The Callback, is how they got homesick in Montana over Rosh Hashanah and spent the evening cold calling names they thought “sounded Jewish.” They didn’t have much luck, but met a nice Catholic couple who put them up for the night…

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Jokes Across America

A few months ago, Simon Goldberg and Dan Ettinger hopped on their bicycles in Oregon and started pedaling in the direction of Charleston, South Carolina. Along the way, they videotaped average people spinning their best yarns: funny jokes, dumb jokes, sex jokes, all kinds of jokes. They camped in strangers’ yards, approached anyone who looked even mildly entertaining, and filmed it all. It was an unreal experience: one of my favorite stories, which they told last night as guests of the theatre variety show The Callback, is how they got homesick in Montana over Rosh Hashanah and spent the evening cold calling names they thought “sounded Jewish.” They didn’t have much luck, but met a nice Catholic couple who put them up for the night…

A few months ago, Simon Goldberg and Dan Ettinger hopped on their bicycles in Oregon and started pedaling in the direction of Charleston, South Carolina. Along the way, they videotaped average people spinning their best yarns: funny jokes, dumb jokes, sex jokes, all kinds of jokes. They camped in strangers’ yards, approached anyone who looked even mildly entertaining, and filmed it all. It was an unreal experience: one of my favorite stories, which they told last night as guests of the theatre variety show The Callback, is how they got homesick in Montana over Rosh Hashanah and spent the evening cold calling names they thought “sounded Jewish.” They didn’t have much luck, but met a nice Catholic couple who put them up for the night.

Now they’re back in Evanston, where they grew up, and they’ve written a book about the experience, titled Joke Pedalers. (It hasn’t been sold yet, so if you’re a publisher, giddy up.) They’ve put up a Web site, too. The site’s content is amazing: 275-plus jokes, catalogued by subject matter (kinda dirty, confusing, anti-racist, etc.), as well as by state (except that there’s no Alabama entry, ahem). A lot of what’s up there looks to be on video, so you see the actual person tell his or her joke, which is part of the fun. (You can also submit your own jokes.)

But be forewarned: not every punchline is treated equally. Yep, these dudes are kind of discriminating. Or at least they were to yours truly. I met Dan and Simon for the first time late one night a few weeks ago on the Red Line. A few of us were coming back from a holiday party, and they were headed out for the evening to Wrigleyville. They approached our little group, told us about the project, and, of course, we got all excited. At their request, I whipped out my favorite winter joke (what’s the difference between snow men and snow women?) and was denied. They didn’t really even laugh at the punchline (snowballs! Hahaha!). Hmph. And then of course, my friend, Kate Parker, told her joke, and everyone laughed hysterically. Dan and Simon videotaped her. Oh well.

So now I’m cruising the site for a new one. What does Snoop Dogg say when it rains? Anyone? Anyone?

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