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The “Ugly Baby” Joke

March 12, 2012

First, it was Mind/Body For Dummies (“Float Your Triplex; Roll Around Your Midway; Sink Your Weight: Now Don’t You Feel Much, Much Better?”); and then, a bio on the exemplary life of O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, creator of aikido and indubitable martial saint.

So now what ? More deep-dish jive, or something lighter and tangier to the palate?


At last, the “ugly baby” joke!

Late one night in the Sixties, I caught a red-hot Flip Wilson on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Flip was “on.” After he told the “ugly baby” joke, mayhem broke out in the audience, and Johnny Carson fell off his chair on live TV. And me, I rolled off my couch and under the table. So I remember the joke, vividly.

WAYBACK MACHINE — Seventies’ TV comedian Flip Wilson pioneered Black drag, and smileable still today is “Geraldine’s”  catch-phrase: “The devil made me do it!” Like his peers Dick Gregory and Bill Cosby, Flip embodied a cool new breed of Black comedian who refused to conceal either his intelligence or his scorn. Unlike wry-commentator Gregory, who dwindled into an activist, or daffy-monologist Bill, who, in his wealthier way, did, too, Flip balanced the trademark urban gleam in his eye with a genuine ability to set audiences into an uproar.

What Richard Pryor did, a couple years later, made it impossible since then for a Black comic to be both major and clean. Chris Rock comes the closest, which is why he has cross-over appeal, but the audiences Flip rocked do not exist anymore. Yet I still think the joke is funny.

Out on the Tonight Show stage under hot Kleigs, facing the live house and live-r TV cameras, Flip sat casually on a stool, sharp-dressed and smiling with an attitude that said: “I know you know I know I own this house.”  

Comedians on mid-century variety shows typically got as few as three or as long as seven or eight minutes. That night, he had thrown a firecracker-string of quickies into the crowd that got laughter popping out-loud already, and then Flip launched, deadpan, into the “ugly baby” joke…

“So I was watching this lady on the train, the other day. She was carrying a baby, minding her own business, you know, but in the seat in front of her, there’s this drunk guy. And the drunk kept turning around and looking back,  and every time, he said: ‘Thas’ th’ uglies’ baby I evah saaaw.’

“The lady tried to ignore him. ‘Thas’ th’ uglies’ baby I evah saaaw.’ She’d turn aside holding her baby closer, but the drunk got louder. ‘Thas’ th’ uglies’ baby I evah saaaw.’

“Finally, the lady had to call the conductor — and the conductor shows up and takes charge. He hustles the drunk out of the car, and then comes back to apologize.

“‘On behalf of the B&O Railroad, I want to extend to you our sincere apologies. You paid for your ticket, and you have every right to a safe and pleasant journey. With our compliments, I’ll be bringing you a cold drink now. ‘ He smiled and took off his conductor’s cap. ‘And maybe while I’m back there, I can find a banana for your monkey.'”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Emmett Grayson permalink
    March 13, 2012 10:57 AM

    Good jokes. Now that’s what I want here, sir. Remember you’re trying to reach a “No-Sensei” audience!

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