Context: I had heard the informant tell this joke at a party in Glendale late into the evening. We were sitting on cushioned chairs outdoors, drinking beers and chatting with roughly four other USC students. About a week later, since we’re both working on folklore collection projects, I invited the informant over to my dorm room at USC after classes. I had remembered the joke, and asked him if he remembered it. He replied quickly, stating that his Jewish grandfather had told him a plethora of jokes throughout his life, and I’d need to be more specific. “The Neil Armstrong one,” I replied, and immediately, he recognized the joke I was referencing. I began to record, and the informant began to tell the joke.
WD: So, tell me that joke that your Grandpa told you.
EG: Yeah, so, my grandfather is a huge Neil Armstrong fan, so he once told me this story. One time, my grandfather, he went to uh… a space convention, and there were a lot of astronauts and astrophysicists there speaking. So, he went to go see Neil Armstrong speak, since he’s such a huge fan. After hearing him speak, he went up to Neil and shook his hand and said, “Mr. Armstrong, I’m just the biggest fan of yours in the world, like, you mean so much to me and inspired me when I was younger. So, I want to ask you, where did you come up with the words ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?’” And, Neil responds, he looks at him kind of confused, “That’s not what I said. I said, ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for Manny Klein.’” And my grandpa said, “Who the hell is Manny Klein? That makes no sense, what are you talking about?” And he said, “I’ll tell you. When I was growing up in New York City in the tenements, you know, it would get hot at night, so we had to open up our windows. Across from my bedroom in the other building, there lived this old Jewish couple, named… Patty and Manny Klein. And… every night, when the window would be open, I could hear them arguing. And every night, Manny would say to Patty, ‘Patty! Would you please give me another blowjob?’ And Patty would respond, ‘When a man walks on the moon!’”
WD: That’s pretty good, man, I like that one.
EG: I fucked up, but that’s alright. I said another at the end on accident, I meant ‘a.’ But, the punchline is intact.
Informant: The informant is a 19 year old student at the University of Southern California. He is from Memphis, Tennessee, and is Jewish-American. The informant recently heard the joke from his Jewish grandfather when he had visited Los Angeles. The informant had never heard the joke before, and was happy to tell it.
Analysis: This joke was created after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and said the famous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It plays on the wording of the joke, altering the recognizable phrase into the punchline of the joke. For many, the United States’ moon landing was wholly impactful, and gave way to completely new ways of thinking about the universe. The phrase was heard worldwide, but it was especially impactful to the American populous. Since knowledge of the event was so widespread, this particular joke plays on the communal understanding of what happened during the moon landing. Not only that, but the joke also brings light into the seriousness of the US moon landing. Since the event was, quite literally, a race between Russian and US efforts to reach the moon, the idea that we misinterpreted the national victory is antithetical to what Americans believe.
This joke is a different version of one created in late 1995, after some believed Neil Armstrong stated, “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky” during the moon landing. For that version of the joke, see David Bruce, January 3, 2000, “Wise Up! Risque Anecdotes” for The Athens News, pg. 33.