What kind of phone does the ocean have? A shell phone.
Where can you find hippos? It depends on where you hid them.
What do you get when you cross a centipede with a parrot? A walkie-talkie.
Ah, the silliness of third-grade jokes. You never know how they'll shape a person's life.
This is a cautionary tale of how a humor columnist was born. Or possibly hatched. From the gooney bird.
Many years ago, meek, mild-mannered Burton Cole attended Rowe Junior High School in Conneaut and dreamed of having his own newspaper column. But all he knew were the goofy jokes from third grade. They went something like this:
What do you call a hippo in a phone booth? Stuck.
How do you get a bull to stop charging? Take away his credit card.
What is a cow's favorite syrup? Moolasses.
Well, one fall in eighth grade, our quaking hero knocked on the door of the school newspaper adviser, a room filled with (gulp) ninth-graders, and pitched the idea for a jokes column. The adviser told the underclassman to write up a sample and shooed him away.
Our hero spent some of his best hours of research ever scribbling down gems like these:
A guy says to the talent show manager, ''I do animal impressions.'' The manager says, ''Sorry, we have all the animal acts we need.'' The guy says, ''Bummer,'' jumps out the window, flaps his arms and flies away.
An elephant lumbered up to a watering hole where a turtle napped on a log. The elephant kicked the turtle clear across the pond. ''I recognize you as the same turtle who took a nip out of my trunk 47 years ago,'' the elephant said. ''What a memory,'' the turtle said. The elephant nodded. ''Yep, I have turtle recall.''
Cole adapted the jokes to fit the school, plugging the names of students and popular locations into the stories. He returned to the room with the (gulp) ninth-graders. The busy adviser apparently didn't read the sample because he told Cole he had the column.
How awesome was it? Here are more examples of the kinds of, uh, brilliance that made the cut (minus student names, because some of them probably still want to beat me up and take my lunch money):
I wanted to be farmer. I milked that dream for a while, but gave it up. I wasn't comfortable being a man outstanding in my field.
Instead, I went to work at the orange juice factory, but I couldn't concentrate. So they canned me.
So I looked into being an optician, but I just couldn't see it. I don't like to make a spectacle of myself.
And that, kiddies, was how ''Cole's Corny Corner'' - the forerunner of ''Burt's Eye View'' - was born. Of course, now that I'm a serious humor writer, today I would never resort to such juvenile jokes like these:
Knock knock. Who's there? Doris. Doris who? Doris locked, that's why I'm knocking.
What did the teddy bear say when asked if he wanted dessert? ''No thanks, I'm stuffed.''
How many balls of string would it take to reach the moon? Just one, if it's long enough.
And that's the full, sad tale. So take my advice, be careful using jokes like these. You just might end up writing a humor column.
---- Send jokes to Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.