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Jokes From Isaac Asimov

Mr. Schmidt, having come into a great deal of money, was in a position to pamper his whims, and he had a really giant one. All his life he had wanted to lead an orchestra in selections from Wagner. That he knew nothing about music didn't stop him. He hired a symphony orchestra, brought it into his home, got up in front of it, and led it tirelessly.

The musicians of the orchestra understood at once they must totally disregard what Schmidt was doing with his baton, but that was difficult in itself. Without proper guidance, they produced enough cacophony to tear at the ears dreadfully.

Finally, the cymbalist, unable to endure another moment of it, brought up his cymbals during a soft and delicate passage and, with one mighty swipe, delivered the loudest and most resonant cymbal clash the musical world had ever heard.

The entire orchestra came to a stop in the trembling of that resounding cymbal clap, and Mr. Schmidt himself felt his head vibrating as thought it would never stop.

Finally, after long minutes, the last echoes of that volcanic vibration died away, and Mr. Schmidt, face contorted in fury, said, "All right, which one of you wise guys did that?"

A young man is reported to have approached the renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (one of the great musical prodigies of all time), and asked, "Herr Mozart, I have the ambition to write symphonies, and perhaps you can advise me how to get started."

Mozart said, "The best advice I can give you is to wait until you are older and more experienced, and try you hand at less ambitions pieces to begin with."

The young man looked astonished. "But, Herr Mozart, you yourself wrote symphonies when you were considerably younger than I."

"Ah," said Mozart, "but I did so without asking advice."

"You know," I said, "that Sherlock Holmes was remarkable for his great dignity."

"He was?" said my victim, undoubtedly searching his memory of the stories.

"Oh, yes," I said gravely, "I'm sure you have often heard of the stately Holmes of England."

This lead me on to invent a game called They Wrote a Song About It. I will give you just one example. Someone had spoken approvingly of Denmark and its people, and I said, "I know. I know. They've written a song about it." My friend was astonished and said, "They have?" "Sure," I said. "You've heard it, haven't you? 'There is nothing like a Dane, nothing in the world.' " And if you have any voice at all, you sing the well-known song from South Pacific for as long as you remain unlynched.

The game never caught on, nor did it's sister games, They Wrote a Play About It and They Made a Movie About It. I can only attribute this failure to envy in high places.

Jake and Becky had been invited to a dinner party at which, Jake suspected, the general level of intellect and education would be greater than that to which he was accustomed. He was pretty sure that he would be able to carry it off reasonably well, but he was just as sure that Becky wouldn't.

He therefore said firmly, "Listen, Becky, at this party, if anyone asks you if you want a second helping, answer yes or no. If anyone asks you if you're in a draft, answer yes or no. Otherwise, don't say a word. Do you undersatnd me?"

"I promise, Jake," Becky said humbly and sumissively.

For a while, all went well at the party. The conversation veered all over the fields of science, literature, and culture generally, with Jake putting in only an occasional careful word and Becky saying nothing at all.

The hostess, noticing that Becky had not said a word, and feeling it her duty to draw her out, said suddenly, appropos of the current topic of conversation, "Tell me, Mrs. Moskowitz, are you acquainted with Beethoven?"

Becky, caught unawares, foundered and then managed to say, "Oh, yes, I met him the other day on the D bus to Coney Island."

A pall of silence descended on the entire group and all eyes turned on poor Becky. It was a solid two minutes before the conversation managed to get started again.

When they left, the brooding Jake managed to restrain himself until they got home. Then he broke out in fury. "I thought I told you to keep quiet. You made a fine jackass of yourself; I hope you know that. There wasn't a single person present at that party who didn't know that the D bus does not go to Coney Island."

A friend, whose family was slightly more affluent than my own in its time, had been condemned to endless piano practice despite the fact that she was virtually tone deaf. Painstakingly, she memorized enough piano compositions of one sort or another to complete the course and then never ceased to bewail the fact that she had not been allowed to have dancing lessons, for it was daincing that she had really wanted to learn.

I said, "At least you won't make your mother's mistake with your own daughter."

"Certainly not," she said fiercely. "Whether she likes it or not, my daughter is going to dance."

— From "Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor"

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