There are many variations on the old joke about two geniuses and a bicycle. The possibilities for the joke are endless. Sometimes the first genius is a statistical analyst and the second genius is a theoretical physicist. Occasionally, the first genius rams his mountain bike into the mother of the second genius while preparing his dissertation in Freudian psychology. There is one version, no longer popular, where the two geniuses are cosmologists arguing about the expansion of the universe while, at the same time, they struggle to synchronize their peddling of a bicycle built for two.
Most comedians agree that the enduring appeal of telling the joke is due to its simplicity. All you need are the geniuses and the bicycle. The punch lines can be absurd, profound or profane, depending on the proclivities of the story teller. There is no clear consensus on which is the best ending, but most humorists agree that the joke has come a long way since the original version, where the two geniuses were attempting to impress a beautiful bank teller who had come into their repair shop to get a new bell on her handlebar.
The first genius, who was studying at MIT, became obsessed with the pressure of her tires. The second genius, who had just been fired from a physics lab for conducting unauthorized experiments, insisted that the gears had to be properly lubed. The two men pulled and prodded at the Schwinn 10-speed until one wheel was on the floor, one peddle got stuck in a lamp shade and a black splotch of grease had become embedded in the sleeve of their customer’s white silk blouse. The two men all but fell over themselves to come to her assistance, but by this time the bank teller had lost all patience.
“If you two guys are such fucking geniuses,” she snapped at them, “then why can’t you learn to fix a goddamn bicycle?
Craig Fishbane is the author of the short fiction collection On the Proper Role of Desire. His work has appeared in New World Writing, The Fabulist, Hobart, Lunch Ticket, Fiction Kitchen Berlin and The Nervous Breakdown.