(Roughly) Daily

“The gods too are fond of a joke”*…


The monthly Fun-Master newsletter, which cost a few dollars per issue, contained sometimes as many as 20 pages of jokes, broken up into subsections such as “Stories,” “Insults—Squelches—Sarcasm,” and “Humorous Views of the News.” The jokes and gags within ran the gamut from cleverly convoluted yarns to snappy one-liners:

“I know a Texan who rides on a solid gold saddle. Every time he hits a bump, he strikes it rich!”

“Last week I played golf on a real crummy golf course. It had holes in it!”

“He’s a real hypochondriac. When he goes to a cocktail party, he stirs his drink with a thermometer!”

Thanks to Glason’s constant back-page advertising, the newsletter became a well-known industry resource. Famous comedians including Flip Wilson, Dick Gregory, Bob Hope, and Johnny Carson reportedly subscribed, or otherwise got jokes and training from Glason—even if not all of them wanted to admit it. “Jackie Gleason didn’t want to be on record as buying the Billy Glason gag files, so he had his writer, Harry Crane, buy them”… “It was the writer who bought them, but it was Jackie Gleason who ended up with them.”…

It wasn’t only comedians who took advantage of Glason’s jokes. The newsletter was also bought by ventriloquists, DJs, and magicians. Anybody who needed some jokes in their act.

The Fun-Master newsletters were also often representative of the comedy of the day, for better and for worse. Jokes about nagging, controlling wives—or marriage as a prison sentence for men—abound, along with a number of ethnic stereotypes… At the same time, during his career, Glason maintained a staunch insistence on working clean. “It used to really make him angry when people used profanity for the sake of getting a shock laugh”…

The remarkable story of Billy Glason and his “Fun-Master Gag Files,” which influenced the joke industry– and indeed, comedy at large, for decades: “Rediscovering the Newsletter That Inspired a Generation of Comedians.”

* Aristotle


As we ponder punch lines, we might spare a thought for Henry “Henny” Youngman; he died on this date in 1998.  A comedian (and violinist), he was crowned by Walter Winchell “The King of the One-Liner.”  At a time when many comedians told elaborate anecdotes, Youngman’s routine consisted of telling simple one-liner jokes (of the sort in which Glason traded), occasionally with interludes of violin; a typical Youngman stage performance lasted only 15 to 20 minutes but contained dozens of jokes in rapid-fire succession.  He’s perhaps best remembered for the gag that became his trademark: “Take my wife … please.”



Written by LW

February 24, 2018 at 1:01 am

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