Friday, March 18, 2011

Has anybody heard a joke in the last five years?

When did somebody last tell you a joke? By a joke I mean a funny story which involves the introduction of a couple of characters, some dialogue, some action, a development and a conclusion, preferably a funny one. I can't remember when I last heard one. Comedians do "bits". Funny websites take playground gags and apply them to adult subjects. There have never been more places you can go to for humour. In fact humour pops up in all sorts of places where I'm not particularly looking for it. But jokes? I never hear any.

When I look back I recall what seems like whole days spent telling and listening to jokes. What else did we do in the sixth form at school or in the pub at college? How else did men communicate with each other? The joke was the basic unit of exchange and a young man's head was teeming with comedy Irishmen, cavemen, blondes, psychiatrists and policemen. Jokes, it seemed to me, told you more about narrative than any amount of English Literature. But now they seem to have gone, which seems to me more chilling than even than the decay of handwriting.

My favourite joke. Two rhinos walking through the jungle. One in front. One behind. They walk and walk and walk. Then the one in the front stops. Consequently the one behind stops. The one in front turns his head to the one behind and says "Do you know, I can't help thinking it's Tuesday?"


  1. I'd never thought about it until now, David, but you are dead right. People just don't tell jokes anymore.

    I'll leave it to others to ponder why. I'm hungry.

  2. I believe that started life as a Punch cartoon?

  3. This is the funniest joke ever - proper joke structure too:

  4. Telegraph link doesn't work - here you go:

  5. Hate to say it but I'm not getting the joke.

  6. Fantastic Clement Freud joke.

    As to the question: I suspect it's the drive of most comedians to do personal, or original material, which means that instead of talking about two X in a Y, they'll talk about the time they went out for a meal and couldn't figure out how to split the bill.

    Thing is, as the everyman (not in a bad way, far from it) appeal of Peter Kay or Michael McIntyre will attest, the experiences of the most popular comedians are not unique, and are as universal as thinking about Pat and Mike on a building site, or two rhinos in the jungle.

  7. Today actually. And I definitely still tell jokes but they are thinner on the ground

  8. Someone told me this the other day

    A banker, a Daily Mail reader and a benefit claimant are sitting at a table sharing 12 biscuits. The banker takes 11 and says to the Daily Mail reader, "Watch out for the benefit claimant - he wants your biscuit!

  9. Anonymous10:36 am

    I was told a classic golden oldie yesterday,
    William Shakespeare walks into a pub and says "Good day barkeep,a pint of your finest ale"
    The barman replies "I've told you before,you're not getting served in here "
    "Why Not ? do pray tell"
    "I've told you a hundred times You're bard".

  10. You could well be right on this. I don't mind too much though, as I could never remember jokes to tell, myself, and quite often didn't get the ones I was told. Including your rhino one, not a clue I'm afraid.

    The witty one liner was always more my bag, it is the fashion these days isn't it.

  11. In my experience, jokes are everywhere. I get them by text from people who I wish wouldn't send them to me (because they're generally crap), I read them on Twitter (my favourite recently: Two old women in a cafe. One says "Did you come one the bus?" and the other one says "Yes, but I made it look like an asthma attack") and if I'm ever in the company of actors, I am knee deep in anecdotes. And jokes. So, seeing as you're already on Twitter, all I can advise is to hang out with some actors. And I NEVER recommend that to anyone.

  12. working for a kids mag i'm lucky we get jokes sent in all the time. today's fave?

    why was the man afraid of the dark?
    because it wasn't light.

    i know. i don't get it either. i'm thinking he's experiementing with the subversive?

  13. They are a bit thin on the ground these days, at school I knew enough to fill several books now I have one friend who emails me the occasional one. Or is it just that I'm old and not hanging out in the playground or pub anymore?

    My favourite:

    A sandwich walks into a pub and the landlord says "Sorry, we don't serve food."

  14. As Simon said, it started life as a Punch cartoon, by Robert Crum (not Crumb) apparently. Although that featured two hippos rather than rhinos.

    And I don't get it either.

  15. Anonymous2:56 pm

    Ah - hippos - now I get it!

  16. Tim Vine is one of the few comedians whose set is gag rather than observation or character based. Although his delivery is so unrelenting I find him a bit wearing after a while. Even our two kids tuned out after 30 minutes..

  17. The barman said, "I'm sorry we don't serve time-travellers."

    A time-traveller walks into a bar.