Amateur Comedians Have Field Day With Tiger Woods

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Tiger Woods watches his drive on the 11th hole during the final round of the Buick Open tournament. i

Tiger Woods watches his drive on the 11th hole during the final round of the Buick Open golf tournament in August. Carlos Osorio/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Carlos Osorio/AP
Tiger Woods watches his drive on the 11th hole during the final round of the Buick Open tournament.

Tiger Woods watches his drive on the 11th hole during the final round of the Buick Open golf tournament in August.

Carlos Osorio/AP

Did you hear the one about how Tiger Woods has a lot of expensive cars, but now he has a hole in one? Did you hear Tiger changed his name to Cheetah?

In this age of Twitter and time stamps, it's possible to trace the many, many jokes around Tiger's debacle down to their inception.

And there's a universal appeal to laughing at the guy who slipped on the banana peel — or clipped the fire hydrant, as the case may be.

A Dream For An Amateur Writer

Conan O'Brien has had a laugh a night since news of Tiger's SUV crash broke.

"One of the women who claims she slept with Tiger Woods says they never talked about golf while having sex. However, contractually Tiger was obligated to talk about Nike, Gatorade and American Express."

For Jay Leno, about 10 jokes each night is par for the course.

"Apparently she took eight swings but only wrote down 5," he says. "See, there's a million — you can do these all day long."

Yes, you can. A Photoshopped image, artist unknown, of a beaten-up Tiger posing next to his golf club-wielding wife, Elin, is already pinging around the Internet.

Most shared jokes are also of unknown origin, like the one about Tiger hitting a fire hydrant and a tree because he couldn't decide between an iron and a wood. But these early public domain jokes tend to have something in common — they're puns.

Bill Scheft, who has written for David Letterman since 1991, notes that in the early stages of a public scandal, the jokes tend to be accessible because they need to not only amuse the audience but also be fun to tell.

"If you're an amateur joke writer, this is a dream for you because everybody knows the basic things about golf," he says. "I mean, thank God this wasn't a guy who was a professional curler."

Scheft, who also wrote a humor column for Sports Illustrated, isn't putting down amateurism; he's just delineating the difference between a public domain joke and a proper monologue joke, which ideally imparts some information.

The Drive-And-Drive Joke

O'Brien's joke about how Tiger didn't talk about golf in bed is a "monologue construction."

Public domain jokes are more like this: "What does Tiger Woods do better on a golf course than a Cadillac Escalade?" asks Bob Lurie. He heard it at his investment banking firm.

It is essentially the same joke Kevin Quinn tried to tell: "What's the difference between ... an Escalade and a golf ball?"

The punch line? "Tiger Woods can drive a golf ball 400 yards."

Scheft says that's a pristine public domain joke.

"I don't have my archaeological equipment, but I'm gonna bet that that joke was written about five minutes after the accident," he says.

There's no carbon date needed. A Twitter search reveals that on the morning of Nov. 27, just as the news had broken, Nick Alpin of Orlando went on Twitter and typed, "Tiger Woods can drive a golf ball and not a car."

Alpin says "drive a car" and "drive a golf ball" was an obvious connection. Now he has 68 followers, so it's not like the world ripped him off. But the drive-and-drive concept was so appealing that the line is repeated, reposted and refined. Within a day, Twitter shows that it had taken riddle form.

Another reason this might be the most retold Tiger joke is that it doesn't deal with any sexual issues, and it doesn't require the audience to follow breaking news.

For that, Letterman returns to air next week. In the meantime, there's Leno, O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Wanda Sykes, George Lopez, Saturday Night Live and the collective consciousness of the Web allowing a million amateurs to "make like Elin Woods and just tee off on Tiger" — allegedly.

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