Saturday, February 18, 2006

Stangland of Opportunity

Growing up in Wisconsin, I wasn't overly aware of the Midwest's Scandinavian history and community outside of Mount Horeb, the "troll capital of the world." It wasn't until I was older that I listened to Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion and began to more fully appreciate Ole and Lena jokes.

If you're at all interested in such humor -- in its purist, unanalyzed concentrate -- Red Stangland's Ole & Lena Jokes is the place to start. The multi-volume series of pamphlets published by the Norse Press in South Dakota is the "choicest collection of classic jokes about your favorite Scandinavians."

In unadorned page layouts featuring a simple sans serif typeface and the folksy cartoon art of Stangland, this 47-page first volume is chock full of jokes. It's a bit overwhelming to read front to back, but the cover blurbs -- which indicate that the jokes are "hilarious, rare, ribald, crazy, delirious, and fantastic" -- aren't too far off. There are some doozies in here, and most of the jokes focus on Ole and Lena's intelligence, family planning, relationships, and language-based limitations.

High-concept humor it's not, but it's a slice of Americana worth exploring. Silly Scandinavians!

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