Franklin’s funny side is shown at presentation

Booth Library will host a presentation titled “Benjamin Franklin’s Standup Comic: The Speech of Miss Polly Baker” at 4 p.m. in the Conference Room. Parley Ann Boswell, an English professor, created the presentation and will deliver it as well.

The lecture focuses on Franklin’s work, “The Speech of Miss Polly Baker” written in 1747. While Franklin never officially claimed the speech, modern day scholars have proven he was the author.

“I chose to do Polly Baker because it’s so funny,” Boswell said. “He makes up this woman’s voice who’s court for having her fifth illegitimate child. I call it Ben Franklin in drag.”

Boswell explained when Franklin wrote the speech, he had an illegitimate son and had never denied him.

“In the 18th century, if you were an unmarried and a pregnant woman you were punished,” Boswell said. “Franklin recognized this hypocrisy and likely wrote the speech to condemn it.”

Joclyn Tipton, the dean of library services, said the presentation showed another aspect of Franklin that many are not familiar with.

“We know him for his inventions, but this is more about his comedy and writing,” Tipton said.

Boswell said the speech is as good as any modern stand-up comedy and that like all good comedy, “you come away with it understanding something about the world.”

“There’s always something serious about comedy,” Boswell said. “Usually it challenges the status quo and challenges hypocrisy, especially the hypocrisy of the powerful. (Franklin) understood what it was like to be poor, he understood what it was like to be rich. He used comedy to make his point instead of acting rich and powerful and lecturing or bullying someone.”

It is part of the library’s participation in a national program run by the American Library Association and National Endowment for Humanities.

Seth Schroeder can be reached

at 581-2812

or [email protected]