Advertisement

Shaggy dog story

From Academic Kids

In its original sense, a shaggy dog story is an extremely long-winded tale featuring extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents that usually results in a pointless or absurd punchline. These stories are also known as yarns, coming from the long tradition of campfire yarns.

The canonical story is about a shaggy talking dog much discussed and much promised but slow to arrive. When the dog finally shows up and in fact talks, someone in the story says, "That dog's not so shaggy".

Shaggy dog story has come to also mean a joke where a pun is finally achieved after a long (and ideally tedious) exposition. The humor in the punch line may be due to the sudden, unexpected recognition of a familiar saying (see the examples), since the story has nothing to do with the usual context in which the phrase is normally found, yet the listener is surprised to discover it makes sense in both situations. Therefore, if the audience is not already familiar with the phrase used in the punch line, or is not aware of the multiple meanings of the words in the phrase, the surprise ending of the joke cannot be recovered by "explaining" the joke to the audience (as demonstrated by the italicized note at the end of this article).

A shaggy dog story may not have a pun at all; the humor (if any) is then derived from the fact that the joke-teller held the attention of the listeners for a long time (such jokes can take five minutes or more to tell) for no reason at all (an anticlimax). The following examples are in fact unusually short for this kind of shaggy dog story; many shaggy dog stories of this sort contain characteristic phrases that are repeated many times (and the joke-teller will throw them in as many times as they can get away with) but turn out to have nothing whatsoever with the "punchline," such as it is.

Isaac Asimov wrote one named Shah Guido G.; Kurt Vonnegut's book Welcome to the Monkey House contains a short story entitled Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog; Spider Robinson sprinkles shaggy dog stories and other puns liberally throughout his Callahan series of books.

Contents

Examples of shaggy-dog stories

Beethoven's ninth

The Symphony Orchestra was playing a concert in the park and was in the middle of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. The bassists in the back of the orchestra decided they had a few minutes to spare before being required to play anything, so they ran across the street to the pub for a few beers. As it was quite a windy day, before they left for the pub, they found some string to wrap around their music stands to secure their music while they were gone. Once at the tavern, they could hear the music and keep up with the progress of the piece.
Rather than leisurely enjoyment of one beer, the bassists decided they would actually prefer hasty enjoyment of multiple beers. After finishing their fourth or fifth beverage they decided that they had better hurry, because the last movement of the ninth symphony was underway. Unfortunately, two of the bassists had passed out, and had to be left behind. The others stumbled back onto the bandstand, but in their inebriated state they found they were fumbling with the string, trying to get it loose, but not having much success. The conductor saw what was happening and instantly sized up the situation: it was the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied, the bassists were loaded, and two men were out.

Note: Don't get it? "It was the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied and the bases were loaded with two outs" is a standard description of an exciting baseball situation. "Loaded" is also slang for "drunk" in many English-speaking countries.

Monastery

Some monks came to a small town in England and established a monastery. The townspeople were at first suspicious, but the monks explained that they had come only to do a few good deeds, such as to plant flowers and trees. The townspeople were relieved and left the monks alone.
In a few weeks, it was noticed that some of the cats and dogs were disappearing. Then, some of the little children started to disappear as well. The townspeople thought the monks were behind all of this, so they trudged up to the hilltop monastery and were let in. In the middle of the monastery greenhouse was a monstrous Venus flytrap. The townspeople were convinced that this grotesque plant was devouring their dogs, cats, and children.
The townspeople were determined to run the sinister monks out of town. They did not know how they would do it. Finally, Hugh, the blacksmith, decided to scare them out of town. He marched back up to the monastery door, looked the monk who answered the door straight in the eye, and used his hammer to smash his anvil to bits. The monks were terrified of this power and the next morning, they and the monastery were gone. The moral of the story is that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

Note: Don't get it? This is a parody on the Smokey Bear slogan "only you can prevent forest fires."

The shaggiest dog you ever saw

One day a man was looking for a new pet, so he went to the pet store and asked the owner if he had a dog. The owner showed him a few dogs, but the man wasn't interested. Suddenly the pet store owner had a thought.
"I know just the dog for you," he said, and went to the last kennel in the row. "Isn't that the shaggiest dog you ever saw?" he asked.
"Why yes, that is the shaggiest dog I ever saw!" said the man. "I should take it to show my wife!" he went on, "I'll buy him."
The man bought the dog and took it home to his wife.
"I bought a dog today," he said. "Isn't that the shaggiest dog you ever saw?" he asked.
"Why yes, that is the shaggiest dog I ever saw!" said his wife. "You should take it to show the minister!"
"You're right," said the man, and he took the dog to see the minister.
"I bought a dog today," he said. "Isn't that the shaggiest dog you ever saw?" he asked.
"Why yes, that is the shaggiest dog I ever saw!" said the minister. "You should take it to show the mayor!"
"You're right," said the man, and he took the dog to see the mayor.
"I bought a dog today," he said. "Isn't that the shaggiest dog you ever saw?" he asked.
"Why yes, that is the shaggiest dog I ever saw!" said the mayor. "You should take it to show the governor-general!"
"You're right," said the man, and he took the dog to see the governor-general.
"I bought a dog today," he said. "Isn't that the shaggiest dog you ever saw?" he asked.
"Why yes, that is the shaggiest dog I ever saw!" said the governor-general. "You should take it to show the Queen!"
"You're right," said the man, and he took the dog to see the Queen.
"I bought a dog today," he said. "Isn't that the shaggiest dog you ever saw?" he asked.
"No," said the Queen.

Note: Don't get it? Sorry, that's all there is. Except normally there'd be more connecting details and perhaps even more repetition.

Three thirsty strings

Three thirsty strings walked into a bar. A sign outside the bar notified them there was no service for strings, but such was their thirst that they decided to get a drink anyway. One string sauntered up to the bartender and said "Bartender, I'm thirsty, get me a drink". The bartender replied "Sorry, we don't serve strings here." The string walked back disappointed. Then the second string decided to attempt to quench its thirst so it approached the bar meekly and said "I know the sign says that there's no service for strings, but we are all extremely thirsty. Please be understanding. Couldn't we just have one drink each and then leave? We'd be very grateful". The bartender shook his head. "I'm sorry, but we don't serve strings here". The third string, having observed the efforts of the previous two strings, immediately went into the toilets. It looped itself over backwards a few times, messed up its hair, waited for a few minutes, then re-entered the room. It approached the bar. "One beer, please" it said. The bartender regarded it suspiciously. "Aren't you a string?" The string replied "No, I'm a frayed knot".

Note: Don't get it? It's a play on the phrase, "I'm afraid not."

Offensive clone

A brilliant scientist was just too busy for all the work he had to do. One day he decided that being a brilliant scientist he could think up a way to get more work done.
He researches for a year and finally decides that he could make an exact copy of himself. After more years of deep research and hard work he strides triumphantly from his workshop with an identical twin.
The copy was identical to him in nearly every way. He could help with all the work, discuss difficult problems, and generally double production. The problem was that through a slight mix-up early on in the process, it was created with Tourette's syndrome so every other word out of his mouth was foul, offensive garbage.
The scientist started noticing foul stares everywhere he went. When he would go to eat lunch in the local eatery they would refuse to serve him, kicking him out because he had been there that morning and he offended the other customers so much that they all left. This was repeated all over town.
He finally got fed up with it and went on a vacation to get away from his new-found reputation. A nice camping trip to a forest in the next state. He unpacked and was getting settled in and all of a sudden another car drove up and the copy got out and was just furious at the scientist for leaving. He was streaming the foulest filth from his mouth that the scientist had ever heard. After a few minutes the nearby campers started packing in disgust.
The scientist screamed and went running into the forest; the duplicate followed screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs. The scientist lost his mind and started running blindly through the bush, getting cuts and scrapes along the way. After running for half an hour, he suddenly came upon a cliff; so suddenly, in fact, that he nearly went over. After he recovered his balance he stood back and took a deep breath and considered how desperate his life had become. At that moment the clone came bursting through the bushes right where he had and right up to the cliff, just like the scientist had.
As the clone struggled to regain balance he noticed the scientist standing there and started with the profanities again, “Help me, you f****** a******!” The scientist realized in a moment of clarity that the clone wasn’t a real person. If this messed-up copy of him died here, nobody would be able to say a thing. Just as it was recovering balance, the scientist lifted his leg and kicked it over the cliff.
The scientist had never been happier. He whistled and skipped through the woods back to his campsite. Packed up his gear and started loading his car when suddenly 3 police cruisers came down the road. The police surrounded him, guns drawn and told him to get on the ground with his hands behind his back.
As they were loading him into one of the cars he said “But officer, what law did I break?” The police man looked at him and said, "Doctor, we caught you making an obscene clone fall."

Note: Don't get it? It's a play on the phrase, "making an obscene phone call".

Rainforest tribe war

Two tribes in the rainforest are at war. One day, one tribe takes the throne of another. The tribe that was stolen from was furious.
They trekked over 20 kilometers of thick underbrush and arrived at the site. By the time they arrived the tribe with the throne had put the throne in the loft of the grass house. When the troops found this house, they started trying to damage it and wreak some havoc before coming in. Well, the throne fell through the roof and fell on the ground. It was broken.

The moral: People in grass houses shouldn't stow thrones.

Note: Don't get it? It's a play on the phrase, "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

Clown story

There once was a young man who loved the circus. Throughout all his childhood, he had loved the clowns, big tents, acrobats, the animals, the ring master. But this young man had never been to the circus. He had only heard about it from family and friends. The circus had never been to his town, and he could not afford to go to a big city to see a travelling circus. But one day, the young man was reading a newspaper with his breakfast as usual, and out of the blue, something caught his eye. The circus was coming to his town! The young man was so excited, he could not sleep. He counted down the days on his calendar until finally, the day came. The circus had arrived. The man rushed to his car, but he realised he'd almost forgotten his ticket, so he rushed back inside to fetch it. Then he drove to the big top, eagerly anticipating the culmination of all his childhood dreams. He had a front row seat, right in the heart of the action. He was so excited, he could not wait for the show to start. And when it did, the man was gobsmacked. It was better than anything he could have expected. He loved every minute of it. But there was a part he wanted to see more than anything else. The clowns. This circus' clown had a reputation for being the funniest in all the land. The clown looked around the audience looking for a ripe target, and before long he found one. By amazing coincidence, it was the man, who had been waiting all his life for this moment. And the young man was overjoyed when he managed to capture the clown's attentions. The clown stopped, waddled over, doing a little funny dance. Everyone giggled. The spotlight came down over the clown as he walked to the edge of the ring. He paused, and peered at the man, then glared knowingly at the audience. There was a long silence. The man was on the edge of his seat, thrilled by what the clown might say to him. Finally the clown said "Are you the back end of an ass?" The man was a bit taken aback. This wasn't quite what he was expecting. But he was still excited, and wanted to hear what would come next. So he replied, "No". The clown stared at him, and placed his hands on his hips, then lifted a hand to his chin, rubbing it thoughtfully. "Are you the front end of an ass?" asked the clown, glaring at the man. The man again was quite surprised, and by this point was beginning to wonder where this was leading. He hesitated, before answering again. "No, no Iím not." The clown leaned forward. And then looked round at the audience, everyone on tenterhooks, waiting for the clown's response. "Well then," said the clown. "You must be no end of an ass!" And with that, the tent came alive with shrieks of laughter. The whole audience was in stitches, and so was the clown, in fact, everyone was, but with one exception. The spotlight remained on the man, his mouth agape. He had just been utterly humiliated. A lone teardrop rolled down his cheek. The man burst into tears. His childhood dreams had been shattered, his idol, his role model, the very thing he adored most in the world, had just made a complete fool of him. The man drove home and collapsed on his bed, shivering and crying for hours on end. He slowly sank into an extreme depression, he was unable to work, lost all his friends, his social life, the ones he loved.
Many years later, the man was still not the same as before. He had lost his lust for life, and nothing seemed to matter to him any more. He even attempted suicide. For the man's dreams and one true love had been destroyed in that split second, and his life was ruined. More months passed. The man grew increasingly resentful. He wanted to get revenge for what the clown had done to him. He relived the events over and over in his head, trying to think what he could have done differently. Eventually, the opportunity the man was waiting for arrived. The circus was coming to town again. The man, still distraught by his first encounter all those years ago, determined that the best way to overcome his depression would be to face the source of his torment once again. He put on his shoes, got in his car and drove to the circus once more. He had bought a front row ticket once again, almost in the same position as before. Once again, the other events of the show passed by without incident, and for a short while, the man could forget about his troubles, and just enjoy the spectacle. But then the clown came again. And it was the same clown. He looked a fair bit older, but as soon as he set eyes upon him, the man recognised him immediately. The clown did a few tricks, but then he decided to turn upon the audience once more. At first the clown wandered to the opposite side of the ring, but then slowly made his way back toward where the man was sitting. He was about to call upon another member of audience when suddenly he saw something in the corner of his eye. The same man from all those years ago. The clown could not pass this up. He strolled over to the man once again, and the man looked straight back at the clown.
The spotlight came down over the clown as he walked to the edge of the ring. He paused, and peered at the man, then glared knowingly at the audience. There was a long silence. The man was on the edge of his seat, eager to get back at the clown for what he'd said all those years before. Finally the clown said "Are you the back end of an ass?" It was happening all over again. But the man, despite his planning, was paralysed. It must have been the heat of the spotlight, the atmosphere of the audience, or perhaps just the clown, the same clown, looking straight into his eyes. The man didn't know what to do. He had no control over what he was about to say. All he could do was reply, "No". The clown stared at him, and placed his hands on his hips, then lifted a hand to his chin, rubbing it thoughtfully. "Are you the front end of an ass?" asked the clown, glaring at the man. The man still could not think of anything else to say. The same thing that happened before was happening now. The man seized up in fear. "No, no Iím not." The clown leaned forward. And then looked round at the audience, everyone on tenterhooks, waiting for the clown's response. "Well then," said the clown. "You must be no end of an ass!" And with that, the tent came alive with shrieks of laughter once again. The whole audience was in stitches, and so was the clown, in fact, everyone was, but with one exception. The spotlight remained on the man, his mouth agape. He was reliving his nightmare, and this time it was worse. He knew what was coming and he had no power to stop it. A lone teardrop rolled down his cheek. The man burst into tears. After the culmination of all his suffering, and his chance to exact revenge, the man failed in his mission. He drove home and collapsed on his bed, shivering and crying for hours on end.
20 years later. The man was an old man, a soulless husk of his former self, so scarred by what had happened that he could barely speak. This time he was going to kill himself for sure. He decided he would drink himself to death. He drove to a pub, not his local, but one as far away from home as he could find. He sat down at the bar, and began to drown his sorrows, this time, for good. He glanced around the room woefully, looking at all the smiling faces and laughter of the patrons. A man sitting a few stools away was watching him. He began to pity the man, this poor old man, drowning himself in drink. He shifted his seat, moving adjacent to the old man. After a few failed attempts to break the ice and start a conversation, the old man eventually got himself drunk enough to reply to the stranger. He confessed what he had told no-one over all these years. He told his whole story, about his childhood, the clown, his depression, and enduring the same torment 20 years ago. The stranger sympathised, but then he smiled. "I may have an answer for you." He began to whisper to the man. "I happen to know of a very special thing. A scathing retort that can be used that's so perfect, so powerful, that not even the wittiest, most cunning clown of them all could muster a reply." The old man's ears perked up. Could what he be hearing be true? Was there something he could say to the clown and finally get him back after a lifetime of misery? The man shook his head. "I can't do it," he sighed. "It'll just happen again, I couldn't take that." The stranger patted the old man on the back. "Okay," he said, "Why don't I come with you, and then I can tell him this scathing insult, so you don't have to?" The man looked at the stranger, his eyes glistening with hope. Here was his chance to get even. So they shook hands, exchanged numbers, and parted company. Until the circus returned to town.
The man counted the days once again, and this time when he drove to the big top, he met with the stranger from the bar. They both took front row seats, once again. The man was still nervous, he thought it could only go wrong once more. So he said to his new friend, "I can't go through with this. I have to leave." His friend smiled reassuringly and said, "Don't worry. I told you before, this insult is bullet-proof. Nothing can go wrong." And with that, the show began once again. The two men watched the show, it seemed better than ever. The old man knew that this time, it was now or never. There was no turning back. The clown came onto the stage. He was a very old clown now, and with him was a young apprentice, humorously usurping the antics of his forebear. The old clown announced that he was soon to retire. But he still had time for one last joke. He walked slowly around the ring, looking for prime targets, a final victim for which he could go out in a blaze of glory. He peered around carefully. He couldn't believe it. There was the man, once more, sitting, in almost exactly the same position as he was all those years ago. The clown could barely contain his delight, here was his chance to make a fool out of the man who just kept coming back for more. As he approached his old adversary, the old man trembled in the audience. He knew what was coming. But his friend grinned calmly. The clown stopped. "Are you the back end of an ass?" he asked. The man, now too old and frail to even think of a comeback, muttered hesitantly. "No". The clown stared at him, and placed his hands on his hips, then lifted a hand to his chin, rubbing it thoughtfully. "Are you the front end of an ass?" asked the clown, glaring at the man. The man still could not think of anything else to say. "No, no Iím not." The clown leaned forward. And then looked round at the audience, everyone on tenterhooks, waiting for the clown's response. "Well then," said the clown. "You must be no end of an ass!" At that point, the old man's companion leaned in to the spotlight. He called to the old clown above the din of the roaring laughter of the audience. The clown could hear him, and he gestured for the spectators to quieten down. Gradually the laughter subsided, and a strange hush fell over the arena. Everyone was fixated upon this strange man, who had broken all the rules by interrupting the clown in his moment of triumph. The clown cupped a palm to his ear. The old man's friend said, "Er, Mister Clown? Excuse me, Mister clown fellow." The clown, who was now paying full attention to this strange man, replied "Yes?" The old man sat bolt upright in his seat, peering nervously at his friend, anxiously waiting to hear what he had to say. His friend said, "Mister clown fellow? FUCK OFF."

Note: Don't get it? It's the concept of the yarn taken to its full extent, designed to meander and be embellished upon so relentlessly that the recipient of the joke, presuming you still have their attention, will either be infuriated at the amount of their time you have wasted, or immensely amused. This reaction is largely dependant upon personality type, taste in humour, and other factors. Best told aloud (like all shaggy dog yarns), details can be added or removed at the discretion of the 'performer'; the goal being to find the optimum balance between length and interest to the listener.de:Yarn

Navigation

Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)

Information

  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Toolbox
Personal tools