Commentary Magazine


The Night School Joke

Newton-Edison Finish

The year is 1925. Yussele and Shloime are recent immigrants living on the Lower East Side, working at a pillow factory. One day, Shloime says to Yussele, “I’m going to school at night.”

“I don’t have time for that,” says Yussele.

“This is how I’m going to get ahead,” says Shloime. “I’ll be rich, and you’ll still be working here because you don’t know anything.”

“I know plenty,” says Yussele.

“Oh yeah?” says Shloime. “Tell me, who is Isaac Newton?”

Yussele shrugs.

“Isaac Newton discovered gravity,” says Shloime. “I learned that at night school.”

“Well, I don’t know who Itzik Shmitzik is,” Yussele says, “but I know plenty.”

“Sure,” Shloime says. “So tell me: Who is Thomas Edison?”

Yussele waves his hand dismissively at Shloime.

“Thomas Edison made the lightbulb,” says Shloime. “You see, because of night school, I know things, and you don’t know anything.”

“Right,” says Yussele. “So you tell me: Who is Yankel?”

“Yankel?” says Shloime. “Yankel who?”

“Yankel Lopatin,” says Yussele.

“Gee, I don’t know, Yussele,” Shloime says with a sneer. “Who is Yankel Lopatin?”

Yussele says, “He’s with your wife while you’re at night school.”

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