My idiot editor, Tom the Butcher, recently suggested I am a hack — specifically, that the “pokes” columns I write, retelling old jokes as poems, are easy, simplistic, and bad. He challenged me to a poke-off. We would tell the same two jokes. I informed him that he had, in essence, challenged Michael Jordan to one-on-one.

'On Top of Old Sparky,' by Tom the Butcher

The engineer was sentenced to fry

He’d crashed his train: Three souls did die.

His final meal? Goulash from his Nana?

No! He requested only ... one banana.

He chewed it as they hit the switch

He stayed alive, without a twitch!

Once more the executioner threw the hamma

But the felon merely munched his ’nana


The warden was getting heated

“Again!” he cried. “Death won’t be cheated!

This time you better fear

For no banana will be near.”

The third time proved no charm


The trainman was free from harm

“It ain’t the fruit,” said he, Absurdum reductor

“Fact is, I’m just a bad conductor.”

'On Top of Old Sparky,' by Gene Weingarten

A killer trainman from Montana

Munching on a ripe banana,

Sat in an electric chair

And took the jolt without a care.

Thrice they threw the lethal current

Thrice his deaths seemed sure — then weren’t.

Thrice he lived, beyond refute,

While munching on the yellow fruit.

At the switch, a cop named Syd

Asked what that banana did!

“Not a thing,” he did instruct her:


“I am just a bad conductor.”

'The Audacity of Pope,' by Gene Weingarten

His Highness — Francis, Pope of Rome,

Hailed an Uber, far from home.

He was feeling frisky, gabby

“Can I drive?” he asked the cabbie.

His confidence was undeserved

Behind the wheel, he screeched and swerved.

The officer who flagged them down


Then looked inside, and with a frown —

Called his sergeant, filled with fear

And said, “We have a problem here.

I’ve stopped a real important dude

I think we might be really screwed.”

“Who’s the guy? Please, dish the dope”

“Dunno! But his driver is the pope.”

'The Audacity of Pope,' by Tom the Butcher

The pope was feeling full of zeal

Displaced his chauffeur, grabbed the wheel,


Took off from hell, just like a bat

A cop descended, in seconds flat.

He quickly telephoned his sarge:

“We have a problem, it is large.

I’ve stopped a big important person

This is bad. It might just worsen.”

The sergeant nearly spit his Sanka

“Who is it? Wait, not ... Ivanka?”

“It isn’t her, but I’ll bet a fiver ...

That he’s huge! The pope’s his driver!”

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