“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.”