Getting Even with the Answering Machine (1985)

John Carfi and Cliff Carle 
CCC Publications

Written when interacting with an answering machine was still a novel and potentially anxiety-ridden exchange, Getting Even with the Answer Machine arms its reader with page after page of hilarious things to say if no one picks up the phone. The “funny responses” appear under different genre headings:

Famous: “Hi, this is Marie Antoinette. What a funny message! I laughed my head off!”

Rated PG: “Hi, is this Mr._____? This is your dentist calling. I wanted to remind you that Wednesday at 5 o’clock I’m supposed to drill your wife.”

Phoney Solicators: “Hi, this is the organ transplant bank. Your brain is ready”

Tricks ‘r’ Us: “Hey ________, how would you like to go to a free rock festival? Meet us at 6 o’clock outside the Geological Institute.”

Thinkettes: “Just wondering—if you eat a TV dinner and throw it up, is it called bad reception.”

And so on….

Incredibly, despite the level of joke-writing here, the book really does seem to have been aimed at adults (or precocious children willing to work blue). Uniformly terrible except for one joke that achieves, in spite of itself, a type of surreal genius:

“Hello. This is Santa Claus. I’m calling to tell you that I won’t be stopping by this year. I joined ZZ Top and I’m going on tour.” Hilarious!

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