His initials were RAT. He was a man’s man. He had three wives. He owned his own business (a loud, smelly print shop littered with pornography on the walls of the break room and a disgusting bathroom). He smoked cigars. He ate red meat. He listened to classical music. He watched Ren & Stimpy. He made amateur pornography while fighting in World War II and told the most outrageous war stories ever imagined. He was a vulgar cartoonist and the original Crass Sophisticate.
As a husband, father, and boss he was no doubt a pain in the ass (he once told my mother a paper bag was faster than makeup), but as a grandfather he fit the bill. He spoiled his grandchildren, not only with gifts like a Nintendo and 100 dollar bills (secretly pushed into our hands behind our mother’s back), but he spoiled us with humor. Besides outrageous caricatures and stereotyping minorities – my grandfather had a love of telling limericks.
There was something magical about hearing those melodious, seemingly innocent rhymes, coming from my smirking grandfather. The family would all be gathered around the kitchen table, or outside in folding chairs and there would come a lull in the conversation. Somebody would sigh, and the aging curmudgeon would look at me sideways, contemplating which joke would elicit the perfect mix of shock and humor from his surrounding family. I often think that Grandpa told dirty jokes more for shock value, than to actually make anyone laugh. Almost as if he found it humorous to be the dirty old man. Nonetheless, he would point to me and furrow his brow, concentrating to get the timing just perfect as he began to make magical vulgar poetry.
My heart would race as I heard that first line, “There once was a…” knowing it was going to be crass by seeing my mother’s eyes burning into the old man with concern that perhaps this limerick would forever scar me with it’s sexual connotations and obscene language. More often I didn’t even understand the joke, I was always more entertained by the angry “DAD!” interjections coming from my mom or the shrill, shocked “BOB!” angrily shrieked by my step-grandmother. My Grandpa would start chuckling, giving me a wink as he picked up his cigar, squinted through the smoke and looked thoughtfully into the distance – satisfied that the limerick landed as he predicted. While my Grandfather died at the age of 83, his spirit lives on in the pages of Crass Sophisticate, and his humor will forever continue as aging Crass Sophisticate fans like yourself retell inappropriate limericks to your own grandchildren.
Here are two that I remember:
There once was a man from Saint Claire’s,
who was fucking his wife on the stairs,
the banister broke,
he started to choke,
so he finished her off in mid-air.
There once was a girl name Alice,
who used a dynamite stick for a phallus,
They found her vagina,
In North Carolina,
and her asshole somewhere in Dallas.