November 8, 2008

How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

This self-referential joke wasn’t Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite, but it could have been:
Q. What is brown and sticky?
A. A stick.*


Writing in the Guardian, Anthony McGowan reflects on this joke for 600-plus words in his article, “Reflective reflections on self-referentiality.” (Sample: How can a stick be like a stick? A stick is not like a stick, a stick is a stick. Something sticklike, but not itself a stick could be "sticky" in this sense. Maybe a bony finger, or a Twiglet. But not an actual stick. So, the whole joke collapses in on itself.)

Best of all, the joke provides a segue-way to the recent news that the stick has been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. There, it can join other distinguished playthings enshrined for immortality like the cardboard box (class of 2005).

The stick was singled out as a natural and cheap toy that can be used in a wide variety of creative ways. For example, not only can a stick be a sword, it can also function as a spear, a mace, or a punchline.

Further, Toy Hall of Fame associate curator Susan Asbury said the stick “is generally thought of as lovable and cuddly, even if it can doze off or cry during play.”

Wait, she’s apparently describing the stick’s co-inductee, the Baby Doll there. A crying stick? That's just silly. (It would also make it impossible to "play softly and carry a quiet stick.")

* If you thought “dung” was the punchline, please. That’s the answer to the question, “What’s brown and sounds like a bell?

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