MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Well, now we are going to talk about Tiger Woods. Like it or not, the Tiger Woods news has led to a lot of jokes. Did you hear the one about how Tiger has a lot of expensive cars, but now he has a hole in one, or how Tiger changed his name to Cheetah?
As NPR's Mike Pesca reports, in this age of Twitter and time stamps, you can trace jokes that have spread far and wide back to their humble origins.
MIKE PESCA: Humor can be dissected as a frog can, E.B. White once wrote, but the thing dies in the process, and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind. Notice the animal he mentioned was a frog.
Mr. CONAN O'BRIEN (Host, "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien"): One of the women who claims she slept with Tiger Woods says that they never talked about golf during sex.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. O'BRIEN: Yeah. However, contractually, Tiger was obligated to talk about Nike, Gatorade and American Express.
(Soundbite of laughter)
PESCA: Conan O'Brien has had a laugh a night since news of Tiger's SUV accident broke. For Jay Leno, about 10 jokes a night is par for the course.
Mr. JAY LENO (Host, "The Jay Leno Show"): Well, apparently she took eight swings, but only wrote down five. See, there's a million. You can do these all day long.
PESCA: Yes, you can. Already a Photoshopped image, artist unknown, of a beaten-up Tiger posing next to his golf club-wielding wife, Elin, has pinged 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 or a wood. But these early public domain jokes tend to have something in common.
Mr. BILL SCHEFT (Writer): There's all these puns.
PESCA: Bill Scheft has written for David Letterman since 1991. He 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 be fun to tell.
Mr. SCHEFT: If you're an amateur joke writer, this is a dream for you because everybody knows the basic things about golf. I mean, you know, thank God he, you know, this isn't like a guy that was a professional curler.
PESCA: Scheft 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. Conan's: A woman who slept with Tiger Woods said he didn't talk golf in bed, that's a monologue construction. Public domain jokes sound more like this one�
Mr. BOB LURIE: What does Tiger Woods do better on a golf course than he does with a Cadillac Escalade?
PESCA: Bob Lurie heard this one at his investment banking firm. It was essentially the same joke Kevin Quinn tried to tell:
Mr. KEVIN QUINN: What's the difference between - what is it - an Escalade and a golf ball?
PESCA: Let me step in here and punch this thing up a little bit. What's the difference between a golf ball and a Cadillac SUV? Tiger Woods can drive a golf ball 400 yards.
Mr. SCHEFT: That's a beauty.
PESCA: Bill Scheft says that is a pristine public domain joke.
Mr. SCHEFT: I don't have any of my archaeological equipment, but I'm gonna bet that that joke was written about five minutes after the accident.
PESCA: No carbon dating needed. We can search Twitter and find out that on the morning of November 27th, just as the news had broken, Nick Alpin of Orlando, Florida went on his computer and typed: Tiger Woods can drive a golf ball and not a car. Alpin explains his creative process.
Mr. NICK ALPIN: I figured he either is not a very good driver, and then when that came into my mind, then driver, you know, the connection, the obvious connection and everything.
PESCA: Drive a car, drive a golf ball and there you have it. Now, Nick 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 was repeated, reposted and refined. Within a day, Twitter shows it had taken riddle form. Another reason why 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 next week. In the meantime, there's Jay, Conan, Kimmel, Fallon, Wanda, 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.
Mike Pesca, NPR News.
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