Upon discovering that Miles Black, the famous phrenologist from Yorkshire was going to take up yodeling to lonely goats in Bali, James White decided to balance four planks of wood on a beer keg and call it an abstract work of art in the style of a famous fourteenth-century architect, just going to prove that people will read any old garbage if they think there will be a good pun at the end of it.
A short-short story
(300 words on the average, although 500-word examples exist), ending in a pun or a punchline that is pretty obviously the only reason for the story's existence. The telling detail in a Feghoot is the groan emitted by the reader/listener when he hits the punchline
. In essence, an Overly Pre Prepared Gag
in short story form.
Named for the character Ferdinand Feghoot, created by Science Fiction
author Reginald Bretnor using the pen name Grendel Briarton. Bretnor chronicled Feghoot's adventures in the multi-year series "Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot!", in which each installment was a short-short that ended in a horrific pun.
Compare with Shaggy Dog Story
. A form of Overly Pre Prepared Gag
- Isaac Asimov wrote several stories that were more or less excuses for ending with tortured puns:
- "Shah Guido G" is particularly notorious, although arguably the title gives fair warning.
- Death Of A Foy has a punchline rather heavily reliant on knowing the chorus to "Give My Regards To Broadway". It goes Give my big hearts to Maude, Dwayne. Dismember me for Harold's choir. Tell all the Foys on Sortibackenstrete that I will soon be there.
- "A Loint of Paw" concerns a man who, after stealing several hundred thousand dollars, used a time machine to travel to the day after the statute of limitations expired. After the prosecutor and defense attorney finish arguing, the judge renders his decision: "A niche in time saves Stein."
- "Sure Thing" is about a race between alien pets, with the punch line being "Sloane's Teddy wins the race."
- "Dreamworld" is about a boy who reads a lot of science fiction and keeps telling his uninterested Aunt Clara about the crazy science-fiction inspired dreams he keeps having. His aunt keeps telling him that he has to face reality, or else, one day, he'll be stuck in one of his dreams and unable to wake up. The next time he goes to sleep, he has a dream in which hundreds of giant-sized duplicates of his Aunt Clara are all chasing him and demanding that he face reality. He desperately hopes that he'll be able to wake up from this dream, or else he'll have suffered the worst science-fictional doom of all: being trapped in a world of giant aunts.
- "Battle-hymn" is ostensibly about someone trying to influence the outcome of a vote by Mars colonists on whether to allow Mars to be used as a location for potentially dangerous hyperspace experiments. To counter the other side's jingle (No, No, A Thousand Times No), they get the colonists, who were of French descent (but don't speak the language any more), all singing the French national anthem. It works, because although they don't really understand the lyrics, they know the title: Mars say yes!
- Arthur C. Clarke wrote the two pager Neutron Tide about a spaceship passing too close to a neutron star and being ripped apart by the huge tidal forces in order to facilitate a pun about the single piece from the astronaut's toolkit that was found in the wreckage. It was a "Star-mangled spanner."
- Spider Robinson wrote a collection of short stories that started with Callahans Crosstime Saloon, all taking place in the eponymous Weirdness Magnet Inn Between the Worlds. Slightly difference from the normal format, the stories were weird little philosophical pieces with puns in several places.
- One of the things they do there is have Tall Tales Night to see who can tell the most outrageous shaggy dog story with the worst pun-filled punchline.
- Gravitys Rainbow is a long story but it would have digressions within it to go off on long tangents crossing half a dozen pages about something like the fur trade just so that it could abruptly end in a pun. For instance on page 563, there's a pun on the song "Forty Million Frenchmen can't be wrong". For De Mille, young fur–henchmen can’t be rowing.
- The Dragaera book Athyra has an extended digression about the difference between the kind of flax used to make salad and the kind of flax used to make linen, all so Brust can sneak in the line, "The true, true salad flax would melt..."
- "The Casque of Lamont T. Yado" by Victor Milan is a short story rather transparently based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado", which you'll recall ends with the words "For the love of God, Montresor!". The hero blames the villain for the death of his shipmates, but has agreed to help him steal the eponymous casque - an alien time-controlling helmet. The villain, incidentally, is a "tracer" who can teleport by tracing lines of force, and attributes his powers to "Tracergod". He also affects a Jamaican accent and says things like "mon" instead of "man". After they have succeeded in teleporting the casque out of its secure location the villain puts it on, believing that it will give him superhuman speed. Instead, he finds himself inexorably slowing down - the hero has reprogrammed the helmet to freeze the villain like a statue for eternity. The very last thing the villain is able to say before his speech grinds to a halt is "For the love of Tracergod, mon!"
- Roger Zelazny liked to sneak these into his works. For example, the entire second chapter of his Hugo-winning novel, Lord of Light is an elaborate setup allowing him to finish with the final line "Then the fit hit the Shan."
- Unwind has an in-universe example, an urban legend about a boy whose surname was Dunfee, and whose first name began with an H, but who will always be known as Humphrey. His father was one of the strongest advocates of the policy of using Delinquents for organ transplants, so when he started to misbehave in school, his father was pressured into having him "unwound." Mr. Dunfee eventually snapped, and started hunting down and reclaiming all the donated organs—but "all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humphrey back together again." (It later turns out that this story isn't wholly inaccurate, and the story ends with a reunion of all the people who received the boy's organs.
- The infamous Marquis de Sade, known for works of a questionable nature, once took the time out of his busy schedule to write a story about a man cheating on his wife with a nun, and claiming that since nuns are dedicated to God, surely this is a method of unlocking the gates of heaven. The man's wife, after sleeping with a priest, comments that it must have worked, because she'd never seen a bigger key
- "Flush Fiction", the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader book featuring a lot of short stories, has a feghoot about a ugly boy, Tool, and his attempt to impress is a beautiful girl, Honey, by joining some pirates. In the end, the pun is "A Tool and his Honey are soon parted."
- In John Dies at the End, Amy tells Dave about an incident of spontaneous human combustion:
"I have a friend, Dana, who was in the grocery store one day, and her arm, like, bursts into flame. Just like that. Just her arm. And she's screaming and waving her arm around and around, flames shooting everywhere. Finally the cops showed up and arrested her."
"Arrested her? Why did-"
" Possession of an unlicensed firearm."
A great, heavy silence settled over the room. She looked down at the table again, a smile playing at her lips, looking extraordinarily pleased with herself.
I said, "You know, in the Middle East, a woman can be flogged for telling a story like that."
- Robert J. Sawyer’s The Good Doctor with Isaac Asimov as the pun.
- In Red Dwarf, Lister tells one to Rimmer:
Lister:My mate Petersen once brought a pair of shoes with artificial intelligence. Smart Shoes, they were called. It was a neat idea. No matter how blind drunk you were, they would always get you home. Then he got ratted one night in Oslo, and woke up the next morning in Burma. See, the shoes got bored just going from his local to the flat. They wanted to see the world, man, y'know? He had a helluva job getting rid of them. No matter who he sold them to, they'd show up again the next day! He tried to shut them out, but they just kicked the door down, y'know?
Rimmer: Is this true?
Lister: Yeah! Last thing he heard, they'd sort of, erm, robbed a car and drove it into a canal. They couldn't steer, y'see.
Lister:: Yeah. Petersen was really, really blown away by it. He went to see a priest. The priest told him, he said, it was alright, and all that, and the shoes were happy, and they'd gone to heaven. Y'see, it turns out shoes have soles.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: The "no tribble at all" line in the famous episode "The Trouble With Tribbles" seems to count.
- In Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Colin usually starts off games of Weird Newscasters with one of these.
Convicted hit man Jimmy Two-Shoes McClarty confessed today that he was once hired to beat a cow to death in a rice field using only two small porcelain figures. Police admit that this is may be the first known case of a knick knack paddy whack
- This is one of the best:
Colin: Famous playboy Hugh Hefner managed to successfully stop an order of monks from operating a business on his property. The police forced the friars to close down their stall, which was outside the Playboy Mansion, where they had been selling flowers. Said one friar, "Well, if it was anyone else we might have gotten away from it, but unfortunately, only Hugh can prevent florist friars.
- In one particular game of Greatest Hits, Colin mocked Ryan's Pun segues by coming up with a few of his own, ending with:
When I was a jockey [Ryan scoffs] No, I was, just for a little while. In my bed - well, it was more of a cot - we had this sort of sanitary paper for the fillies. Wait a minute... bed cot filly papers? Red Hot Chili Peppers
- More examples can be seen on the Overly Prepared Gag page.
- Similar to the Colin Mochrie example, but predating it, The Two Ronnies often did these as one of their fake news stories.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a sketch called "A Joke by Ingmar Bergman". Servo and Crow walk along a pier, counting the slits between the wooden boards, until they reach the end and Servo falls in. Crow summarizes, "When you're out of slits, you're out of pier." This is a play on an old beer commercial tagline, "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer."
- One episode of The Flip Wilson Show began with Flip telling a long story about a man who gained fame by picking a berry, which he then gave to his wife, until two men came to steal the berry, saying "We've come to seize her berry, not to praise it."
- The Soviet series Seventeen Moments of Spring spawned a great many jokes and anecdotes due to the Fountain of Memes nature of the series, and about half of them are feghoots. Unfortunately, none of the puns translate well into English.
- Pee-wee Herman delivered one during an 1984 appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.
- Amazing Stories had a regular contribution called "Through Time and Space with Benedict Breadfruit" by Grandall Barretton (a pseudonym for Randall Garrett) which were all Feghoots that used the names of other well known science fiction writers.
- A later Briarton story had somebody ask Feghoot if Breadfruit could be trusted. "Absolutely," replied Feghoot. "He was conceived in our Garrett."
- In P.D.Q Bach's "Knock, Knock" cantata, the fourth and last movement has the recitative telling the story of an aquarium worker being ordered to catch some baby seagulls and bring them back immediately in order to stop indecent acts from going on in the dolphin tank. Walking his way back, the worker steps over a drowsy lion that recently escaped from the state zoo, and a policeman suddenly appears to arrest him. The punchline (sung by the chorus) gives the charge: "Transporting young gulls across the state lion for immoral porpoises."
- Right Between The Ears has a recurring sketch called "The Casebook Of Mobile Holmes", which is basically a setup of bad puns done in Sherlock Holmes style. This pretty ends up with a Feghoot like this:
- Mobile wanted the rest of the gang to take a plumbing course in Egypt: "Yes, we'll all be pharoah faucet majors."
- Or in a case about a general who was looking for his brother's ziggaurat but died because it was on fire: " The searching general has proven that smoking ziggurats can be hazardous to your health."
- In later seasons of My Word, the final round consisted of Frank Muir and Denis Norden each telling a convulted shaggy dog story that ended with a pun based on a famous phrase or quotation. Muir and Norden later compiled several volumes of books containing some of the My Word! stories. Examples included Norden's explanation of how he worked his exit from the army with pedantically exact interpretations of his superior officers' orders ("Brief on 'shun' is better than QR" (that is, Queen's Regulations) - "prevention is better than cure"), and Muir's account of his desperately scouring the contents of his neighbour's greenhouse, having bet him £50 that he could work them into a My Word! story ("A snipe, a harp, a fern, corn, seeded trayfuls" - "a snapper up of unconsidered trifles").
- Deekin tells one in Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide during a break in the action. It is a story of a cruel monarch's interrogator whose favorite method of torture is to chop the fingers off of a prisoner with a hatchet one by one until he confesses. The monarch captures a count who was accused of plotting rebellion against him and takes him down to the dungeon where the interrogator cuts off first his fingers, then his toes. The count remains silent. The monarch is so impressed that he orders the interrogator to give him a quick death, but as the hatchet swings for his neck the count finally cracks. By then it is too late and his head is severed from his body. The moral of the story: Never hatchet counts before they chicken!
- In Baldurs Gate 2 there's a character who tells the story of how a relative of his died when a chair he had stored on the roof sank through the thatching and landed on him, thus proving that you should never stow thrones in grass houses.
- Professor Sycamore (Not that one) in Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy provides one that ends with the punchline "Never judge a buck by its mother." The character he tells the joke to doesn't get it, but takes it on as valuable life advice.
- Mister Peabody in the Peabody's Improbable History sketches from Rocky and Bullwinkle would end on him making a summation of the historical goings on in a Pun.
- The alternate titles for the segments of the main cartoon were, quite often, Puns as well. In many cases it seems strongly likely that plot developments were thrown in specifically so they could work the puns in as titles.
- Among the objects Rocky and Bullwinkle encountered; The Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam and the Kerwood Derby.
- Also, the Aesop and Son segments would end with Aesop giving the moral of the story, followed by Aesop Jr. giving an alternate "moral" as a pun.
Jr.: Dad, I think the lesson was "A chain is only as strong as its weakest mink!"
Aesop: Takes after his mother, that boy does.
- The South Park episode "More Crap" turns out to be this. The reason why Bono tries so hard at everything is because of a major case of envy. He is literally made out of feces—according to his father, "He will always be my Number Two."
- The rest of the joke is finding ways to say that Bono is the world's biggest shit.