Thy Momma Jokes

So, there’s this person (group? bot?) on Twitter called OMGFacts that sends out random bits of trivia like, “A single human blood cell takes only 60 seconds to make a complete circuit of the body.” I don’t follow, but it shows up on my feeds all the time because they talk about Shakespeare often.  Sometimes it’s something weird like, “Shakespeare alone wrote as many as 1/10th of the most quotable quotations ever written or spoken in English.” I mean, what? How do you prove that? I count at least 5 different issues I have with that sentence. But then yesterday they came up with this one: “Shakespeare was the first to use insults about people’s mothers. (yo momma, mother******, etc.)” and my Twitter streams just asploded – I was getting that sucker rebroadcast several times a minute. And I thought, “Wait, that can’t be right.”  So I went looking. Hunted around Wikipedia, which is very likely where they got their information, and all I got was “It’s as old as Shakespeare”, so that was no help.  I  hunted around some more, looking for references to ancient Greek literature, but while I found some papers that have been written on the origin of jokes and how far back you can find references to things like people getting hit in the crotch (America’s Funniest Videos has been on HOW long?), I found no counter evidence to the “Shakespeare invented the Momma joke” argument. Anybody got some evidence to shoot this one down, or is it actually true?

Why WWE Professional Wrestling Is Harder Than Shakespeare

1) People understand that your tights are a costume.

2) You think Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are silly names? Try drawing heat with a name like The Gobbledy Gooker.

3) Children won’t cry and parents won’t get pissed if they see Romeo having lunch with Tybalt after the show.

4) The audience doesn’t scream “WHAT?” every time Hamlet pauses during a soliloquoy.  “To be…” WHAT?! “..or not to be.” WHAT?!

5) That blood on Julius Caesar is fake.  The blood on Ric Flair, not so much.

6) Helena and Hermia can play their fight scene the same way every night.  In WWE it’d be jello one week, then a hot tub, then a pillow fight … with less and less clothing each time.

7) Shakespeare never wrote a comedy sketch about necrophilia and honestly expected an actor to make it work.

8) Nobody chants “You screwed Falstaff!” when King Henry tries to speak.

9) When Hamlet leaps into the grave to fight with Laertes, he doesn’t have to do it off a 10ft ladder. Through a table.  Backwards.

10) In both cases there’s a script, nobody really hates the other guy, nobody dies and nobody’s really trying to beat anybody unconscious.  So how come when people find out you’re a Shakespeare fan nobody ever says, “You actually watch that stuff?  You know it’s all fake, right?”

Lesson Plan : Capulet / Montague Debate

Surely this has been done before.  What about getting a classroom of students together, dividing them down the middle, and “solving” the ancient grudge by having a debate over which family “wins”?  Could prove to be popular again, what with all the Twilight-inspired  “team vampire / team werewolf” nonsense going on. On the one hand you’ve got the Capulets, who appear to be the trouble makers.  After all, they start it with the thumb biting.  The Montagues, as far as we know, are delivering food to the homeless. Plus, the Montagues have Benvolio, a man whose very name seems to mean “good guy”.  On the Capulet side they’ve got Tybalt, who sometimes seems like the biggest bully around while at others he’s all talk. However, it is Lord Capulet who says (paraphrased), “It is not so hard for men so old as we to keep the peace.”  It is also Lord Capulet who finds Montagues at his party, and welcomes them. Then again, he’s not exactly keeping the peace when Juliet tells him she doesn’t want to marry Paris.  Montague, on the other hand, shows genuine concern for his boy Romeo – and nowhere do we see him have an angry side. As for the mothers, we don’t see much of Lady Montague, other than to ask for Romeo’s whereabouts during the first scuffle, and then later to die of grief at his exile.  Lady Capulet, on the other hand, screams for Romeo’s head on a platter (“I beg for justice, which thou, prince, must give; Romeo slew Tybalt, Romeo must not live.”) even though witnesses admit Tybalt started it. Lastly, when all is said and done, it is Capulet who reaches to Montague with the first gesture of reconciliation.  Montague responds in kind, but why wasn’t his hand out already? It’s like the dude who doesn’t reach for the check, but is always there saying “Oh yeah yeah, right, sure, how much do I owe?”   I realize that the “evidence” is entirely based on what Shakespeare chooses to tell us, and we see more of the Capulet family life.  But do you use that as positive evidence, or negative? Just because we don’t see Lady Montague throwing dishes at her husband doesn’t mean it *didnt* happen.   Whose side are you on?

Shakespeare Jokes?

Surely we geeks must know some good Shakespeare jokes among us?
Shakespeare walks into a bar, and the bartender says, ‘Oi, you can’t come in ‘ere! You’re bard!’”
A priest and a rabbi walk into William Shakespeare.  “Oh bugger,” says the priest, “We’ve gone and walked into a bard by mistake.”
..many variations on Shakespeare not knowing which pencil to use, 2b or not 2b.
A blonde joke: “One blonde says to the other, Have you read Shakespeare? and the other blond says, I dunno, who wrote it?”

Student Bloopers:
This is a collection of actual student bloopers collected by teachers from 8th grade through college.The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Romeo’s last wish was to be laid by Juliet.

And that’s it.
What else ya got?

UPDATED: Bardfilm took up the challenge and made us a list of Shakespeare Lightbulb Jokes!

The Faces Of Othello

I don’t have much to say about Knightleyemma’s Literature Blog post on the many faces of Othello that’s not already said. The simple question, “What does Othello look like?” is mapped through the years, starting with the portrait of a Moorish Ambassador to Queen Elizabeth from about 1600, through Paul Robeson and Sir Laurence, Orson Welles (no comment) and Patrick Stewart (no picture), to some newer talent like Eamonn Walker (from HBO’s Oz) and Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko from Star Trek Deep Space Nine). There’s not a great deal of commentary, but it’s not that kind of post.  It’s a quick look.  Comments are made about costuming choices and mannerisms, but nothing too detailed. Have a favorite Othello? I’ve honestly not seen enough of them to really make a judgment.

Kate Moss is a Nymph

Whenever I see a headline that reads “Actress such-and-such to try Shakespeare” I always have to click to see whether it will be exciting, or a train wreck. This week it’s Kate Moss, who is perhaps known best as a “super” model rather than an actress.  She’ll be tackling the upcoming Kevin Spacey / Sam Mendes production of The Tempest. Miranda? No.  She’ll be playing a nymph. I think that’s actually a good idea.  You don’t start with lead roles.  The question is whether she’s got the star power to keep all eyes focused on her anyway, regardless of the role she’s got.  I remember our Tempest in college, I was dating a girl at the time who was cast as a nymph.  She camped out on top of the sleeping King Alonso and growled menacingly at his would-be assassins. (While other girls got roses, I got her a unicorn carousel music box and wrote “Now I will believe that there are unicorns…” in the note.  Apparently I was a Shakespeare geek back then, too 🙂

Isn’t Will Ironic? Don’t You Think?

As I work my way through Playing Shakespeare, I’m now at the selection on irony.  Barton admits that irony is very difficult to get right, because you’re left to interpret clues in the text which could go many different ways.  They then start by doing the “Brutus is an honorable man” speech, calling it the most obvious example and getting it out of the way. Who’s got another favorite example of a scene that is played for the irony?  One of the actors specifically asks about the difference between being “wry” and ironic, and though Barton seems to suggest that being wry has more to do with going for the laugh (smirk?), I’m not sure I fully understand his answer.

This Guy Is My New Hero

(Paraphrased) “And then we come to the question of what to do about the rhymes, does the actor play them, or ignore them? I am sure that he should play them, because they are there in the text.”

– John Barton, Playing Shakespeare

I got a real kick out of that line.   It’s not patronizing the way he says it, but yet I think that off camera and maybe on a grumpy day you could almost hear him add “you idiot” at the end of that sentence. :)  [ I don’t know anything about the man’s real world directorial style, that’s just the way I imagine it going down. ] It’s like a neat little summary of how to play Shakespeare, however infinitely complicated you may see it.  “Hey, how should I play this scene?”  “What’s it say in the text?”  Repeat. (To be fair, this quote comes in the middle of his lesson on irony, which Barton clearly admits is *not* clear in the text, and something you have to interpret for yourself.  More on that in later posts.)

Call Me

936-CALIBAN (That’s 936-225-4226 for the more numerically inclined.) I have no plans what to do with this new feature, yet.  I’m just curious what people might have to say.  Recite something? Suggest an idea?  Sing the praises of bacon(*)? Up to you. Speak the speech. (*) capitalization as intended, as I’m referring to the tasty food group, not the Shakespeare wanna be.