the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

The media reports that the elderly may not get the joke. It's no laughing matter. A new study suggests older adults have difficulty with cognitive flexibility, abstract reasoning and short-term memory. What poppycock!

The research was conducted by "psikhologye" professor, Brian Carpenter and graduate student, Wingyun Mak. Mak said, "Humor is a big part of enjoying life and everyday relationships. Laughter is a physical activity--it burns calories, strengthens abdominal muscles, and boosts the immune system."

In an e-mail, Dr. Carpenter told me, "... humor appreciation is a complicated area to research, and our study was a small and very circumscribed one. There's much more for us to learn."

This past week I visited my brother, Paul, who resides in a nursing home in Long Beach, New York. I told him the joke about the gambler who rode into Atlantic City in a $60,000 Cadillac, and went home in a hundred thousand dollar bus. HE GOT IT!

A joke and Story Completion Test was developed by Hiram Brownell in l983. A joke stem was presented with four different endings including the correct humorous ending; a humorous nonsequiter--an ending that does NOT make sense with the joke stem, but is funny in and of itself; an unhumorous straightforward answer; and unhumorous unrelated nonsequitur. The correct "funny" answer required that the participant integrate the three cognitive measures tested in the study.

Shown below is MY idea of a Jewish humor joke. Grab a #2 pencil and let's see how well you fare.

1. A visitor to Israel attended a concert at the Moscovitz Auditorium and he was impressed with the architecture and acoustics. He inquired of the tour guide, "Is this magnificent auditorium named after Chaim Moscovitz, the famous Talmudic scholar?"

"No," replied the guide. "It is named after Sam Moscovitz, the writer."

"Never heard of him. What did he write?"

A) "A check."

B) "No More Hot Flashes And Other Good News"

C) "College - The Best Five Years of Your Life"

D) "K is for Kvetch"

2. Said says to Reuben, "Did you know that it's a sin for a woman to make coffee?"

"Yup, it's in the Bible. It says,

A) "If this is coffee, please bring me some tea, but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee."

B) "Hebrews!"

C) "Coffee: Chocolate and men are so much better rich."

D) "Freg mir becherim!" (How should I know?) BUT I'm reading Robert Sullivan's book titled, "CROSS COUNTRY: Fifteen Years and Ninety Thousand Miles on the Road and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, a Lot of Bad Motels, a Moving Van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, My Wife, My Mother-in-Law, Two Kids, and ENOUGH COFFEE TO KILL AN ELEPHANT."

3. Leonard and Manny were discussing Yiddish when Lenny observed, "You know, there's no word for 'disappointed!'"

"I can't believe it. Wait, I'll call my mother."

To his mother, Manny asked in Yiddish, "Mamaleh, if I promised to come to dinner on Friday, and you worked all day to make me the finest meal-- chopped liver, soup, chicken--then, two minutes before I'm supposed to arrive, I telephone to say something important came up and I can't come, what would you say?"

A) "Hmmm, Oy bin ich (am I)..... 'disappointed.'"

B) "I'd give a 'geshrai' (yell)!"

C) "I prefer your brother!"

D) "Mich a gang un gai in dr'erd!" (Do me a favor and drop dead!)

4. Shirley and Sol went to see the show, "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish and I'm In Therapy." Shirley told Sol that the 80-minute comedy is

A) about "Meshugeneh gens, meshugeneh gribbenes" (goofy parents, goofy children)

B) One part lasagna, one part kreplach and two parts prozac.

C) about Motherly advice: "Men are like streetcars--miss one, another will come along"

D) proof of the Yiddish saying, "No whoopie before the chupie"

5. It was mealtime during a flight on El-Al. "What would you like for dinner?" the flight attendant asked Moishe.

"What are my choices?: Moishe asked.

A) "Take it or Leave it"

B) "Yes or No"

C) "A braireh hob ich?" (I have a choice?)

D) "Today, they call it attention-deficit disorder, but my mother's term for it was the Yiddish word "shpilkes."

6. A guy phones Mt. Sinai Hospital using his cell phone. He yells, "You've gotta send help. My wife's in labor." The nurse says, "Calm down. Is this her first child?" He replied,

A) "No! This is her husband."

B) "Can you hear me now?"

C) "Can you hear me NOW?"


7. What did Moses say when Pharaoh put his finger in his belly button?

A) "A sheynm dank in pupik." (Thanks for nothing.)

B) "Just don't forget to wash your pupik and call your mother (not necessarily in that order)!

C) "Let my pupik go!"

D) "Don't be the kind of person who worries whether a flea has a pupik."

8. Ruchel says to Sam, "The two things I cook best are meatloaf and "epl" pie. The husband replies,

A) "I love your recipe for "Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen Bouillabaise"

B) "Which is this?"

C) "And my favorite correction in The New York Times (Nov. 26, 2000) read:

A recipe for juniper-flavored gravlax misstated the amount of kosher salt. It is one-half cup, not four cups."

D) "(I'm Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica"

9. An elderly lady is driving on "der shosey" (the highway). Sitting on the side of the highway waiting to catch speeding drivers is a State Police Officer. He sees the car puttering along at 22 MPH. "This driver is just as dangerous as a speeder," he thinks, and pulls the driver over. He notices that there are five old ladies-- two in the front seat and three in the back--wide eyed and "blaikh vi de vant" (pale as a sheet).

"Officer, I don't 'farshtey.' I was doing exactly the speed limit! What's the problem?"

"Ma'am, you weren't speeding, but you were driving slower than the speed limit and that's a danger to other drivers."

"Slower than the speed limit? No, sir, I was doing the speed limit EXACTLY... Twenty-two miles an hour!"

The officer, trying to contain a chuckle, explained that 22 was the route number, not the speed limit.

Before letting her go, he noted that the other four women seemed awfully shaken and hadn't muttered a single peep this whole time. The officer asked if there was a problem.

"Oh, they'll be all right in a minute, officer"

A) "We just got off Route 119."

B) "They're all octogenarians--and they're all addicted to V-8 juice."

C) "Freg nit." (Don't ask.)

D) "They're frightened. I've had 2 bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees, fought cancer and diabetes. I'm half blind, can't hear anything quieter than a jet engine, take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. I have bouts with dimentia, poor circulation, hardly feel my hands and feet anymore, can't remember if I'm 85 or 92, but...'danken got', I still have my Florida driver's license!"

10. Izzy, an elderly gentleman, went to the "dokter" in Boynton Beach, Florida. He had serious hearing problems. The "dokter" fitted him with a set of hearing aids which allowed him to hear l00%. A month later the "dokter" said, "Your hearing is perfect. Your 'mishpocha' must be really pleased you can hear again."

To which the gentleman said,

A) "It is a foolish man that hears all he hears."

B) "Now I can hear George W. Bush--and Homer Simpson--pronounce nuclear as 'nucular.'"

C) "I haven't told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I've changed my will five times."

D) "A kluger farshtait fun eyn vort tsvai." (A wise man undertands two words from one.)

11. Yakov Smirnoff describes his second date in America. A girl invited me over to her house for dinner. I was pretty excited and really looking forwards to it, until shecalled and asked me to bring over some California wine, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and Maine lobster. By the time I got back from all those places,

A) She said, "Caviar Schmaviars. I like a nice piece of lox."

B) I remembered what my mother said, "Az men zitst in der haim, tsereist men nit kain shtivel." (If you stay at home, you won't wear out your shoes.)

C) "she was married...but at least I added eight thousand miles to my frequent- flyer program."

D) Love is sweet, but it's tastier with a piece of bread.


1. A "B" was written by Penny Wise Budoff; "C" was written by Benson & Gordon

2. B

3. A

4. B

5. B

6. A

7. C "B" is an inscription on a T-shirt sold by

8. B (A) Recipe from "The French-Kosher Cookbook" by Ruth & Bob Grossman

9. A

10. C

11. C (D) was said by Shalom Aleichem (A) is from "French for Mrs. Katz" by Sequoia and Sarezky

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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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