The Shock Exchange

Moving beyond the morass of obscenity, another way to achieve shock is to use names of celebrities—national or local—in your humor. As stated previously, they're excellent targets. "Trading gossip," wrote Daisy Brown, "is the shock exchange."

It may seem like a cheap shot, but celebrities are usually happy to be used and misused in humor stories—it's called free publicity. The "People" columns in entertainment and most major consumer magazines are based on press agents' abilities to write humorous anecdotes about their clients. Woody Allen got his start writing humor that way. The "just spell the name right" psychology seems exploitative, but the fallacious intrigue works—it daily reminds the gullible public that they should go see Brooke Shields's movies and buy Joan Collins's cosmetics.

Frank Sinatra once admitted that if he had as many love affairs as his publicist, Henry Rogers, had given him credit for, he'd be in a jar in the Harvard Medical School.

Joan Rivers brazenly targets England's Royal Family, Elizabeth Taylor, even blind pianist Stevie Wonder.

How fat is Elizabeth Taylor? Well, she has more chins than a Chinese phone directory.

Can we talk? I think the Royal Family's a bunch of dogs. That's right, a bunch of dogs. Just go out on the street and shout: "Queenie, Duke, and Prince," and see what shows up.

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