Until today, I thought Donald Trump knew that the joke was on him. I mean, how could anyone preside over that gaggle of insipid bootlicks on GE's (NYSE:GE) NBC reality hit The Apprentice without a well-rooted sense of humor? And check out the Domino's Pizza (NYSE:DPZ) ads. Is this not a man who's laughing at himself along with the rest of us?

Maybe not.

Today, Trump began to stump for his latest attempt at self-enrichment, Trump University. Yes, the guy who's run his namesake business, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (OTC BB: DJTCQ), straight into the ground (more than once), is trying to hawk his business know-how to Joe and Jane Public through a new cyber-university, complete with a few marquee business-school names on the "faculty" list, whatever that means.

Don't be fooled. You'll earn no credits here, nor will you get a degree of any kind -- just the satisfaction of having made The Donald a little bit richer.

No, this isn't a joke. Well, not an intentional one, anyway. For all of Trump's press-release bravado, the thing looks like little more than a Web store, where he hopes to sell a few more of his books, along with a few $300 Internet videos and group chats. (Read the class descriptions for online courses with no set meeting times, and judge for yourself what these "classes" will be like.)

When I wrote about The Donald's crumbling empire last year, I said, "Hey, NBC, how about putting Trumpster's real numbers up on the tube? I won't hold my breath. After all, the real reality is that America's billionaire CEO dujour operates a farcical, wealth-killing, penny-stock empire. Who wants to apprentice for a phony like that?"

Today, I'd ask, "What could someone possibly hope to learn from this phony?" If Trump wants to really teach us how he became rich, the course offerings should read more like "How to Be Born Rich," or "How to Transfer Risk to Public Shareholders While Picking Out Upholstery for the New Jet."

Fools, if you want to see real stories of amazing success, study the moves of folks who are too busy building strong businesses to promote themselves on the tube --people like Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bill Gates, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Steve Jobs, Dell's (NASDAQ:DELL) Michael Dell, or eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) Meg Whitman.

The Donald is still good for a laugh. But if you lay down your hard-earned cash for this kind of "education," the joke will be on you.

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Seth Jayson is continually amazed by the popularity of serial snake-oil sellers. At the time of publication, he had positions in no firm mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.