As a young boy in St. Louis, a good costume wasn’t enough to get a little extra candy stuffed into my pillowcase on Halloween.
My friends and I also had to make the person handing out candy laugh. Back home, Halloween isn’t totally about costumes and candy.
It’s also about jokes. If you want any candy, you better have a joke or two.
Growing up, I assumed that everyone had to tell jokes while trick-or-treating. It wasn’t until I was a teenager I realized the practice is a St. Louis oddity.
Research notes joke-telling on Halloween isn’t unique to St. Louis. Its roots are in Iowa.
“Apparently, the tradition actually started in Des Moines, where it began as a Depression-era attempt to curb hooliganism, which included upending trash cans, turning on fire hydrants and shooting out streetlights,” explains a 2011 article from National Public Radio.
On Monday night, thousands of St. Louis children will take to their neighborhood streets seeking to get their fair share of chuckles and candy.
Here’s a brief synopsis of how to successfully celebrate a St. Louis Halloween.
First off, you want to keep the jokes in your repertoire short. Why? Because you want to reach as many houses as possible. Shorter jokes means more houses and more houses means more candy.
Also you didn’t want to be that kid that holds up the line on someone’s front porch. Short and to-the-point jokes were always best. Keep your riddles and multi-part jokes for another time.
Here’s an example of short, blunt joke I used to tell. It’s one of my favorites.
•Why don’t the Chicago Cubs have a website? They can’t string together three Ws.
Secondly, corny jokes are always best. Think of jokes that you might find on the back of a Laffy Taffy wrapper. Halloween in St. Louis isn’t an intellectual contest. Stupid, funny jokes were always my favorite.
My sister had a pretty good one in this category. Over the years, it had slipped from my memory. She relayed it to me again this week via text. It left me laughing.
•What was a ghost’s favorite pair of shoes? Booooooots.
Lastly, you want want to keep your jokes appropriate. When you’re a young boy, it’s always funny to be inappropriate. However, on Halloween, that schtick won’t work. For starters, if you’re joke offends the person handing out candy, they may shut the door on you. And word might spread back home that you’re the kid telling a naughty joke. But that’s not to say your joke can’t toe the line, like I?may have with this one I used to tell as a kid.
•Who invented the mini skirt? Seymour Hinny.
Now, Halloween jokes in St. Louis aren’t only for the trick-or-treaters. It’s also tradition to make those handing out the candy tell a joke or too. The adults never get off the hook.
When handing out candy tonight, I’ll probably get a bit homesick. Halloween won’t be the same without hearing some jokes.
Do me a favor. Stop on by 522 W. Main St. and have your trick-or-treater come with a funny joke.
I’ll make sure to have some of my own ready. Happy Halloween.