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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Bar-Hebraeus (Abu’l-Faraj Gregorius) (1226–1286)

Pleasantries of Comedians

From “Book of Laughable Stories”

TO a certain comedian it was said, “When a cock riseth up in the early morning hours, why doth he hold one foot in the air?” He replied, “If he should lift up both feet together he would fall down.”

A comedian said, “If it be only those that are weary and heavy-laden who are to enter Paradise, as our Lord said, there is nothing that will go in before the harp, for in this world he endureth much trial and tribulation. His throat is squeezed, his ear is twisted, his belly is smitten, and when he is old he is thrown into the fire.”

An actor said, “I and my brother were twins, and we both came forth from the womb at one time. He hath become a merchant, while I am a wandering beggar. How, then, can the opinions of the astronomers be held to be true? This proof alone is quite sufficient to show their falsehood.”

Having taken money on loan from a certain man, a son of the stage denied that he had done so, and having been brought before a judge, the judge said to the owner of the money, “Hast thou any witnesses?” And the lender answered, “No.” The judge said to the actor, “Swear now to me that thou hast not received the money.” And the actor replied, “If thou wilt allow it, prithee let my brother swear for me, for I know certainly that he hath not taken anything.”

Going about in Sebastia in the winter season dressed in a new flaxen garment, a comic actor was thus accosted, “Give me this tunic of thine, and thou wilt still have thy cloak; thy Christ commanded thee to give both thy tunic and thy cloak to whosoever asked thee for them.” But he replied, “The words of Christ regard me not on this matter! For this commandment was not given by Him to the people of Sebastia in the winter season, although it may have been given to the people of Palestine in the summer season.”

The wife of a certain comedian was half-way up a ladder, and he swore that he would never again have aught more to do with her, whether she came down or whether she went up. And when the woman heard this she threw herself down from the ladder on the ground, and said, “Behold, I did not come down, and I did not go up, but I fell down.” Her husband said to her, “Believe me, if only the people of the city were acquainted with thee they would certainly hire thee to teach them cunning ways of making their decisions.”

The wife of another man of the theater, being with child, she looked at her husband’s ugly face, and said, “Wo is me if the child which I carry in my womb resembleth thee.” And he said, “Nay, but wo be to thee if he doth not resemble me, for thou shalt no longer eat my bread, and I will send thee away to him whom the child shall resemble.”

A comic actor saw a Jew who had become a Christian, and who was not leading a very good life, and he said to him, “Oh, thou who didst provoke Moses to wrath, and who dost not please Christ, go now to Mohammed. Perhaps, however, thou wilt die on thy first coming to him, and before thou hast time to provoke him to wrath, for I know that if thou wert converted to him for long thou wouldst anger him.”

While another actor was eating fish and milk, it was said to him, “Art thou not afraid to put milk and fish into thy stomach together?” And he replied, “How can the fish be sensitive to the milk, seeing that he is already dead?”

When a certain comedian got home, and found a sieve laid upon his couch, he hung himself up on the peg in the wall. His wife said to him, “What is this? Art thou possessed of a devil?” And he said to her, “Nay, but when I saw the sieve in my place, I went to its place.”

One friend said to another, “When thou art traveling by night, and wouldst that the dogs should not molest thee, shout in their faces the psalm wherein occur the words, ‘Save my only one from the mouth of the dogs.’” A son of the stage, standing by, added, “Nay, but let him also take a stick in his hand, for all dogs do not understand the psalms, although there may be among them some who read them.”

An actor who hated the eggplant, having been invited by a certain nobleman, found that all his dishes were made therewith; and he said to the servant, “Give me some water that I may drink—that is, if there be no eggplant in it.”

Going to the house of a certain rich man who was sick, a friend from the theater inquired concerning his illness, and the sick man said to him, “Boils have broken out upon me in a loathsome place.” The other replied, “I do not see any in thy face,” meaning “Thy face is a loathsome place.”

One who practised the mimic art had a wife whose face was very ugly, and one rainy and gloomy day she said to him, “How can one use such a day as this advantageously?” He said to her, “In divorce and separation.”

A comrade of his was asked, “Is wheat flour very dear in the market to-day?” The reply was, “I never inquired, for I only buy baked bread.”

A man who had sore eyes was asked by a buffoon, “With what dost thou treat the disease in thine eyes?” And the man replied, “With the singing of psalms, and with the prayers of my mother, who is a nun.” The buffoon rejoined, “These are very excellent things, indeed, but a little antimony is needed with them.”

A sick actor’s visitor, who was a very foolish man, enquired, “What wouldst thou that I should do for thee?” The reply was, “Grant me the favor not to come into my presence again.”