Regardless of appearances, this is not that joke issue. Let us simply say my suggestion fell on infertile ground, perhaps soured by a buyers’ market in journalistic employment, but in any event it was a major nonstarter. I was mystified, not that that’s hard to achieve.
Now I know why. It came to me Jan. 14 when I digitally unfolded my online Daily Princetonian and, for starters, glimpsed the portrait of our good leader Dr. Tilghman succumbing to the enthusiastic spirits of Reunions, as it were. Yes indeedy, it was the annual Prince joke issue. It dawned on me that many of my henchfolk here at PAW are veterans of that august literary tradition, and thus it was clear why they never, ever wanted to go near it again.
Which is ironic since this year’s outgoing ’09 Prince board put together a truly snazzy issue that effectively covered the Princeton waterfront and actually contained humor, not a consistent part of the joke tradition. It had Eliot Spitzer ’81 rumored to succeed Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 as dean of the Wilson School. It had Princo, trying to rebound from its 2008 losses, investing in Somali pirates. It had the Tiger Band training to carry weapons, presumably for the Citadel rematch, and a coincidental report of the club rifle team “going Capone” on the fencers. The lead story reported the new White House basketball team beating the Princeton varsity 62-54, with Hillary “Ice Box” Clinton leading the way with 20 points and 18 million cracks in the glass backboard. President Obama had “ten points, five assists, and $700 million in bailout loans.” Good stuff.
The Prince ’s joke impetus, blindingly obvious if you’ve ever hung out in their offices for a half hour, first migrated to the printed page in the Roaring ’20s, complete with its own banner declaring itself “The Gaily Printsanything.” Satirizing such obvious targets as the new Chapel (a huge Gothic monument to antimaterialism) and the no-car rule, it was the final edition of the outgoing editorial board at the end of the first semester. Somewhere around the same time, single joke stories began to appear on April Fool’s Day when the new board was in the mood. The bottom dropped out of the new satirical tradition during the somber ’30s; examples then are few and pallid.
But with the resuscitation of rah-rah collegiality after World War II came ever more creative joke issues (which often confused the public because the mid-January timing is arbitrary to anyone outside the Prince, and no separate banner was used in those days) and April Fool gags (which get complicated when the “Sunday April 1” edition is delivered on Monday April 2 or whatever).
Some of the in-jokes hardly stand the test of time. I’ve seen befuddled Prince alumni look at articles their own boards wrote, unable to recall whether they were satire or fact. Of course, sprinkled across the years are still many imaginative examples that rival this January’s tour de farce .
But my favorite joke issue, especially effective in the anti-institutional atmosphere of the ’60s, was the edition of Jan. 22, 1969, that shrieked in about 275-point type:
In explaining the demise of the decades-old publication, it was noted that “staff dissension, trustee displeasure, community distrust, and financial failure” were contributing elements, and in the tumult of the times, who really knew? In the immortal words of outgoing Chairman Richard Rein ’69, “Not even Shakespeare went on forever.”
*Please note the cover date of this issue
Sometimes it’s a little confusing figuring out whether a Prince story is satire or not, especially from the headline (and really especially if you haven’t had your second cup of coffee). Try the following morsels from the last few years and see if you can discern the true (T – true story published in the Prince) from the false (F – joke story made up by the Prince).
Sun, Sand and Skin Can’t Throw Off Women’s Golf in South Florida
U. to Host Bush-Kerry Debate
Bradley ’65, Gore Debate in Harlem
Trainer Greenblatt Exercises His Talents as Actor and Model
Housing Website Loses Junior Draw Times in Network Crash
FBI Examined Computers On Campus in December as Part of Anthrax Investigation
Beware the Laundry Gods
Students Excited over Coming of Condom Fest
Princeton Mascot Injured in Collision with Zamboni at Baker
“Real World” to Hold Casting Call in Princeton
Carril to Return as Assistant Coach of Men’s Hoops after Two Years in NBA
A True Reflection of the Garden State: The D&R Canal
PAW Online Columnist wins Pulitzer for Historical Insight
Click here for the answers.