A few weeks ago I ordered one and left my name for pick up. When my husband and I arrived, it had just come out of the oven smelling delicious. The owner looked at the ticket.
“Alice,” he said.
“That’s me,” I said.
“To the moon!”
I’ve always hated that joke.
It comes from The Honeymooners, of course, the 1950s sitcom starring Jackie Gleason. Alice was his wife, leveled headed but sharp-tongued, who invariably warned him that his latest scheme wouldn’t work. “BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the moon!” he’d tell her, brandishing his fist.
Each time, the audience roared. And each time, I cringed.
Why was threatened violence funny?
“Ahh, shut up!” Alice’d reply.
Was that the joke? That Gleason was inept, after all?
Yet it’s the line “To the moon” that makes people laugh.
Witness the small crowd who did, at the pizzeria—mostly men in their late 50s, the owner’s pals, in on his humor. They all broke up when he threw out the line.
I felt very uncomfortable. But a lifetime of practiced politeness kicked in, and I smiled.
“You know the joke?” the owner asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Always loved it,” he said.
I paid for the pie and, as we exited, I told my husband, “That was really offensive.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It was.”
Today was a busy day. My husband was under a deadline, and I was working on several chapters for a new novel.
“Take out?” I suggested for dinner.
“How about pizza,” he said. “Italian combo.”
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll order it. Can you pick it up?”
He looked at the pile of work on his desk, hesitating. I understood. He didn’t really have the time. On the other hand, I did.
“I’ll order pulled pork,” I said, “from the BBQ place. I’ll pick it up.”
“I don’t want to be told that I’m going to be punched to the moon.”
“Get their baked beans, too. And a baked potato.”
Dinner was delicious.