Tuesday, March 25, 2008
You Know the Problem with Photocopiers?
Jack Irwin (1916-2008) was remembered on Monday in Saskatoon. He was my grandfather's brother, which makes him my great-uncle. I only met him twice as an adult (as an adult myself; for sure, he was an adult long before I was even born), but he made an impression in the best possible way. Jack was a jokester. I don't know if he had them ready, or if they just came to him. But even pushing 90, which would have been when I last saw him, he was the sharpest guy in the room when it came to jokes. Meeting Nicole, who then worked at a bank, he cracked: "I knew a girl who worked a bank once. I would have kissed her, but I knew she was a teller."
Then, letting a beat go by, "Did you hear about the blind carpenter? He picked up his hammer and saw."
My mom told me that she never heard Jack repeat a joke. In just over 91 years, I've gotta believe he had a few favourites that he told around town. But having spent just a very small amount of time with him, I wouldn't be surprised at all if my mom's claim was true.
He first caught my attention at my grandfather's 90th birthday party. My aunt Laurel (his neice) was happily snapping pictures of what was really a fine and happy day, and he said to her, "Oh, you're into photography? Why don't we go into a dark room and see what develops?"
Nevermind that Laurel was using a digital camera.
I never got the chance--I never made the chance to ask Jack why he told so many jokes. I never got to ask how it started, or where they came from. I can only surmise from what little I know about his life that his humour was a tool of his trade. Like my grandfather, Jack had a shoestore.
My favourite joke of his, one that he told to me specifically, spurred by me telling him what I was doing for a living at the time, is: "You know the problem with photocopiers? They never do anything original."
Jack Irwin was no photocopier. The source of his material is a secret he takes with him (though if you're interested in the secret origins of jokes in general, I cannot recommend strongly enough Anthony Horowitz's The Killing Joke), but the laughter he left behind inspires me daily.
MP3: "Last of My Kind" by Paul Burch
MP3: "Neon Filler" by Howe Gelb