3p Home Page The Threepenny Review
Fall 2015

On Jokes

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Jill McDonough

When I met Josey sixteen years ago, she told me a joke about an elephant with a splinter. A mouse offers to remove it, but in return the elephant has to let the mouse fuck her from behind. Fine, the elegant elephant sighs, rolling her huge-lashed eyes. Josey gave the elephant the accent of a world-weary dowager, a two-ton Maggie Smith. The mouse removes the splinter, scurries over her back, takes out his tiny mouse dick, and starts going at it.

Meanwhile. Meanwhile, a monkey who has been watching the whole thing throws a coconut at the elephant.  I have no idea why. Neither does Josey. I just asked. The coconut hits the elephant’s regal head: she moans and flinches. The mouse, still pumping away, registers this response with satisfaction, squeaking, Take it all, bitch!

So here we have a joke about sexual assault and humiliation. Anyway—I love this joke. Because it was the vehicle that brought “Take it all, bitch!” into our quiet, kind, polite, lesbian lives.

—Is there any more coffee?

Take it all, bitch!

—Are you going to eat that?

Take it all, bitch!

—Are you using the car today?

Take it, bitch!

—I am so sick of this fucking cough medicine.

Take it all, bitch!

We say, “Take it all, bitch” a couple times a week, at least, but I haven’t thought of the whole joke in years. Joke-jokes are trying too hard. Knock knock. What? Exactly. A guy walks into a bar. A Jew, a Black, and a Shut the Hell Up. Repurposing the familiar is quicker, and funnier. “The heart wants what it wants” is dumb coming from Woody Allen. But when your wife says it? About the tin of sardines she’s eating over the sink in the 4 a.m. moonlight? Comedy gold.

When Josey started working at Drink, the best bar in the world, she witnessed what initially appeared to be typical bro culture, back of house: swinging dicks, casual sexism, double entendres. But then Scott Marshall, a bartender and genius hospitalitarian, started bragging his dick was so small, it looked like a stack of nickels with a mushroom cap.

This made everyone so happy that all the men started competing to come up with the best analogies for ever smaller dicks. They switched it up, from self-aggrandizing to self-deprecating, overnight. While they did this they always acknowledged that Josey—a serious 5'3" butch pushing fifty, famous for her ferocious cocktail shake—has the biggest fucking dick money can buy.

This is an instance of a joke doing its very best work. Jokes can be funny and mean, but you can also use them to welcome people, to invite them in to play. The Stack of Nickels with a Mushroom Cap—I like to sing it, to the tune of the 1812 Overture, Boom Boom—was a way of welcoming the little butch to a boys’ club. I still find that effort touching. I love Scott Marshall for a long list of reasons, but his purported micro-penis is right up there.

I know: that’s what she said. I love it when Scott Marshall’s purported micro-penis is right up there. Yep. Right there. Slower.

Jill McDonough, a three-time Pushcart Prize winner, directs U Mass-Boston's MFA program and 24 Pearl Street, the online version of the Fine Arts Work Center. Her books of poetry include Habeas Corpus, Where You Live, and Reaper, which is forthcoming in 2017.


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