[PW] Joke: "Is he still composing?" "He's decomposing"

John Porter okttbfn at gmail.com
Tue Feb 21 15:54:45 PST 2017


An oldie but a goodie...! Thanks ADS   :-)

On Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 5:30 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> A version of the wordplay joke mentioned by John Porter, John Cowan,
> and T. F. Mills was circulating by January 1886. The punchline was
> ascribed to librettist W. S. Gilbert. Bach (pronounced Batch) was the
> composer.
>
> Date: January 23, 1886
> Periodical: The Critic
> Volume 5, Number 108
> Article: The Lounger
> Quote Page 45
> Publisher: The Critic Company, New York
> Database: Google Books Full View
>
> https://books.google.com/books?id=naZHAQAAMAAJ&q=decomposing#v=snippet&q=
> decomposing&f=false
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> WHEN W.S. Gilbert was in this country, two or three years ago, a Mrs.
> Malaprop who met him, and probably mistook him for the musical partner
> of the firm of Gilbert and Sullivan, asked him a number of questions
> that revealed a plentiful lack of information on the subject of
> contemporary music, winding up with a query as to whether 'Batch' was
> composing anything just now. 'No madam,' Mr. Gilbert replied with
> perfect imperturbability; '"Batch" hasn't composed anything for years.
> He's decomposing just now!' I heard this anecdote only a day or two
> ago, and don't remember to have seen it in print.
> [End excerpt]
>
> In September 1886 the locale was the Peabody Institute in Baltimore,
> Maryland.
>
> Periodical: The Christian Register
> Date: September 30, 1886
> Article: Pleasantries
> Quote Page 624, Column 1
> Publisher: Christian Register Association, Boston, Massachusetts
>
> https://books.google.com/books?id=IqA0AQAAMAAJ&q=%22he+
> is+decomposing%22#v=snippet&
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> At a concert at the Peabody, in Baltimore the other day, while a
> performer was playing one of Bach's fugues, a gayly dressed young girl
> turned to a music-loving gentleman next to her, and said in an
> ecstatic whisper, "Aren't Ba(t)ch's fugies just lovely!" The gentleman
> dryly replied, "Beautiful." The young lady kept on chattering about
> "Batch's fugies," much to the disgust of the man. At last, she came
> close to him, and said, "Is Batch composing still?" "No, madam,"
> replied he, gravely: "it is probable he is decomposing."
> [End excerpt]
>
> In 1891 the punchline was ascribed the composer Arthur Sullivan. The
> word "pretentious" was misspelled as "prententious" in the "Chicago
> Tribune".
>
> Date: March 12, 1891
> Newspaper: The Chicago Tribune
> Newspaper Location: Chicago, Illinois
> Article: Personals
> Quote Page 4, Column 6
> Database: Newspapers.com
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> Sir Arthur Sullivan is credited with saying, in reply to an ignorant,
> but prententious, woman who asked him if Bach were composing anything
> nowadays: "No, madam, he is decomposing."
> [End excerpt]
>
> By 1895 a variant was circulating with the composer Mozart instead of Bach.
>
> Date: March 28, 1895
> Periodical: Public Opinion: A Weekly Journal
> Volume 18, Number 13
> Article: Music and Art Topics
> Quote Page 319
> Publisher: The Public Opinion Company, New York
>
> https://books.google.com/books?id=nQU4AQAAMAAJ&q=%
> 22decomposing%22#v=snippet&
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> An exchange gives this anecdote of W. S. Gilbert: One evening the
> "Magic Flute" was being sung, and as Mr. Gilbert dropped into the
> opera box of a friend more rich than cultivated she said to him,
> consulting her program first, "Mozart? Mozart? Never heard of him
> before. He's immense. Why isn't he here? Why isn't he doing something
> else? Why isn't be composing?" And Mr. Gilbert answered, "Because he
> is decomposing, my dear lady."
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson
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