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JONATHAN SWIFT

    Once Jonathan Swift tried out for a stand-up comedy show.
    He thought he’d do his talking horse routine.  That ought to slay them.  
    “Have ya got social comment chops, Johnny?” he was asked after being signaled to the audition stage and briefly introducing himself. “That’s what we want, Johnny-Boy, laugh-till-ya-wet-yerself social comment jokes.”
    Jonathan Swift wasn’t sure he had anything like “laugh-till-you-wet-yourself social comment jokes” to offer.  When he’d been working up his routine, he thought it would be enough to do an impression of a Houyhnhnm trying to make sense of a self-loathing Yahoo and audiences would naturally find the contrast both amusing and apt. 
    But things began to go wrong almost from the start of the audition. Not that the impression itself was faulty. The neighing voice was pitch-perfect. While the air of bemusement in a Houyhnhnm’s recounting of such revulsion in a Yahoo at others of its own species that it was driven to distance itself from them through ridicule barbed with hatred, disgust, and contempt demonstrated powers of caricature not often seen. Writing all his own stuff, Jonathan Swift had been confident every nuance of its multi-layered indictment would come out in the delivery.
    The problem was that nobody sitting out in the dark seemed to get it. One or two laughs greeted the first sound out of the make-believe Houyhnhnm, yet what was being said met with a steadily deepening silence, then louder and louder coughing, and finally sighs of utter boredom.
    Though the lights weren’t particularly bright, Jonathan Swift could soon feel himself sweating profusely and his mouth turning dry. His hands, meant to suggest the graceful workings of a hoof at one moment and a clawlike grasping the next went clammy and numb. A tic set his chin trembling, and holding a posture of either noble reason and civility on the one hand or stooped dimwittedness and belligerence on the other became increasingly difficult to manage. Just when he wasn’t sure he could carry on much longer, the mike was mercifully cut off and he braced himself for the worst.
    “Ya simply ain’t got what it takes for stand-up these days, I’m afraid, Johnny-Boy,” the voice that questioned him at the beginning put it bluntly.  “First of all, that church get-up ya got on, are ya tryin’ to turn us off or what?  And this horse shtick just doesn’t make it. Maybe ya should try slouchin’ around the stage more, maybe jump up and down or pull faces for a laugh or scream one of your jokes at the audience every ten seconds or so. And if ya just don’t have anything better than what ya showed us today, shout some obscenity instead and grab your crotch or something.  Ya know, killer stuff like that.”
    “I see. I think I understand now,” Jonathan Swift finally replied after a long silence. “You want the full Yahoo routine instead.”
    “Now that’s more like it! Give us somethin’ we can instantly relate to.”