What is a Shaggy Dog Story?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, we learn:
In its original sense, a shaggy dog story is an extremely long-winded anecdote characterized by extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents and terminated by an anticlimax or a pointless punch line. Ted Cohen gives the following example of this story:
A boy owned a dog that was uncommonly shaggy. Many people remarked upon its considerable shagginess. When the boy learned that there are contests for shaggy dogs, he entered his dog. The dog won first prize for shagginess in both the local and the regional competitions. The boy entered the dog in ever-larger contests, until finally he entered it in the world championship for shaggy dogs. When the judges had inspected all of the competing dogs, they remarked about the boy’s dog: “He’s not that shaggy.”
To many of us, the Shaggy Dog Story’s punch line has to be more than simply irrelevant. It has to be a pun … and, often, a spoonerism (an error in speech or deliberate play on words).
My idea of the “Original” Shaggy Dog Story
Once there was a shaggy dog. He was an extremely handsome example of his type, but he had a problem. He was a party animal. He stayed out late at night with questionable buddies and drank too much. Many were the nights when he’d stagger home and pass out almost as soon as he got inside the door of his house. The next day, he’d suffer terrible hangover headaches and swear off the booze … only to do it all over again in a night or two. His wife patiently suffered with his behavior for years. In spite of his carousing, he was a good provider and she loved him. This all ended when she learned she was pregnant. She laid down the law. “When our puppy is born, this has to stop. If you don’t mend your ways, the puppy and I will leave you.” He knew that tone. She meant it. The shaggy dog was proud that he was going to be father. He swore to his wife, their unborn puppy, and … most importantly … to himself that he would drink nothing stronger than water from then on. He kept his word. In a short time, he realized how much nicer it was to spend his nights at home and wake without those headaches. It wasn’t long before his son was born and he became one of the proudest fathers ever. His wife and son were the light of his life. One day, his wife discovered that she had neglected getting milk and bread on her last shopping trip. The shaggy dog offered to run to the store and get the groceries. His old hangout was between the super market and home. His wife warned him, “You’ve been so good. Don’t be led astray when you pass the bar.” “Of course not,” he promised. He went directly to the store, bought the milk and bread, and header home. On the way, he saw sign that read:
Shaggy Dog Contest Entry fee: $1.00 First Prize: $100.00
He knew he was a good-looking dog and had a few dollars change from the grocery … so, he entered the contest. He won the contest, the $100, and a First Place blue ribbon. He headed home feeling very proud of himself. When he passed the his old hangout, he decided there was no harm stopping in. After all, it was the middle of the day and he wouldn’t drink. His old cronies were glad to see him and even more glad to drink the beer he bought them with his prize. He did not touch a drop himself, but spent most of his money. He left late in the afternoon forgetting his groceries and ribbon. When he got home, his fur smelling of booze and smoke, his wife was furious. “You’ve been drinking, haven’t you?” she asked. “No, no,” he said. He explained what had happened and said he’d go back for the groceries and the prize ribbon that proved his story. She sniffed his breath, but even though it was nice fresh “doggy breath”, she was still skeptical. She said, “You stay here. Our son is old enough to go and he won’t be tempted.” The young dog went to the saloon. When he walked up to the bar, the bartender was a bit perplexed. After some thought, the bartender decided, “Dogs age faster than people and there’s no law about underage dogs. What the heck.” He looked down at the little dog and said, “What’ll you have?” The little dog looked up and answered, “Pap’s Blue Ribbon.”
No Pun Intended
Ted was walking home after a night on the town. It had been a great night. He’d met his friends; talked; danced; had a few drinks. He felt good; a bit tired, but good. The night air was refreshing. The Moon was bright. The walk was relaxing. He’d be home soon and expected a good night’s sleep. As he approached the corner that was just two blocks from home, a cloud covered the Moon. He turned the corner in the temporary darkness. Before he could take a few steps, the cloud moved on. In the returned brightness, Ted found himself face to face with a gorilla. The gorilla was huge; over 7 feet tall with shoulders more than 3 feet across. He must have weighed more than 500 pounds. For all his bulk, the strangest and, somehow most frightening feature of the gorilla was that he was a bright pink. Ted backed away. The gorilla moved toward him. Ted backed up faster. The gorilla kept pace. Ted turned and ran. The pink gorilla pursued him. They ran and ran. In a short time, they were in an unfamiliar part of town. Farther and farther, they ran … Ted in breathless fear; the pink gorilla lumbering close behind. They ran to the edge of town and beyond. In the distance, Ted saw a big tree. Perhaps, if he could reach it and climb it, he’d be safe. Drawing on energy reserves he didn’t know he had, Ted increased his speed and actually put some distance between them. He reached the tree and scampered up as high as he could. Breathlessly, Ted watched as the pink gorilla reached the foot of the tree. To Ted’s terror, the pink gorilla began to climb. Hand over hand; foot over foot, the pink gorilla moved upward. Ted had nowhere to go. Knowing it was the end, Ted closed his eyes and prayed. The pink gorilla came within reach of Ted; stretched out his huge arm; and said, … … “Tag. You’re it.”
Obviously, this story of “The Pink Gorilla” follows the original definition of a Shaggy Dog Story … “an extremely long-winded anecdote characterized by extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents and terminated by an anticlimax or a pointless punch line.” There’s no pun intended.
A man is dining in a fancy restaurant and there’s a gorgeous redhead sitting at the next table. He’s been checking her out since he sat down, but lacks the nerve to talk with her. Suddenly she sneezes, and her glass eye comes flying out of its socket toward the man. He reflexively reaches out, grabs it out of the air, and hands it back. “Oh my, I am so sorry,” the woman says as she pops her eye back in place. “Let me buy your dinner to make it up to you,” she says. They enjoy a wonderful dinner together, and afterwards they go to the theatre followed by drinks. They talk, they laugh, she shares her deepest dreams, and he shares his. She listens. After paying for everything, she asks him if he would like to come to her place for a nightcap and stay for breakfast. They had a wonderful time. The next morning, she cooks a gourmet meal with all the trimmings. The guy is amazed. Everything had been SO incredible! “You know,” he said, “you are the perfect woman, are you this nice to every guy you meet?” “No,” she replies. . . “You just happened to catch my eye.”
— Thanks for this one go to my friend, Richard Corwin.
Competitive runners need time trials for both training and qualifying for races. We now use electronic timers because they are extremely accurate and relatively inexpensive. Before the advent of these modern devices, the timers were specially trained people who were certified officials. These officials were highly respected by runners, trainers, and judges alike. Their timing was the final determinant of who won or lost races. Their work had to focus on both accuracy and integrity. Each year, one of the major running associations held a dinner to honor the Timers. One year, it was an especially gala affair. The newly elected President of the Association wanted to make a good impression. At the end of the dinner, he introduced the guests of honor saying … “Ladies and Gentlemen, these are the souls that time men’s tries.”
Mystery at the Beach
A middle-aged couple lived near the ocean and used to walk the beach a lot. One summer they noticed a girl who was at the beach almost every day. She wasn’t unusual nor was the travel bag she carried, except for one thing; she would approach people who were sitting on the beach, glance around, and then speak to them.
Generally, the people would respond negatively and she would wander off. Occasionally, someone would nod and there would be a quick exchange of money for something that she carried in her bag.
The couple assumed that she was selling drugs and debated whether to call the cops. Since they didn’t know for sure, they decided to just continue watching her.
After a couple of weeks the wife said, “Honey, have you ever noticed that she only goes up to people with boom boxes and other electronic devices?” He hadn’t and said so.
Then she said, “Tomorrow, I want you to get a towel and our big radio and go lie out on the beach. Then we can find out what she’s really doing.”
The plan went off without a hitch. The wife was almost hopping up and down with anticipation when she saw the girl talk to her husband and then leave. The man then walked up the beach and met his wife at the road.
“Well, is she selling drugs?” she asked excitedly.
“No, she’s not,” he said, enjoying this probably more than he should have.
“Well, what is it then? What does she do?” his wife nearly shrieked.
The man grinned and said, “She’s a battery salesperson.”
“Batteries?” cried the wife.
“Yes!” he replied, “She sells C cells by the seashore!”