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Ancient Greeks pre-empted Dead Parrot sketch

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"I'll tell you what's wrong with it. It's dead, that's what's wrong with it."

For those who believe the ancient Greeks thought of everything first, proof has been found in a 4th century AD joke book featuring an ancestor of Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch where a man returns a parrot to a shop, complaining it is dead.

The 1,600-year-old work entitled "Philogelos: The Laugh Addict," one of the world's oldest joke books, features a joke in which a man complains that a slave he has just bought has died, its publisher said Friday.

"By the gods," answers the slave's seller, "when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"

In a British comedy act Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch, first aired in 1969 and regularly voted one of the funniest ever, the pet-shop owner says the parrot, a "Norwegian Blue," is not dead, just "resting" or "pining for the fjords."

The English-language book will appeal to those who swear that the old jokes are the best ones. Many of its 265 gags will seem strikingly familiar, suggesting that sex, dimwits, nagging wives and flatulence have raised laughs for centuries.


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