My dad was a funny guy and had witty stories and jokes ready for any occasion. I don’t really remember too many of the stories and only remember one of his jokes. Maybe two.
The joke I definitely remember made no sense to me when I was a kid. When I grew up I figured it was funny to someone who was in the “know” about the “golden days of radio” because it sure made my dad laugh. It was not until this afternoon that I realized that my dad was not telling me a joke as much as pranking me.
“Momma Bear and Poppa Bear were taking a bath.
Momma Bear said, “Poppa Bear, pass me the soap, dear.”
Poppa Bear said, “No soap, radio.”
After telling the joke my dad would laugh and laugh and laugh. I’d say I didn’t get it. He’d say, “No soap, radio! No soap radio!” I’d tell him I still didn’t get it. I’d ask what it meant, but he could never seem to explain it to me and said, “never mind” when I bugged him about it.
I told other people the joke and no one else understood it either. How could my father laugh so heartily at a joke that no one understood?
When I grew up I’d think back to the joke and try to understand it. I finally came to the conclusion that it must have had something to do with the olden days and radio programs. That maybe the people that grew up listening to soap operas on the radio understood the joke and that since I hadn’t I’d never hope to understand the joke.
This afternoon I brought the joke up with Dean. He remembered me telling him about it years ago. I told him my theory and he suggested that I consult Professor Internet. I did and what I found out kind of made me sad.
It turns out that the “No soap radio” joke was a prank that may have started in the 1950s. A group of friends would be in on the joke, one person would tell it (or a variation of it) and all the friends would laugh. If the person being pranked laughed, the others would laugh and ask what was funny.
So when my father told it and I didn’t laugh but asked what it meant, how did that make him feel? Was he disappointed that I didn’t do what was expected? Would I have laughed if other people were also laughing? Should I be upset that he was trying to prank me? Does it really matter? Should I stop obsessing on this?