Commentary Magazine

The Martians in Manhattan 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 less. First off, this month’s new joke.

The Martians in Manhattan Joke

Joseph Epstein's JokeA spaceship lands in the middle of Manhattan, just beyond the Pulitzer Fountain outside the Plaza Hotel.

Fifteen figures emerge, all with kelly-green skin. The police and press are soon on the scene. One of the figures, speaking in a feminine voice, emerges as the leader and spokesperson for the group.

“Where are you from?” a reporter from the New York Times asks.

“We are from Mars,” she answers in a clear metallic monotone.

“Why are you here?” the woman from the Daily News asks.

“We were on a pleasure cruise around the firmament when our ship malfunctioned, causing us to make this landing.”

“Are all Martians, like you and your fellow travelers, green?” asks a man from Page Six of the Post.

“Yes,” the spokesperson answers,“all Martians are green.”

“Do all Martians speak in a monotone as you do?” asks the Times man.

“Yes,” the spokesperson answers. “All Martians do.”

“You have three breasts,” says the Daily News reporter. “Is this also true of all Martians?”

“It is true of all female Martians,” she responds.

“And you don’t seem to have the protuberances from the side of your head that we on Earth call ears,” says the Post reporter.

“I have seen historical photographs of Martians with ears,” says the spokesperson. “We seem to have lost them many eons ago. We do have minuscule holes at the side of our heads, invisible to the naked eye.”

“One thing more,” asks the New York Times reporter. “You have seven fingers on your hands, with a large diamond ring on the third and fifth fingers of each hand. Do all Martian women have such large diamond rings?”

“No,” says the Martian spokesperson. “The Gentiles don’t.”


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

The Mistresses Joke

Jacob Hershkowitz and Solomon Binstock, founders and co-owners of Olivia Macgregor, Women’s Ready-to-Wear, are at the end of their regular Monday morning partners meeting when Jake says to Sol:

“As you can see from our balance sheets, we are in very sound shape, up over 60 percent from last year, which was itself a banner year.”

“I know,” says Sol, “everything seems to have turned out well, kenahora.”

“Very well,” says Jake. “We both have Park Avenue apartments, summer places on the Jersey Shore, our kids are out in the world, either professional men or married to professional men. We have everything we could possibly want, except one thing.”

“And what’s that?” asks Sol.

“Mistresses, of course,” says Jake. “We’ve worked hard all our lives. Time for a little fun and games, Solly boy, if you know what I mean.” He winks and lightly -squeezes his partner’s hand.

“You think so?” says Sol, hesitant.

“I know so,” says Jake. “Don’t worry, partner. I’ll arrange everything.”

Roughly three months later, Sol and his wife, Molly, are having brunch at the Oak Room at the Plaza when a tall, blonde, highly bimboesque woman approaches their table. She says, “Hello, Solly, dear,” bends and kisses him on the cheek, and walks off.

“And who was that?” asks Molly.

“Oh, that,” answers Sol, “that was Jake’s mistress.”

Less than 10 minutes later, a slender, large-bosomed, red-headed woman enters the Oak Room and walks over to the Binstocks’ table.

“Good morning, Sol, darling,” she says, gives Sol a lingering kiss on the mouth, then walks off.

“And who was that?” Molly asks.

“Oh that,” answers Sol, “that was my mistress.”

“You know, Sol,” Molly says, after a slight pause, “ours is better.


The Winning Exegesis of “The Mistresses Joke” . . .

. . . comes from Michael Balinsky of Chicago, Illinois, who writes: This joke is a clever, if subversive, take on one passage from Ethics of the Fathers—Avot 4:1 “Who is wealthy? The one who rejoices in his lot.”

Jacob and Solomon have everything, and they have worked hard to earn it. Yet they seek further riches, though not material wealth. They want to attain an even higher status than that bestowed by Park Avenue apartments. They are now at the level of acquiring mistresses.

In their own way, Jacob and Solomon are quite modest. They do not want fame, but rather fun and games. The joke, of course, is that their wives want the same thing, at least in terms of higher status.

Molly is not at all horrified or embarrassed by the mistresses. For her, this is a shared success story. She is part of a wealthy couple, celebrating their joint bounty. What would normally yield anger and resentment becomes a cause for satisfaction. So satisfied is Molly that she even takes pride in Sol’s mistress being better than Jacob’s.


Again, please e-mail your exegeses of “The Martians in Manhattan Joke” (250 words or fewer) to:[email protected]. Entries must be received by March 1.

About the Author

Joseph Epstein is a regular contributor to COMMENTARY.

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