Apparently, the Ancient Greeks were wild about sketch comedy, if a new joke book is any indication. According to a recent Reuters story, a joke book from the 4th century AD, Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, those wacky Greeks had their own Dead Slave sketch, predating the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch by more than a few centuries.
Compare the two:
Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!
“A man goes up to a student dunce and says, ‘The slave you sold me died.’"
"By the gods," answers the slave's seller, "when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"
Now, there's no pining for the fjords, or pining for the Pindus, as it were, but it's still fairly funny.
According to Jim Bowen, a British comedian who performs many of the jokes for a modern-day audience, Philogelos is filled with fart jokes, sex jokes, and ugly wives. The "Student Dunce" is also a foible for many of the jokes, probably a precursor to today's blond jokes.
You can find video footage of Bowen performing the jokes in a multi-media ebook at Yudu.com.
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