Mark Twain, that rare combination of cynic and fun-haver, takes the listener to a wharf-boat dock in Memphis, Tennessee a few years before the outbreak of the Civil War. There we meet Ed Jackson, a gullible wharf-boat clerk "boiling over with youth and spirits" who was the favorite butt for other boat clerks’ jokes. Performed by Jack Benson in a lovingly hokey manner that switches deftly between characters, "The Joke That Made Ed’s Fortune" is a wild yarn about a joke on the joker. As another of Twain’s memorable characters, Pudd’nhead Wilson, put it, "Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed."