By Bill Matthews
Something about Nobel winner Niels Jerne just said comedy
(OSLO, NORWAY) Punchlines involving the Nobel Prize have soared in the days since President Obama won the Peace designation, but officials say it hasn’t come close to the furor of 1984.
“When Niels Jerne won the award for Physiology or Medicine, that was comedy gold,” said Nobel chairman Thorbjoern Jagland. “I mean, Johnny Carson led off the Tonight Show with Jerne for months.”
Since Obama won, punchlines involving the Nobel Prize are up 72 percent from this time last year. Experts say the jokes are the first sure sign that the economy is recovering.
“If we can find enough levity to joke about an American president winning the Nobel Prize, then things are certainly looking up,” said Alan Greenspan.
The guffaws are reminiscent of 1984, when the country was also emerging from a recession.
Jerne, as everyone remembers, was a Brit who worked at the Danish State Serum Institute before becoming a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology. His Nobel selection for theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system and the discovery of the principle for production of monoclonal antibodies was on everyone’s lips.
“You couldn’t take a step without hearing a Jerne joke. People were saying his name and confusing it with ‘germ,’ which almost sounds the same and that’s what made it so funny,” Rodney Dangerfield wrote in his autobiography.
“And then people were coming up with other things he won, like beating out the Tigers for the World Series or getting a Latin Grammy. Jokes like that never got old.”
And, of course, Lionel Richie brought down the house at the 1985 Grammy Awards, when, after winning album of the year, he said he thought they had called Niels Jerne’s name. Entertainment Weekly voted that No.3 on the all-time best moments in live television, just ahead of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s casket.
The charismatic Jerne, who was 72 when he won, turned his victory into gold, scoring sponsorships with Nike, Coke and the Monoclonal Society of America. He starred on the ABC sitcom Where’s the Research Scientist? with Clara Peller, a sassy old-timer who also hit the comedy jackpot with her delivery of the “Where’s the Beef?” line.
The show introduced a young Jamie Foxx as Too Sweet, an orphan with a heart of gold, and lasted four seasons.
“It was a simpler time, before irony took over America, when Nobel prize winners were the butt of jokes all the time, no matter how significant or insignificant their accomplishment,” said Rob Bates, a comedy writer whose 1986 classic movie Dammit I’m Dead was inspired by the fallout from Jerne’s victory. “The jokes about Obama’s victory really make us all feel young again.”
Note: This article is satire, brought to you by the creative minds at The Peoples News.