THE DIRTY JOKES IN WAITING FOR GODOT When making preparations for the staging of Waiting for Godot, Beckett wrote to Roger Blin, the actor/director, 'Now that we have embarked on this dirty joke together, I think we can address each other in the familiar form.'^ To refer to his first play, and dramatic masterpiece, as 'this dirty joke' is surely significant, but I am unaware of any discussions either on why the phrase is apt or on the function of dirty jokes within the play as a whole. Scholars have extensively discussed Beckett's use of an extraordinarily wide range of elements of different entertainment media, drawing on conventions from silent movies, vaudeville and mime acts, commedia dell'arte, and formal Greek theatre.^ It is not surprising, therefore, that he should have also used the conventions and associations of bar-room jokes within the play. He uses them at least twice, in very different ways. The first time, a joke is begun verbally and Beckett uses it to produce not a laugh but a moment of intense emotion and dramatic tension, and the second time he actually incorporates a well-known joke into the action of the play, so that the joke is not told but enacted by the characters. The verbal dirty joke is the story of the Englishman in the brothel. Estragon begins the joke soon after he 'voluptuously' pronounces the word 'calm' and notes that the English say 'cawm'. Despite Vladimir's protestations he begins, 'An Englishman having drunk a little more than usual goes to a brothel. The bawd asks him if he wants a fair one, a dark one, or a red-haired one.'-' At this point Vladimir yells, 'Stop it!' and exits. Scholars have generally accepted the ending of the joke given by Ruby Cohn. In her version, the Englishman replies that he wants a boy. Shocked, the bawd threatens to call a policeman, whereupon the Englishman pleads, 'O no, they're too gritty."* There was, however, another dirty joke, with exactly the same opening, that was widely circulating in both England and France for many decades and which, I would argue, is more likely to be the one Beckett had in mind. In this version, the Englishman selects, say, the blonde and he is then shown to a door labelled 'Blondes'. He enters to be confronted by a further choice, small, medium, or large breasts. He selects again, enters the appropriate door and another choice is offered. In Erench (for the joke is nearer to Beckett's needs in Erench) the choice offered is between 'Grands Gons' and 'Petits Gons'. He chooses the door marked 'Grands Gons' and finds himself back in the street again. The whole sequence begins with Estragon voluptuously pronouncing the word 'calme', leading to the thought that the English say 'caaam', to the statement 'ce sont des gens caaams'.^ This surely echoes the punchline of the joke, that the Englishman 'est con'. ' Letter to Roger Blin, 15 January 1951. Quoted by Ruby Cohn, 'Growing (Up?)', in Beckett at 80IBeckett in Context, ed. by Enoch Brater (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 13-24 (p. 15). ^ See, for example, John Sheedy, 'The Net', in Casebook on 'Waiting for Godot', ed. by Ruby Cohn (New York; Grove Press, 1967), pp. 159-66; Alfonso Sastre, 'Seven Notes on Waiting for Godot', in Casebook on 'Waiting for Godot', pp. 101-07; Genevieve Serreau, 'Beckett's Clowns', in Casebook on 'Waiting for Godot', PP-'71-75•' Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (London: Faber, 1956), p. 16. '' Ruby Cohn, 'Beckett's German Godot', in Journal of Beckett Studies, no. i (Winter 1976), pp.41—49 (p.42, n. 2). . . . . ^ Samuel Beckett, En attendant Godot (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1952), p. 24.