One of my favorite podcasts is Planet Money because they explain concepts in a fun way. On a recent episode, two of the hosts, Robert Smith and David Kestenbaum, visited a comedy club and told horrible economist jokes. It’s financial nerd humor meets the real world in a way that seems more like a train wreck than a great idea. How did it turn out? We interviewed them for the Stacking Benjamins podcast recently and included a portion of that interview for you today!
Joe: Welcome to the basement, guys!
Robert: It’s cold!
David: I love these chairs. Thanks for having us.
Joe: I know, I’ve got to get mom to turn the heat up…but speaking of mom, she told me you guys knew both good economist jokes.
David: There are two?
Robert: We searched high and low for the good ones, and we were not terribly successful.
Joe: You told me it was tough going at the comedy club. Any that stood out as your favorite?
David: There was one I really liked about two economists eating horse manure. I think that one actually got a laugh. It’s a smart, interesting joke, but I think it only got a laugh because it has economists eating horse manure.
Joe: Do you mind retelling it?
David: Two economists are walking down the road, and they come across a pile of horse shit.
The first economist says, “If you eat that, I’ll give you $20,000.”
The second economist thinks about the pros and cons and says, “Okay,” eats the shit and collects $20k.
They keep walking down the road and come across another pile of horse shit.
The second economist says, “Now if YOU eat this shit, I’ll give YOU $20,000.”
The first economist evaluates the proposal, says, “Okay,” eats the shit and collects the $20k.
They keep walking until the second economist stops and says, “You know, I’ve been thinking. We both have the same amount of money we both started off with, but we both also just ate horse shit. I don’t see how we’re better off.”
The first economist answers, “Well, that’s true, but you overlook the fact that the economy just grew by $40,000.”
Joe: (laugh/groan) That is so absolutely horrible. How did you guys come up with these? Did you curate them? Did you find economics professors nationwide and find the best?
David: .uhh….yes! (laughs) I mean…we Googled, we reached out to some of our favorite economists and professors and asked around…and there were still pretty slim pickings.
Robert: People would say, “You’ve gotta talk to this guy. This guy has some really funny jokes…” and we would go, “Oh, um, not really…no. Not really funny jokes.”
Joe: Robert, your whole story reads like a bad joke. “These two finance podcast guys walk into a comedy club. Ba-dum-bum.” How did this project start out?
Robert: David really wanted to do something on economy jokes, because he wanted to explain them. David’s an explainer, not a joke teller. He thought, “If we have these jokes, then we can explain them on the podcast.”
…and this is where I have a secret, secret belief that I am truly a great comedian, and this is my chance to finally do stand up.
I said, “We should bring them into a club as a sort of experiment….a test…..to see how funny these jokes actually are.”
Surprisingly enough, when you call up comedy clubs and tell them that you have no experience and lousy jokes, and we’d like five minutes on stage, they’re actually fairly picky. It was not easy to find someone to allow us to do this at that bar out in Brooklyn.
Joe: So you didn’t just show up on open mic night?
Robert: They knew we were coming. We made it very clear that we had no experience. This was not going to be funny. But we said that we just need a few minutes.
Joe: There were some other big names there besides you.
David: This guy Joe Mande, who went on right after us, who was a writer for Parks & Rec, one of my favorite shows. He made a much funnier joke that we did….about us (which he’d clearly just dreamed up while sitting in the audience watching us.)
He said, “Wow, I really like the Planet Money podcast. I actually listen to it. It’s my fourth favorite podcast, but that was some rough shit. That was like watching Michael Jordan play baseball.”
Thanks to David and Robert for sharing their experiences. Want more jokes from the show or behind the scenes discussions about their train wreck telling jokes? Listen to Joe interview them on the podcast. Want to listen to Planet Money? Find their podcast on iTunes here.