A young man is sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
The warden takes a liking to him and puts him in a cell with a kindly old timer so that he can be shown the ropes and not get himself in trouble.
So the old timer teachs the youngster the rules of the prison, what to do, what not to do, stuff like that.
One of the rules he learns is that there is no talking allowed during meals.
A curious thing happens during meals though and the young prisoner is a bit confused.
In the large mess hall, once everyone is seated, one of the prisoners stands up and loudly says, “47.”
Everyone in the hall laughs hysterically.
A few minutes later, another prisoner stands up and loudly says, “19.” Again, a torrent of laughter from everyone.
This goes on throughout the meal.
Later, when the youngster and the old timer get back to their cell, the young man asks, “What was going in the mess hall tonight? I thought you said there was no talking allowed.”
“Ah, yes, the mess hall.
Well years ago, the warden eased up on that rule a bit, the one that disallows talking at meals.
You see, all of us inmates have memorized a long list of jokes and stories by the number, so that all one of us has to do is call out its number, and, because we have all of the stories memorized, it’s like someone told the whole funny story.”
The young inmate nods understandingly and falls off to sleep.
After a few weeks of this mealtime behavior, the young man gets up a bit of nerve and decides to tell a story.
So, one evening at the dinner meal, he stands up and loudly says, “26.” No one laughs. Not even a twitter.
So he tries again, “26.” Still nothing.
He sits down sheepishly and embarrassed.
Later, he pleads with the old timer to explain what happened.
“That is such a good story, number 26, how come no one laughed.”
The old man turned to him and explained, “It’s the way you told it.”