Sunday, February 10, 2008

Research question:

Does anyone know where the joke whose punchline goes, "I used to be a hunchback," originated? Google (esp. Google Books) leads me to think it's from either Groucho Marx or Isaiah Berlin, but somehow I thought the joke preceded either of them. I need to know this, oddly enough, for my work. It would be convenient, but unlikely, if the joke came from early 19th century France.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Groucho:

"You know," said Kahn, "I used to be a Jew." His friend responded, "Really? I used to be a hunchback."

~ Serge

Phoebe said...

He def. said it, but may not have been the first to do so.

Anonymous said...

Right, I'm thinking it's an old vaudeville joke; doesn't sound very French to me.

Berlin's version involves Steinmetz and Otto Kahn, but Berlin himself didn't arrive in NYC until 1940, by which time the Marx Brothers had already made it big. So it could hardly have started with him.


Phoebe said...

Oh no, I didn't think it was French, but wished it were, since the research is on France, and that would make for a better transition in the paper.

But thanks, the advice on the timing clarifies things.

Anonymous said...

It does work in French, actually:

Le Juif dit : « Dans le temps, j’étais juif. » Et le bossu : « Dans le temps, j’étais bossu. »


I. B. Singer said...

You cannot prove when a vaudeville style joke comes from. You can only find the earliest known usage.

I think you will have an easier time trying to find out who wrote "The Aristocrats."