In 1867, John William Kirton wanted to show that you didn't have to drink to be saucy, fun, or extemporaneous. To prove this and to help his teetotalling pals, he put together a book, One Thousand Temperance Anecdotes, Jokes, Riddles, Puns, and Smart Sayings. It was intended to be used by "friends of Temperance, whose hearts and souls are in the work, but whose hands are too full of other matters to enable them, at short notice, to get up a speech or an address."
Included in this volume is a joke section, stuffed with a barrelful of anti-drinking zingers that are so scorchin', they will singe the hair right off the town drunk's ruddy head. I've included the BurnMeter™ to measure how hot these knee-slappers are so you don't have to worry about completely incinerating whoever is on the receiving end.
1. What is Malt? — Why, Maltreated barley!
BurnMeter: 7/10. This one goes out to all the barley lovers out there who like their stuff pure.
2. What letter is frequently drunk?—T
BurnMeter: 5/10. Not exactly a side-splitter, but they can't all be champs.
3. Wanted, some of the beer produced “when mischief is brewing.”
BurnMeter: 3/10. Not sure what this one means, but it probably sounds fierce if said with conviction.
4. Why is there no life in gin? Because it is still-born.
BurnMeter: 9/10. Yeesh, a little dark.
5. Why is drinking like an old coat? It’s a bad habit.
BurnMeter: 10/10. DAAAAAAAMN!!! *AIRHORN*
6. Why is a drunkard like a tanner? Because he soaks his hide.
BurnMeter: 8/10. No offense to tanners.
7. A canter will give you ruddy cheeks, a decanter will give you a ruddy nose.
BurnMeter: 6/10. Funny because it's true.
8. What kind of ale does a family of children represent? Home brood (brewed).
BurnMeter: 4/10. Parentheses explaining the wordplay are much appreciated.
9. Why is the letter D a great reformer? Because it makes men mend.
BurnMeter: 3/10. Really makes you think.
10. Why is a Jewish feast like a brewer in his brewery? Hebrews (he brews) drink there.
BurnMeter: 2/10. Alright, let's go easy with the cultural zings (thanks again for the parenthetical explanation, though).
11. If a toper and a gallon of whisky were left together, which would be drunk first?
BurnMeter: 8/10. Had to look it up, but a "toper" is a drunkard, so, in that case, suck on that, topers.
12. Why ought not tee-totallers to drink ox-tail soup? Because it is Whisky.
BurnMeter: 1/10. Let's keep moving, this is a creative space, it's important to get everything out there.
13. Why is a selfish friend like the letter P? Because, though he is the first in pity, he is the last in help.
BurnMeter: 6/10. Points deducted for not being about alcohol, points added for profundity.
14. What people have a geographical reason for being drunk? Those who live in the Temperate Zone!
BurnMeter: 7/10. Exclamation point solidifies the funny.
15. Why must the persons appointed to wind up joint-stock companies invariably be tee-totalers?—Because they are liquid-haters.
BurnMeter: 7/10. Some droll razzing for the smart set. You know who you are.
16. “Well, my boy, do you know what syntax means?” said a schoolmaster to the child of a teetotaller.
“Yes sir; the duty upon spirits.”
BurnMeter: 9/10. Someone pull the fire alarm, because that schoolmaster just got burned in his own classroom. Exit in an orderly fashion, children.
17. “Were you ever in Cork, sir?” was asked Foote, the comedian, one day. To which he replied,—
“That though in most cities of note he had been, Yet of Cork ’t was the drawing alone he had seen."
BurnMeter: 3/10. Don't really get it, but the guy's a comedian so it's probably really funny.
18. “Can you tell me the difference between gravity and gravitation?” said a schoolmaster to his pupil. “Yes, when you are drunk, sir, you lose your gravity, and then your gravitation begins to operate!”
BurnMeter: VOID. Pretty sure the pupil is accusing the schoolmaster of being some sort of sexual predator here. While sick burns are always appreciated, this matter should have been brought to the attention of the proper authorities.
19. What is a dram?—A dram, generally speaking, is a small quantity taken in large quantities by those who have few grains of sobriety and no scruples of conscience.
BurnMeter: 8/10. Practice this one to yourself a couple hours a night because it's pretty hard to say. But if you have it down pat, it'll be an exhilarating burn and a real show-stopper.
20. When is a scruple more than a dram? When conscience makes a teetotaller refuse a thimbleful of brandy!
BurnMeter: 5/10. A lesser zing from the scruple/dram collection.
21. What is the difference between a Rose and a bottle of Port Wine? The one helps to make a nose-gay, and the other a gay nose.
BurnMeter: 3/10. May not translate.
22. Why is wine made up for the British market like a deserter from the army? Because it is always brandied (branded) before it is sent off.
BurnMeter: 7/10. Again, the parenthetical explanation helps considerably.
23. Why is a ship which has to encounter rough weather before it reaches its destination, like a certain wine which is usually adulterated with logwood and other similar matters? Because it goes through a vast deal before it comes into Port.
BurnMeter: 6/10. A little verbose, but it eventually gets to Funnytown.
24. What portion of the trimming of a lady’s dress resembles East India sherry of the best quality? That which goes round the Cape.
BurnMeter: 1/10. Not sure how this pro-sherry joke got in here, but be sure to avoid it (the zinger and the sherry).
25. Mrs. Partington, on hearing that in California gold was found in quartz, wanted to know if any had yet been discovered in gallons. She thought when they came to finding it by the hogshead, she would go out there herself.
BurnMeter: 6/10. If you are doing this in the presence of someone whose name really is Mrs. Partington, then the BurnMeter goes up to 9.
26. Archbishop Wately once asked—“If the Devil lost his tail, where would he go for a fresh one?”
“To a gin-shop, for they retail all kinds of spirits!”
BurnMeter: 8/10. Lots of layers to this joke, knee-slapper to let stew.
27. A wag hearing that in 1830 the brewers consumed 700,000 quarters of barley less than were used in 1779, and yet made a million barrels more of beer, asked, very pertinently, “which had grown smaller—the barrels or the beer?”
BurnMeter: 5/10. Good, but this joke works best if you are put in a situation where someone is rattling off brewery production stats from 1830. That way, the response will appear to be organic.
28. Why is alcohol like a clothes-brush? Because it is celebrated for destroying the coats of the stomach.
BurnMeter: 10/10. BOOM! *EXTENDED AIRHORN*
29. Why is a toper, who hesitates to take the pledge, like a sceptical Hindoo? Because he does not know whether to give up the Jug-or-not.
BurnMeter: 2/10. Okay, pump the brakes on this one. Let's slow it down.
30. Why is a vain young lady like a confirmed drunkard? Because she is constantly using the Glass.
BurnMeter: 9/10. Two zings in one, this burn is double trouble.
31. Why do not printers succeed in business as well as brewers? Because the printer works for the head, and the brewer for the stomach. For twenty men who have a stomach, only one has a brain.
BurnMeter: 6/10. Not so much a joke, but rather the printer of 'One Thousand Temperance Anecdotes, Jokes, Riddles, Puns, and Smart Sayings' trying to rationalize his financial troubles. Still pretty sizzlin' though.