MANNERS & MORALS: Out of This World

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A nation's jokes can often express the more somber interests of an era, and last week, even as United Nations diplomats grimly pondered the problems of the space age, the U.S. laughed at a coast-to-coast rash of space-age jokes. In their most popular form, the space gags follow the style of a partisan political yak that gained wide currency months ago: a Martian landed on the Augusta National Golf Course, hopped up to Dwight Eisenhower and demanded: "Take me to your leader." Jumping off from there: A Martian lands in Paris, spots Brigitte Bardot and, electric-bulb eyeball flashing furiously, demands: "Take me to your leader—later."

A Martian lands on Broadway, hops up to a ducktail-coifed youth in pink pegged pants, asks: "Who are you?" Reply: "Say, daddy-o, I'm a cat." Martian: "Take me to your litter." A be-bop Martian shags up to the Waldorf-Astoria, his face greener with envy at the doorman's magnificent uniform. Doorman, trembling: "Do you want me to take you to my leader?" Martian: "No, you cool cat, I want you to take me to your tailor." A rocket-shot earth-mouse lands on the moon, made as it is of green cheese, and orders: "Take me to your Liederkranz." A gift-bearing Martian, wearing a vicuna coat, last summer landed on the White House front lawn, skittered up to a guard, said: "Lead me to your taker."

Other space gags deal with the confrontation of out-of-this-worldlings and earthly devices:

A Martian lands in a small, quiet town in dead of night, enters a near-empty eatery, goes up to the jukebox with flashing lights and iridescent bubbles, demands: "Say, what's a slick chick like you doing in a nothin' town like this?" A mamma Martian lands in Brooklyn, sees the jungle of television antennas atop the tenements, cries in alarm: "You kids get right down off the roof." A Martian lands in Chicago's Loop, skips up to a traffic light and says sympathetically: "Gee, Charlie, you must have had a rough night."

And who knows but what Charlie had?