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Garrison, This is the first

March 17, 2005 |

This is the first time EVER I have written a fan letter ... and I'm almost as old as you! Listening to your show is one of the best parts of my week. My favorite part is the News From Lake Wobegon. It's like listening to an inspiring sermon with a couple of good belly laughs. I also love the variety of music on your show, your guests as well as your incredibly talented guitarist and piano player. I also like the history lessons you give whenever you're on the road. Your show is a most impressive potpourri of Americana and deserves a Presidential medal, however unlikely it may be that you get one from the incumbent.

Now for the constructive criticism. I get some chuckles reading your compendium of jokes, but found one in the Religious section offensive, the one about Jesus and the nails. I noticed some statement therein that you put in whatever jokes people send. If that's the case, I think you should do some screening of them and particularly remove that one. By the way, I am a very liberal Episcopalian and not easily offended.

You are one of my heros and I am deeply chagrined that I missed out on the cruise with you from Boston to Nova Scotia — which is also where one of my ancestors from Scotland settled. Keep up the great work and doing what you do ... with the possible exception of the marriage-divorce-remarriage thing.

Ted Stronach
Concord MA

Ted, I agree with you that the joke is unfunny and I guess it's offensive. It was sent in to the website joke database by a fellow American and passed through whatever sieve we have in place — I don't know what that is. Probably a young person of libertarian bent who glances at them and eliminates only the worst stuff — which are probably rare, coming from public radio listeners: none of those kike and coon jokes that we grew up hearing old guys tell. And she allowed this one in — Jesus coming into an inn and setting three nails on the counter and asking the innkeeper, "Can you put me up for the night?" It doesn't do much for me, but maybe it thrills somebody else — some Baptist kid from a strict background who reads that joke and falls over laughing from the shock of it. The Forbidden is, as you know, a powerful propellant of jokes and the person who will be knocked over laughing by the nail joke is not likely an agnostic or a liberal but a kid who came up, as I did, through years of Bible study where he learned to say the right things and observe orthodoxy, and then, wham, a bad-taste joke about Jesus makes the kid laugh until cottage cheese comes out of his ears. Because he shouldn't laugh at it, he does. This is one of those little amazing things that make us human, I think. I'm not sure I'd want you to know the jokes that laid me low when I was 17, but there were some, they were wonderfully vulgar and tasteless, and they don't make me laugh now, but they did back then. I wouldn't want somebody to tell me those jokes on the radio, I'd be horrified if my uncles told them, but I do think they stretched one's mind.

As far as the joke you found offensive, I will try to remember to remove it from the website, but I don't have time to do this as a rule.

Glad you enjoy the show. You're the only focus group we have, you know — people who write in and say what they like. And it's an honor to have prompted you to write your first fan letter. I've written some to young writers and a few to Broadway stars, meant to write others and then didn't, figuring they must get bags and bags of mail, but it ain't necessarily so. I should write one to Ian Frazier who wrote a piece in the New Yorker a few weeks ago about Rev. Jerry Falwell that made me laugh out loud. I mean, Out Loud.

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