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AMERICAN MOSAIC - August 9, 2002: Elvis Week in Memphis / Question About What Americans Think Is Funny / Tour de France Cycling Champion Lance Armstrong - 2002-08-08


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today:

We tell about a special celebration honoring Elvis Presley ...

Answer a listener’s question about what Americans think is funny ...

And report about the winner of the Tour de France bicycle race.

Lance Armstrong


On July twenty-eighth, American Lance Armstrong won the most famous bicycle race in the world, the Tour de France. Experts say the race is one of the most difficult competitions in all of sports. And Lance Armstrong has won it four times. Shep O’Neal tells us about him.


Thirty-year-old Lance Armstrong is only the second American to win the famous race. The first was Greg LeMond. LeMond won three races with a European team. Armstrong has won his four races as a member of the United States Postal Service team.

Experts say Lance Armstrong is important in sports history not just because he has won four Tour de France races. He is important because he has done it as a cancer survivor.

In nineteen-ninety-seven, doctors found that Lance Armstrong had cancer of the reproductive organs. The cancer had spread to his lungs and his brain. Doctors removed the affected testicle. They also operated on his brain. Later, Armstrong was treated with powerful and dangerous anti-cancer drugs.

Lance Armstrong survived the cancer and the treatments. His condition improved. Armstrong said he survived because he had excellent doctors and because he truly believed he would get better. He also considers himself to be very lucky.

Lance Armstrong began riding his racing bicycle as soon as he was feeling better. Then he began racing. He again became one of the top bicycle racers in the world. No one thought he could be good enough to win the Tour de France, however. But he did. He won his first Tour de France race in nineteen-ninety-nine. He has won every Tour de France for the past four years.

Last week, after winning the Tour de France, Armstrong said that he will continue to compete in the race for two more years. After that, he wants to spend more time with his wife, son and two daughters. But winning many races is not what Lance Armstrong says he wants to be remembered for. He wants people to remember that the winner was a cancer survivor.

Lance Armstrong says his Tour de France victories are a message to all cancer survivors. That message says that they can return to what they were doing before the disease affected them and become even better.

American Sense of Humor


Our VOA listener question this week is from Russia. Alexander Kukushkin asks if we can explain the American sense of humor and give some examples of what Americans think is funny.

That is a difficult question. Almost everyone will laugh at the same thing if they see something that is really funny.

For example, many years ago the movie actor Charlie Chaplin made several films about a funny-looking man known as “The Little Tramp.” This little tramp had no money and was always getting into trouble. How he got out of trouble was very funny. Chaplin’s films were popular around the world.

Some film critics say the little man Chaplin played in his films was the most popular funny person in the Twentieth Century. It did not matter what language people spoke when they saw one of Charlie Chaplin’s great films. He made most of his films before sound was used in movies.

Americans like to watch many kinds of funny movies. The most popular movie right now is called “Austin Powers in Goldmember.” It makes fun of spy movies. Several critics say it is a terrible movie but it is also very funny.

American humor is really not much different from humor in other countries. One exception might be humor from or about the American south. “Redneck” is a word that describes a white man from the South who is not very smart.

Jeff Foxworthy is an American comedian from the southern state of Georgia. He has become successful telling jokes about rednecks.

“If you’ve ever cut your grass and found a car, you might be a redneck. (LAUGHTER)

If your dad walks you to school because you’re in the same grade, you might be a redneck. (LAUGHTER)

If you’ve ever been too drunk to fish, you might be a redneck” (APPLAUSE.)

Elvis Week


Every August, people who love the music of Elvis Presley gather in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee for a celebration called “Elvis Week.” This year, many more people are expected to be there. Jim Tedder tells us more.


Elvis Week will be held August tenth through August eighteenth. This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death on August sixteenth, nineteen-seventy-seven.

More than one-hundred-thousand people are expected to gather in Memphis for Elvis Week. They will celebrate the life and music of the King of Rock and Roll.

More than fifty events will be held in and around Memphis. They include music concerts, dance parties, parades, discussions, sports and social events. Money earned from some of the events will be used to help people in need. The biggest event will be a twenty-fifth anniversary concert at the Pyramid arena in Memphis on August sixteenth. Musicians and singers who worked with Elvis Presley will perform in front of huge television screens showing Elvis singing.


Another special event will take place during the night of August fifteenth. Thousands of people will take part in a ceremony at Presley’s burial place on the grounds of his home, Graceland.

About seven-hundred-thousand people visit Graceland every year. Music writer and singer Paul Simon wrote a song about a visit to Graceland.



You can hear more about the life and music of Elvis Presley Sunday on the VOA Special English program People In America.

This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC—VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

Remember to write us with your questions about American life. We will try to answer them on future programs. Listeners whose questions are chosen will receive a Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

Send your questions to American Mosaic, Special English, Voice of America, Washington, D.C. two-zero-two-three-seven, USA.

This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Shelley Gollust, Nancy Steinbach and Paul Thompson. Our studio engineer was Holly Capehart. And our producer was Paul Thompson.