A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 10, 2012
“Do you know where Central Park is?…OK, I’ll mug you here”

New York City in the 1960s and 1970s was crime-ridden; there were constant stories about tourists being mugged in and around Central Park. A joke from 1971 has a shady person approaching a tourist and asking, ‘Do you know where Central Park is?” The tourist says he doesn’t know. “Good, then I’ll mug you here,” replies the shady person.

The joke was first told by New York City comedian Henny Youngman (1906-1998), who was known as the ‘King of the One-Liners.” English comedian Paul Merton (born in 1957) has also told the joke, personalizing it with Merton as the New York City tourist.


24 November 1971, Aberdeen (SD) American-News, “Earl Wilson’s New York,” pg. 4, col. 4:
His phone service answers you, “Henny Youngman, King of the One-Liners.”

Some of them are two-liners or three. A mugger asks a pedestrian, “Can you direct me to Central Park?”..."No"...All right, then, I’ll mug you right here.”

5 November 1972, Boston (MA) Globe, pg. D23:
He said, “Do you know where Central Park is?” And I said no. The guy said, “I’ll mug you here.”

Google News Archive
30 June 1973, Youngstown (OH) Vindicator, “N.Y. Dem Alliance Revives” by Victor Riesel, pg. 19, col. 1:
NEW YORK—Standard equipment for any night club comedian is a gag which runs; “A burly chap walks up to a tourist and asks the stranger if he knows where Central Park is. The visitor says no. The husky inquisitor says, “Good, then I’ll mug you here “

19 June 1975, New York (NY) Times, “Do Jokes About the Big Apple Cut to the Core?” by Richard F. Shepard, pg. 74:
Youngman: Guy walks up to a fellow and says, “Do you know where Central Park is?” Fellow says no, guy says, “Then I’ll mug you right here.”
(Also in Google News Archive, Milwaukee Journal, June 27. 1975—ed.)

Google Books
Newsweek
Volume 87, Part 1
1976
Pg. 169:
A guy walks up and says, “Do you know where Central Park is? No? Then I’ll mug you here.’ You see, it’s a picture. Everything is a picture.” And everyone is a source of Henny’s jokes.

Google Books
The New Yorker
Volume 53, Part 4
1977
Pg. 51:
Like: A man savs to another man, ‘Can you tell me how to get to Central Park?’ ‘No.’ ‘All right, I’ll mug you here.’

Google Books
Take My Life, Please!
By Henny Youngman with Neal Karlen
Thorndike, ME: Thorndike Press
1992
Pg. 10:
“A man says to another man, ‘Can you tell me how to get to Central Park?’ The guy says no. ‘All right,’ says the first, ‘I’ll mug you here.’”

New York (NY) Times
Crime Is Down. Streets Are Clean. What’s a New York Comedian to Do?
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: January 12, 1997
(...)
Whatever New York humor is, it encompasses the Borscht Belt (and Broadway) borderline-mean shtick of Jackie Mason, the romantic neuroses of Woody Allen and the hip-hop influenced racial commentary of Chris Rock. It encompasses the age-old rimshot bluntness of Henny Youngman (’’A guy came up to me and said ‘Do you know where Central Park is?’ I said no. He said, ‘I’ll mug you here, then.’’’ ) and the contemporary delight in ethnic confusion of a young woman like Sunda Croonquist: ‘’My father’s Swedish, and my mother’s African American. Do you know what that makes me in New York? A fiiinnne Puerto Rican.’’

Google Books
The Mammoth Book of Great British Humor
Edited by Michael Powell
Philadelphia, PA: Running Press
2010
Pg. 281:
On my first day in New York a guy asked me if I knew where Central Park was. When I told him I didn’t he said, “Do you mind if I mug you here?”
Paul Merton

The Telegraph (NY)
QI: Quite interesting facts about New York
A quietly intriguing column from the brains behind QI, the BBC quiz show. This week: QI loves New York

Compiled by Molly Oldfield & John Mitchinson
6:02PM GMT 17 Mar 2011
On my first day in New York a guy asked me if I knew where Central Park was. When I said I didn’t, he said: “Do you mind if I mug you here?”
Paul Merton

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBuildings/Housing/Parks • (0) Comments • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 • Permalink