It'll Be Hard To Dial Funny Without The Phone Book

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If the phone book is on the way out, can phone book humor be far behind? Guest host Rebecca Roberts wonders what would happen to our comedy if the phone book disappears.


If the phone book is on the way out, can phone book humor be far behind? The book is an eternal punch-line, like in Steve Martin's classic moment in the movie "The Jerk."

(Soundbite of movie, "The Jerk")

Mr. STEVE MARTIN (Actor): (as Navin R. Johnson) The new phone book is here. The new phone book is here.

Mr. JACKIE MASON (Actor): (as Harry Hartounian): Well, I wish I could get that excited about nothing.

Mr. MARTIN: (as Navin R. Johnson) Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73 - Johnson, Navin R. I'm somebody now. Millions of people look at this book everyday. This is the kind of spontaneous publicity - your name in print - that makes people.

ROBERTS: Of course, his character goes on to be shot at because his name is in the phone book.

You may have heard the expression: His voice is so great, I could listen to him read the phone book. Country singer Ken Mellons tests that theory in song.

Mr. KEN MELLONS (Singer): (Singing) Atkins, Atwell, Alexander and Allan, Anderson, Apple, Armstrong and Arnold, Babcock, Bach, Bacon and Bagwell, Bailey, Baker, Bandy and Banker, Barber, Barker and Bogwell.

ROBERTS: And there's the meta moment of Robin Williams pretending to be acting legend John Houseman reading the phone book, as only a great comedian playing a great actor could do.

Mr. ROBIN WILLIAMS (Actor): (as John Houseman) Anderson, Arthur, 95 Red Path, 555-1212; teenager's phone, 555-8212. Niko Papodopolopolos(ph), Nick.

ROBERTS: What's to become of our comedy if we don't have the phone book to kick around anymore? just doesn't have the same ring.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rebecca Roberts.

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