By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 24, 1932

“I feel,” says Jim Frise, “as if one good laugh and the world would feel a lot better. It’s too darn serious.”

“In the olden days,” said I, “when the world was darkest with wars or pestilence, the clowns and troubadors used to wander the world making everybody laugh. Now is the time for Charlie Chaplin to get busy on a new film.”

“What the world needs,” says Jim, “is a good practical joke. Announce an eclipse and then don’t have one, or something.”

“They pulled that one a couple of weeks ago,” said I. “How about getting a lot of bankers and statesmen to announce that the depression is over. That would be a good one.”

“I mean real, practical jokes,” said Jim.

“Let’s start the ball rolling,” said I. Ah, me!

So we thought up a few practical jokes, all for the sake of humanity.

Our first act was an old-timer. We got a roll-up tape line, 66 feet long, from the office carpenter and took it up Yonge St. to a place just north of Hennessy’s drug store.

It was about 3 p.m. and a fine day, with plenty of shoppers and no end of motor cars.

I held one end of the tape measure and Jim took the other and, watching for a lull in the traffic, he crossed the road, pulling the tape measure after him.

Traffic all stopped politely.

On reaching the far side, Jimmie looked anxiously about and felt in his pockets. Amongst those who stopped to see what was happening was an earnest young man of the sort who are always willing to help.

“Would you mind holding this?” asked Jim politely. The young man eagerly seized the end of the tape.

On my side of Yonge, I had an equally interested group of spectators. I selected an elderly gentleman with a walking stick and spectacles. He obligingly accepted my end of the tape.

The motor traffic and street cars by this time were stopped in both directions, and everybody was very polite.

Then Jimmie and I quietly disappeared in the crowd and met, by prearrangement, down near the Canadian National ticket office.

We looked back and there was quite a jam. Cars and street cars, pedestrians and bicyclists all were paused respectfully, while an earnest young man and an obliging old man solemnly held the tape across the street.

Then things happened. Somebody, probably a policeman, inquired what the idea was.

“A man told me to hold this,” said the young man.

“I was requested to hold it,” said the old man.

Or maybe they both dropped the tape like hot potato. Anyway, the brief traffic jam ended and Jim and I stood at the corner of King and Yonge to watch the world laugh.

Down the street came a thunder cloud of angry Torontonians. Not a laugh in a boat load. We heard snatches of comment.

“Just like the city hall,” said one. “Tear a road up and then don’t know what for. Why, on my street -“

“Silly saps!”

“Didn’t know what they were holding it for!”

Jim and I hurried away and hid in a restaurant to think up some more practical jokes.

Thinking Up a New One

 “I tell you a great one,” said I. “We go and buy a park bench exactly like the city benches they have up in Queen’s Park. We sneak it into Queen’s Park and then start to walk off with it. The park attendants come running and order us to drop it. Wo refuse and say it is ours. The park attendants go and call the police. The cops come and we still try to make off with the bench. So they arrest us. They send for the wagon. We get taken to the police station. And there we produce our receipt for the bench, proving it is ours. Ha, ha, ha!”

“Swell,” said Jim. “Then we go down to Riverdale Park, then out to High Park and Sunnyside. We can pull that one all over the city until the police are sick of the sight of us.”

So we bought a nice park bench for $14.50 and hired a man with a small covered truck to deliver it to us in Queen’s Park.

Nobody noticed us lift it off the truck, as we did the trick around on the east side near that horse-trough where there is a good screen of bushes.

“Now then,” said Jim.

So we started walking across the park. The bench was much heavier than benches used to be in the parks I used to sit in in Toronto. It had cement ends with wooden slats for the seat.

And the afternoon was hot.

Nobody paid any attention to us.

Across by the bandstand a man was cutting grass. We carried the bench past him. He was a bad-tempered looking man, like most park gardeners.

He stopped mowing to wipe his brow.

“Hot work, boys,” he said.

So Jimmie and I set the bench down and had a rest on it.

Coming down from the Avenue road end was a mounted policeman, slowly walking his horse in the humid afternoon.

“If we make it snappy,” I said, “we can intercept him down there at the corner of the parliament buildings.”

We started across the road, struggling anxiously with the bench, with every appearance of guilt. The cop went right on past

So we made it snappy and reached the west side of the road just as the policeman hove down on us. We started across the road, struggling anxiously with the bench, with every appearance of guilt.

The cop went right on past.

We set it down on the far boulevard. The policeman smiled over his shoulder at us.

“Old stuff, boys,” he called. “The university students try to play that one on us every autumn.”

So we sat down again on the bench. “Not such a good joke,” said Jim.

We had not made any arrangements about having the small truck call back for the bench as we figured the police van would take it along as evidence.

“We could take it back to the store and get our money back,” said I.

“Let’s give it to the city,” said Jim. “Let’s carve on the seat here, ‘Donated to the City of Toronto by Two Big Practical Jokers.'”

But it was too hot for carving. So we just donated it anonymously.

As we walked down University avenue I thought of another one.

“We’ll go down Yonge street,” said I, “and all of a sudden I will grab off my hat and kneel down and clap it down on to the pavement, as if I had caught something underneath it. We will both kneel down and I will keep peeking cautiously underneath the edge of my hat, and you act all excited, trying to see under, too. We will act as if we had caught the most wonderful thing in the world.”

“Swell,” said Jimmie. “This one won’t cost anything. Let’s see, $2.50 for the tape measure we lost and $14.50 for the bench.”

So we turned over to Yonge and just above Eaton’s we strolled until we got an open space in the crowd, and then I made a sudden dive, swapped my hat off and clapped It down on an imaginary canary on the pavement.

I knelt down and peeped under the brim of the hat, with every sign of excitement, and all the passer-by stopped

I knelt down and peeped under the brim, with every sign of excitement, and all the passers-by stopped.

When I looked for Jim he was not there. Not only was he not kneeling beside me, but he wasn’t even in the crowd.

“The big quitter,” I muttered, bending down for another cautious look under the brim of my hat.

By this time the crowd was jammed almost on top of me. So I quietly picked up my hat, put it on my head, stood up and walked off.

The crowd did not make a sound. Not laugh. Not a smile. They did look bewildered and a trifle alarmed.

“If Jimmie had only waited,” I said to myself, “he would have enjoyed that one.”

So down near Ryrie’s I decided to try it again, all on my own. I went through the act again and was just nicely kneeling down when I felt somebody grab me.

Not a Laugh in a Load

I was yanked to my feet by two eager-looking young men who were about the size of Argo oarsmen. They held me with my arms pinned behind me and rushed me into a doorway.

“Here,” I yelled, “what’s the idea!”

“Get him inside,” gasped one of the two Argos, “and I’ll hold him while you go and phone for a taxi. Don’t let the police in on this!”

It so happened that they had me jammed into the doorway to the hairdressing parlors of Mr. Wellington Knight, who is an old friend of the Clarks, and he came out to see what the scuffle was.

“Here,” he cried, “let go of Mr. Clark!”

“Ssh!” warned the big boy, holding me more firmly, “this is a dangerous nut escaped from Whitby!”

“Dangerous nothing!” said Mr. Wellington Knight, who is a man of action with or without curling irons. “Let go of that man. That’s Mr. Gregory Clark of The Star.”

The big chap was impressed.

“Let me show you,” I gargled; “let me get at my pocketbook!”

Reluctantly and ready to dodge if I pulled a gun, the big boy relaxed his hold enough to let me produce my police pass, driving license, and so forth.

And at that minute the other large boy returned, panting.

“What is the meaning of this?” I demanded. “Grabbing a man on the street and announcing that he is a dangerous nut escaped from a hospital?”

“Well,” said the first young man, “what were you doing crawling around on your hands and knees on Yonge street?”

“I was playing practical joke,” I spluttered. “Even so, what right have you –“

“Well,” said the two of them, “the doctor pointed you out to us.”

“What doctor?”

“The doctor from Whitby, he said he was,” said the two big young men. “He came up to us where we were standing over there by the Arcade, and he was very excited. ‘Boys,’ he said, ‘I’m a doctor from Whitby and I have just recognized an escaped nut from our hospital. He is very dangerous. There is a reward of a hundred dollars for his capture, and if you can just grab him and slap him into a taxi, without the police getting in on it, why you will have the reward all to yourselves.’ So he pointed this gentleman out to us. We crossed the road and just as we got behind you, you suddenly grabbed off your hat, made a pass at nothing at all with it, and started crawling around –“

A horrible thought struck me.

“What did this doctor look like?” I demanded.

“Well, he had on a brown suit,” said the boys.

“And he was tall, clean shaven,” said I. “a straw hat and dark twinkling eyes?”

“Yes, that’s him all right.”

“Jimmie Frise!” I cried. “It was Jimmie Frise!”

So Wellington Knight, the two Argos and I walked over and climbed up to Jim’s attic. When we went in Jim was lying back in his chair, with tears running all over his face.

“Oh, here you are!” he choked.

“Yes,” said I bitterly, “here I am! And here are two young men looking for a hundred dollar reward.”

Jim gave them each a dollar for their trouble.

“You see,” said Jim, “your practical jokes weren’t working out very well, so I just thought one up for myself.”

“If Mr. Knight here hadn’t come on the scene,” I cried, “those two bullies would have had me into a taxi and half way to Whitby by now.”

Mr. Knight went over and sat on Jim’s table and helped him shed tears.

So I just walked out on them, which goes to show that as far as practical jokes are concerned there isn’t a laugh in a load.

Editor’s Note: Greg and Jim shared an office in the top floor of the Toronto Star building at the time. It could be called an “attic” since it was not a full floor. This is one of their earliest stories.