As part of Wordplay Week on the Bleader, we announced a contest based on an Oulipian-style exercise. If you’ve been paying attention like you should, you know that “oulipian” refers to the Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle (“workshop for potential literature”), a club founded in Paris in 1960 and dedicated to investigating language from a structuralist point of view. Members created texts according to conceits of their own devising: a novel without the letter “e”; a poem that’s reconstituted by systematically substituting new nouns for the originals; a book of ten sonnets in which each line appears on a separate strip of paper, allowing—according to the book’s title—for a “hundred thousand billion” possible poems.
Our version of an Oulipian conceit was to ask Reader staffers and readers to retell a classic joke their own ways. Here’s the joke:
One day a duck walks into a bar, hops up on a stool, and asks the bartender, “Got any grapes?” The bartender says, “No,” and the duck walks out. Next day the duck comes back, hops up on a stool and asks, “Got any grapes?” Again the bartender says, “No,” and the duck leaves. Third day, the duck walks in and hops up on the stool, but before he can say anything the bartender yells, “No, I don’t have any grapes—and if you ask me one more time I’m going to nail your beak to the bar!” The duck stares at him a minute, asks, “Got any nails?” The bartender replies, “No.” The duck says, “Got any grapes?”
We got brilliant in-house responses from Steve Bogira, Mike Miner, and Sam Worley. Contest submissions ranged from the raunchy to the sly and (sort of) sweet. The winner, who will receive our sincere wishes for the best weekend ever, is . . .