LONDON — You know there's a credit crunch when:
The IRS is offering a 25 percent discount for cash payers.
There's a "buy one, get one free'' deal — on banks.
The ATM asks if you can spare any change.
And, hey, how about those Asian markets? Did you hear that Japan's Origami Bank has folded, Sumo Bank has gone belly up and Bonsai Bank has announced plans to cut some of its branches?
Here in Britain, folks have endured a lot of bad economic news lately, with unemployment soaring, home prices plummeting and the stock market gyrating like an Egyptian belly dancer. To help cheer up readers, London's Daily Mail recently ran the "best credit-crunch jokes,'' to wit:
Q. What's the capital of Iceland?
A. About $6.65.
Q. What's the difference between an investment banker and a large pizza?
A. The pizza can still feed a family of four.
Q. What do you call five hedge fund managers at the bottom of the ocean?
A. A good start.
And this: The credit crunch is helping me get back on my feet. The car's been repossessed.
In some respects, British newspapers are far more restrained than their U.S. counterparts because of tough libel laws and a press "code of practices'' designed to protect privacy rights. That's why the Mail last week didn't print the name of the senior Harrod's executive who has yet to be charged with allegedly groping a 15-year-old customer of the world-famous department store.
In general, though, American dailies are staid in comparison to the British papers, which fawn over celebrities, delight in sex scandals and treat the country's political leaders with cheeky irreverence. It's hard to imagine the New York Times or Washington Post doing as the Daily Mail did and devoting two-thirds of its editorial page to jokes like this:
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Chancellor Alistair Darling and Secretary of State for Business Peter Mandelson are flying to the world economic summit. Peter says: "You know, I could throw a 50-pound note ($95) out of the window right now and make one person very happy.'' Alistair shrugs his shoulders and says: "Well, I could throw five 10-pound notes out of the window and make five people very happy.''
Gordon says: "Of course, I could throw 10 five-pound notes out of the window and make 10 people very happy.''
The pilot rolls his eyes, looks at them and says, "I could throw you all out of the window and make the whole country happy.''
The Mail jokes page prompted dozens of visual gags on the Internet, some of which the paper printed the following day, including a shot of prostitutes in the windows of a Barclay's bank.
Read the caption: "Free pens just aren't enough to pull in customers any more.''
But for laughing all the way to the poor house, you can't beat reports of the crisis in Japan, "where it was also announced that Karaoke Bank will go up for sale and will likely go for a song, while shares in Kamikaze Bank were suspended today after they nose-dived. As many as 500 staff at Karate Bank got the chop, and analysts report there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank, where it feared that staff may get a raw deal.''
Susan Taylor Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.