Saturday, August 26, 2006

The World's Most Expensive Joke

Brothers, Sisters, and Transgendered Comedists Everywhere,

This weekend's sermon is about sacrificing for Comic righteousness. Yes, doing the funny thing is not always easy, as we discussed a few weeks ago, and sometimes doing the funny thing is not always cheap. But, as good Comedists, we must put the punchline before the bottom line; to truly serve the will of the Cosmic Comic, we must value a great joke more than gold.

And no one teaches us this lesson better than Gerald Ratner. Mr. Ratner was the son of the founder of Ratner's, British jewelry retailer, and eventually became the company's chief executive where his business savvy built the company up into an extremely large and successful chain. As chief executive, it was his job to address the company's Institute of Directors. In April 1991, the gathering was held at the Royal Albert Hall and the good Mr. Ratner took the stage.

A joke, at such occasions, often loosens up the crowd. So Mr. Ratner uncorked a classic.

We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, 'How can you sell this for such a low price?' I say, 'because it's total crap.'"
The joke went over extremely first. It brought the house down...and then it brought the company down.

Reporting of the joke caused the brand to itself become a joke and sales plummeted. On the brink of financial implosion, Mr. Ratner was fired as chief executive, removed from the board of company, and in the end his total monetary losses totaled half a billion pounds...that's ONE BILLION US DOLLARS, uh huh, Gerald Ratner is the man who told a $1,000,000,000.00 joke.

Mr. Ratner, Comedists everywhere stand in awe of your righteousness (except those who are physically challenged, of course, but they are damn impressed too.) May we all learn to live by your example. You may have become the butt of many a joke, but we consider you a holy man. Please always know we are there to laugh with you in addition to at you.

But if I may be so brazen as to dare to make a suggestion to you Mr. Ratner, a wise guy so great, might I humbly raise the possibility that on the homepage of your new on-line jewelry retail outlet, Gerald Online, you begin to include a "joke of the day."

So the moral to take away from this week's Comedist meditation is that laughs are worth more than silver or gold...but, of course, if you can get an agent with William Morris because of your stand-up act, you should probably still do it.

Live, love, and laugh.

Irreverend Steve