”

“Har har har har har har har! Oh har har har-dy har har!” laughed Franklin, as ale shot ballistically from his nose. “What a poke at the Tories, Tom!”


Lincoln picked up an apple from the table before him, removed a large knife from the table drawer, and in under a minute had peeled the skin from the apple in a continuous spiral.

“Ta ta ta ta ta ta tee tee tee tee ta ta ta tah!” laughed his somewhat demented wife Mary Todd, who never failed to be amused by this. “Oh Abe, you’re funnier than a bad haircut.”

“Now listen to this,” Lincoln told her. “Four score and seven years ago…”

“Ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta tee tee tee ta tah!” Merriment filled Mrs. Lincoln’s crossed eyes with tears. “Four score? Criminy, Abe. Who’d you get that from, Artemus Ward?”


Lighting a fresh Blackstone panatela in his Schenectady lab, Steinmetz displayed his latest invention to Edison. “This will alter civilization, Tom.” Reaching into a desk drawer, the German-born engineer pulled out a metal coil that he set at the top of some steps. He tipped it over, and an amazed Edison watched it cascade down the flight a step at a time.

“He he he he he woo woo woo woo ha ha ha!” laughed Edison, delighted by the toy.

“Here’s another,” said Steinmetz. Throwing a switch, he stunned and blinded his co-inventor with a flash of artificial lightning.

“Ho ho ho ho he he he he woo woo woo ha!” the reeling but tickled Edison burst out once more. “Lordy, Charles, I haven’t laughed so hard since my aunt Gertie scorched her hand on one of my white-hot tungsten filaments.”


Fermi finished telling a joke to Oppenheimer at Los Alamos. “…and so the priest said to the rabbi, ‘How did I know pork had a half-life of ten years?'”

Oppie removed the cigarette from his mouth. “Haw haw haw haw ho ho ho he he he!” he snickered. “You slay me, Enrico.”

“And get this,” said Fermi. “Back at my Chicago lab, I’ve created the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reactor.”

“Haw haw haw haw haw haw! Ah ah he he he hoo!” Oppie chuckled until he started coughing. “That one nearly did kill me,” he said, lighting another cigarette. “Listen, the other day I came across something really hilarious in the Bhagavadgita…”


After the war FDR, Churchill, and Stalin swapped yarns at Yalta. “I have one!” said the Soviet Supreme Leader, who liked a joke as much as the next tyrant. “Guess what is this.” Pulling up his jacket and shirt, he placed his hands on either side of his deep navel and made it open and close rhythmically by squeezing and then releasing the surrounding plump flesh. To the stumped expressions of the two democratic world leaders he then cried out, “It’s a female hurdler seen from below, comrades!”

FDR cracked a smile, removed the cigarette holder from between his lips, and began laughing. “Tut tut tut tut tut tut tut tut tut!” He was so contorted by mirth that he almost stood up from his wheelchair.

Churchill, catching the mood, also laughed freely. “A-ha ha ha, a-ha ha ha, a-ha ha ha.” Then, it being the Prime Minister’s turn to amuse, he said with a serious expression, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Stalin’s face froze. FDR relit his cigarette. Had Churchill gone too far? But then the Man of Steel’s face split into a huge grin and he shook like a bear. “Wa wa ha ha wa wa ha ha wa wa ha ha wa wa ha! That’s good, Winston! Hey, vodka!”


Plath sat on the arm of the sofa upon which Hughes reclined. When he looked up at her over the edge of his book, he saw that she had suspended a teaspoon from the end of her nose.

“Woo woo woo woo woo woo wah wah wah!” came Ted’s peculiar English laugh, his body shaking.

“Is there no way out of the mind?” Sylvia posed.

“Woo woo woo woo woo woo wha wha woo!” Ted helplessly sprayed saliva onto his book and began pounding the sofa cushions with his fist. For all her manic depression Sylvia sure had a socko delivery.


“Who am I?” said John Watson to Francis Crick, putting on a fake nose and bushy eyebrows mask.

“La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la!” giggled Crick, dropping a test tube. “By the way,” he said, calming a bit, “have you seen Rosalind’s X-rays? It’s a double helix.” He burst anew into giggles.

“A double helix! A-ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho ha ha ha ho!” Watson doubled over, laughing. “Oh Francis, working with you here at the Cavendish lab is like sharing the stage with Jack Benny.”


Dewey, Garry, and Dan, having just formed the rock trio America, were in the studio composing songs.

Dewey, smiling, strummed his guitar and sang, “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no mane…”

“A-ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho hoo hoo hoo!” laughed Gerry. “A bald horse!”

His face straight, Dewey said, “A horse with no name?”

“A-ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho hoo hoo hoo ha!” laughed Dan. “An anonymous horse! That’s even stupider!”

“A-ho ho ho ho ha ha ha ho ho ho haha ho ha! That’s a take!” said the producer, convulsed.


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