Commentary Magazine


The Cigar Joke

Every month in this space, Joseph Epstein tells a Jewish joke and invites you, the COMMENTARY reader, to offer an exegesis of it in 250 words or fewer.
First off, this month’s new joke.

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The Cigar Joke

Leslie Horowitz runs into Arnie Feldman, whom he hasn’t seen since their days at Roosevelt High School 50 years ago. Pleased at their meeting, they duck into a nearby coffee shop to talk about the good old days: the great Roosevelt basketball team, city champs, all their old friends, the pretty girls of their adolescence, and much else. Feldman tells Horowitz he looks in great physical shape, and Horowitz, thanking him, informs him that he works out daily and is careful about his diet, and is in fact a bit of a self-confessed health nut.

When they leave the coffee shop, Feldman lights up an impressive-looking cigar, about seven inches long with a dark wrapper.

“How many of those do you smoke a day?” Horowitz asks him.

“Usually seven,” Feldman answers, “never less.”

“And may I ask how long you have been smoking seven cigars a day?”

“I’d say 40 years,” says Feldman.

“What do you pay for these cigars?”

“I buy them by the box, but per cigar they cost roughly a buck a throw.”

Horowitz takes a small notebook out of his jacket pocket and with a gold Cross pencil begins jotting down figures, muttering, “Seven cigars per day times 365 days per year times 40 years, add in 5 percent interest, compounded . . . ”

“Arnie,” Horowitz says, looking up. “See that high-rise apartment building across the street? Do you realize that if you had saved the money you’ve spent on cigars and invested it even in a savings account, you could own that building?”

“No kidding,” replies Feldman, exhaling a perfect little cumulus cloud of cigar smoke. “I already own it.”

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Now here’s the joke that ran in our March issue.

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The Three Jewish-Mother Jokes

I.

MRS. MUTCHNIK is on the beach in Boca Raton with her three-year-old grandson Jeffrey when a great wave comes crashing onto shore, lifts the little boy in its wake, and carries him out into the churning ocean.

Looking to the heavens, Mrs. Mutchnik cries out, “Oh, please, Lord, please return my dear and only little grandson.”

When, lo, another gigantic wave rolls in, depositing Jeffrey safely at his grandmother’s feet.

Mrs. Mutchnik looks up once again to the sky and exclaims, petulantly, “He had a hat.”

II.

“My son Bernie,” says Mrs. Kaplan to Mrs. Bernstein, “is in psychoanalysis.”

“Really,” says Mrs. Bernstein, “and what does the psychoanalyst tell him?”

“He tells Bernie that he has an Oedipus Complex.”

“So what’s an Oedipus Complex?” asks Mrs. Bernstein.

“I don’t know,” says Mrs. Kaplan.

“Oh, well,” says Mrs. Bernstein. “Oedipus, schmoedipus, the main thing is that a boy should love his mother.”

III.

At 2:00 p.m. sharp the ladies arrive for Rose Kaufman’s regular Tuesday afternoon mah-jongg game. Mrs. Ginsberg, the furrier’s wife, comes in first, followed by Mrs. Greenstein, the wife of the dentist, and Mrs. Hochberg, wife of Julius Hochberg, CPA.

Silently, without a word passing among them, the women take their seats. They select and arrange their tiles.

“Oy,” says Mrs. Ginsberg.

“Oy, veh,” says Mrs. Greenstein.

“Oy, gevalt,” says Mrs. Hochberg.

“Now ladies,” says Mrs. Kaufman, “I thought we agreed that we wouldn’t discuss our children.”

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The Winning Exegesis of “The Three Jewish-Mother Jokes” …

. . . comes from Ken Krimstein, of New York City, who writes: What’s with the big word “exegesis”? My son Kenny was going to write this thing. (Why is he wasting his time? But anyway.) I took a look over his shoulder, just one look. I googled “exegesis,” a ten-dollar word. But it means “explanation.” So, here’s how it is. The first one, that’s an old one. I knew that one from a long, long time ago. You should have heard Myron Cohen tell it. I did at Kutsher’s. Now that was a funny man. Written, it’s okay, but not that funny. The Oedipus Complex one? Really, aren’t shrink jokes overdone? I mean, come on. The last one, okay, I’ll grant you that, not bad. But still, to use a big word like “exegesis?” Well, at least the writer of the “Enter Laughing” column, Mr. Epstein, he had a nice education. His mother must be proud. My Kenny, I don’t think he really knew what it meant. And all that college education we gave him! But, like I said, I googled it. Kenny doesn’t know I sent this in. And, whatever you do, don’t tell him. He’s sensitive. Maybe a little too. But that’s not a bad thing? (He gets it from his father.) Oh, and if I don’t win—don’t worry about it. Really. It’s not a big deal. (Why doesn’t  Kenny call?)

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Again, please e-mail your exegeses of “The Cigar Joke” (250 words or fewer) to: enterlaughing@commentarymagazine.com. Entries must be received by June 1.

About the Author

Joseph Epstein is a regular contributor to COMMENTARY.




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