People in town may know Tom Mercaldo as a local Scout leader, one who can be found each year helping to collect turkeys and other holiday food for the needy at the Scouts’ annual Thanks for Giving Food Drive.
Maybe they know him as the owner of Aquinas Consulting, a specialty IT and engineering staffing firm with offices on the Boston Post Road, or as a local soccer coach.
Or maybe they graduated Milford High School with Mercaldo in 1981, before he set off to college.
What they may not know is that Mercaldo is also a master of clean jokes.
What word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it?
What do people in Canada call little black cats?
Those are two of the more than 600 jokes and riddles that can be found in Mercaldo’s new book called the Big, Ginormous Book of Clean Jokes and Riddles.
Mercaldo, a local businessman who grew up in Milford and has been long involved in Scouting — he and his two sons are all Eagle Scouts — has been writing Scout books for a number of years and he’s been collecting jokes and riddles since he was a kid.
He has published 15 books related to Scouting, most notably the Scout Fun Books series, including The Scout Riddle Book, Superior Campfires, The Scout Puzzle Book, Scout Skits, Scout Jokes, Scoutmasters Minutes, Campfire Tales, and more.
Those books came as a result of leading Scout meetings. All Scout meetings are supposed to end with a story, Mercaldo explained, a story that teaches a life lesson. Scouts also prepare skits, something that builds presentation skills in the boys. There are also Scout cheers, performed after a skit.
“This is one way to keep the meetings fun,” explained Mercaldo, who has been involved in Scouting since he was old enough to walk himself to Scout meetings.
Before there was an Internet, there was a need for books that shared the skit ideas, cheers and other aspects of Scouting for other leaders to tap into, and so Mercaldo started compiling them and publishing them as an offshoot of Aquinas Consulting, a company called Aquinas Eagle, now Aquinas Eagle Publishing and Specialty Products.
At first Mercaldo distributed his books to family and through the Scouting circles — he gained a reputation for his books in the Scouting community and other leaders would seek him out.
And while it’s clean, the Scouting organization didn’t want to get involved in distributing his newest book — the joke and riddle book — so that went straight to Amazon.
The giant book of jokes and riddles is really the culmination of the Milford man’s life. Since he was a kid he’s been collecting jokes and riddles that he thought funny, and recalls that as a youngster he would get annoyed when he would buy a joke book and not laugh at the material.
“Some of the books out there are just not well done,” he said.
His personal collection included jokes and stories he heard that did make him laugh, and material he made up himself.
When he realized that joke books appeared to do well in sales, he set himself to finally compiling and finishing the giant book that contained his lifelong collection, which he did several months ago. He did all the typesetting, and used clip art that he owned or images that he created himself.
Publishing a book was different years ago, but with changes in the industry Mercaldo has created a niche market for his books in the Scouting world, and now broadened that with his joke and riddle book designed for the masses.
This successful businessman said it’s no joke that jokes and riddles can not only be fun, but educational too.
Years ago one of his young sons explained to a group of people the definition of a fungible commodity. (It is a commodity whose individual units are essentially interchangeable, according to Wikipedia.)
“He read it in a Dilbert cartoon,” Mercaldo said.
Mercaldo’s new book, and his others, can be found on Amazon.