[Ads-l] Joke: "What do you think of his execution?" "I'm in favor of it"

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Thu Sep 3 17:11:08 UTC 2015

This sounds like one of Mark Twain's quips.
Gerald Cohen


From: ADSGarson O'Toole [adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM],Thursday, September 03, 2015 12:33 AM:

Barry Popik asked me off-list to explore a quip attributed to the
football coach John McKay. After a poorly played game McKay was asked
about his team's execution, and he replied with comic harshness, "I'm
in favor of it."

I decided to broaden the topic and look for general instances of the
joke. Below are five selected citations. In 1907 the barb was aimed at
an individual instead of a team. The U.K. humor magazine Punch was
acknowledged. This joke appeared in several periodicals.

[ref] 1907 March 19, San Diego Union, The Extreme Penalty (Filler
item), Quote Page 6, Column 5, San Diego, California.

[Begin excerpt - two hyphens are used for a dash]
The Extreme Penalty.--She (to fellow listener at musicale)--"What do
you think of his execution?" He--"I'm in favor of it,"--Punch.
[End excerpt]

The same joke was presented in the form of a caption to a one panel
comic depicting a woman and man exchanging lines while a pianist
played in the background.

[ref] 1907 April 13, Trenton Evening Times, Section: Comics, (Caption
of single panel comic titled "The Extreme Penalty"), Quote Page 12,
Trenton, New Jersey. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
She: "What do you think of his execution?"
He: "I'm in favor of it."
[End excerpt]

In 1916 an elaborate meta version of the joke using dialectical
spelling was published in a Pennsylvania newspaper. The character "Ma"
found the joke in a humor book, but she presented it incorrectly,
initially. The character "Pa" stated that he had heard the quip about
two thousand times.

[ref] 1916 August 03, The Patriot, Little Benny's Notebook, Quote Page
6, Column 7, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
WILLYUM, I red a good joak today, ma sed to pop after suppir yestidday.

Well then I avize you to keep it a secret, the joaks you dont tell are
very funny, sed pop.

O, is that so, sed ma, well jest for that Im going to tell it and make
you laff, its about a gerl playing the piano, and one man ses to
anuther one, Wat do you think of her enunciation? and the uther man
ses, Im in favor of it. . . .

I gess I dident git it ixactly rite, it seems to me perhaps
enunciation izent the ixact werd, sed ma. . . .

And ma thawt a wile longer, and then she sed, Execution, thats it,
execution, wat do you think of her execution? Im in favor of it, izent
that a good joak.

It serteny is, and it was jest as good wen Noah brawt it over in the
ark, sed pop.

Do you meen to say youve herd it before? sed ma.

O, not more than 2000 times, sed pop . . .
[End excerpt]

In 1936 an audience that was being entertained by Groucho and Chico
Marx recited the punchline.

[ref] 1936 January 31, Daily Illinois State Journal, Hollywood Chatter
by Hubbard Keavy, Quote Page 6, Column 3, Springfield, Illinois.

[Begin excerpt]
Groucho Marx said he knew a Berlin song that was even worse. He'd
forgotten the title, but he knew the words. Chico Marx remembered the
music and played while Groucho sang this wartime lament. One line
went, "The war makes butchers out of brothers." After he sang, Groucho
asked the audience what they thought of his execution. And, almost in
chorus, a dozen voices shouted: "We're in favor of it."
[End excerpt]

The jest continued to circulate for decades. In 1961 a Congressman
named Emanuel Celler presented a version.

[ref] 1961 June 28, State Times Advocate, Short Stories Reported from
Capital Scene by Vernon Louviere (State-Times Washington Bureau),
Quote Page 8C, Column 5, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
He tells friends, "When I was a little fellow, I used to play the
violin. My father invited Fritz Kreisler in to listen to me play one
day and when I finished playing the third movement of the Mendelsohn
Violin Concerto my father turned to Kreisler and said, 'How do you
like his execution?', to which Kreisler replied, 'I am in favor of
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list