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jack Parr was the first host of the groundbreaking, Late-Night Television programme known as The Tonight Show later made even more popular by Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. Wikipedia says, “It was during Parr’s stint as host that The Tonight Show first became an entertainment juggernaut; Parr generated the most obsessive fascination and curiosity from press and public of anyone who ever hosted the show. Parr strove for compelling conversation as well as humour; his guests tended to be literate raconteurs such as Peter Ustinov or intellectuals such as William F Buckley Jr, as opposed to just actors or other performers selling their current work, while Parr himself earned a reputation as a superb storyteller.
Then Parr ran into a roadblock. On February 10, 1960 one of his jokes was cut from a broadcast by studio censors and was replaced by news coverage. They never told him in advance what they were doing. The joke in question involved a woman writing to a vacation resort and inquiring about the availability of a “WC” The next night, in the middle of the programme, Jack Parr quit the show saying, “I am leaving The Tonight Show. There must be a better way of, uh, making a living than this.”
So what is this famous or infamous joke? It is one that is extremely familiar to people of my generation and I remember the first time I read it I looked around to see if anyone was watching me.
“An English lady, while visiting Switzerland, was looking for a room, and she asked the schoolmaster if he could recommend any to her. He took her to see several rooms, and when everything was settled, the lady returned to her home to make the final preparations to move. When she arrived home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a “WC” (water closet, a euphemism for bathroom) around the place. So she immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him if there was a “WC” around. The schoolmaster was a very poor student of English, so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tried to discover the meaning of the letters “WC,” and the only solution they could find for the abbreviation was “Wayside Chapel”. The schoolmaster then wrote to the English lady the following note:
I take great pleasure in informing you that the WC is situated nine miles from the house you occupy, in the centre of a beautiful grove of pine trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people and it is open on Sunday and Thursday only. As there are a great number of people and they are expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early: although there is plenty of standing room as a rule. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number of people bring their lunch and make a day of it. While others who can afford to go by car arrive just in time. I would especially recommend that your ladyship go on Thursday when there is a musical accompaniment. It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the WC and it was there that she met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat ordinarily occupied by one. It was wonderful to see the expression on their faces. The newest attraction is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all the people, since they feel it is a long felt need. My wife is rather delicate, so she can’t attend regularly. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you if you wish, where you will be seen by all. For the children, there is a special time and place so that they will not disturb the elders. Hoping to have been of service to you, I remain,
The reason I researched this joke and the entire story of Jack Parr’s refusal to continue with the Tonight Show was that I saw a newspaper headline related to West Indies cricket and I found it apt. As we all know, the performance of the team over a very long time now has been below par. Every time we rave over a momentary glimpse of light in the dark tunnel through which our cricket has been wobbling since the glory years, it turns out to be an engine of destruction driven by some other team’s will to win.
The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) just got rid (messily) of Otis Gibson after renewing his contract and wants to bring Mickey Arthur about whose last big job ESPNCRICINFO wrote, “After his tenure with South Africa ended in 2010, Arthur became coach of Western Australia and, in November the following year, became the first foreign-born coach of the Australian national team. His time with Australia was rife with mediocre showings on the field, though, and team-discipline issues off it. It ended with Arthur being sacked from the job, just a fortnight before the much-anticipated 2013 Ashes in England.”
This, among other things, is why I find the headline in the newspaper particularly appealing if not totally prophetic, “WI start building for 2015 WC”.