Gagging for It

Groucho MarxLast weekend, Wartime Housewife posted this joke. It’s one I’d read before, but it still made me smile.

‘Read’ is the operative word in that last sentence. It’s not the sort of joke I’d expect to tell or be told because I suspect that most of us would run out of nationalities if trying to re-tell it in front of an audience.

It’s also significant because we tend to read jokes rather than hear them these days, either on web pages or in an email.

According to this article, the internet in general and Facebook in particular are responsible for killing off the art of joke telling, and I suspect there might be some truth in this.

This is something I’ve fretted about for a while, but I’m not sure that the researchers have properly identified the culprits.

There was a time when you couldn’t visit a pub, get your hair cut or stand at a football match without someone starting a conversation with, ‘Have you heard the one about…’

Most of the jokes that followed were not especially funny and invariably they would be explicitly or implicitly sexist, racist, religionist, rude or in downright bad taste, but there would be a few pearls of laugh-out-loud funniness.

Of course, many of the jokes were a way of people expressing their bigotry, but the etiquette was to smile weakly and make a mental note to avoid the joke teller’s company in future.

But there were also off-colour jokes that were genuinely funny and it didn’t mean you were expressing some deep-seated prejudice if they made you laugh.

That changed when we told that it was no longer acceptable to laugh any more at anything that someone, somewhere, might find offensive. Which I suppose is the real punchline of Wartime Housewife’s joke.

All this has made me realise that it is four years since I put a post in the ‘jokes’ category and I’m sure I must have read this one rather than have been told it.

Jokes I’ve posted that I did hear, rather than read include this one and this one, but it’s an awfully long time since I’ve heard one that I wanted to repeat.

The Daily Mail tries to keep up the pretence that we’re still a nation of jesters by publishing jokes from its readers. Here’s yesterday’s offering:

A friend of mine made a bit of a fool of himself with the British Waterways Board. He sold his house to live on a second-hand canal boat and I told him he ought to change the locks.’

As you can see, the great British joke has truly passed away. Unless, of course, you know better…

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • Roger Green 23rd September 2011

    I suppose it’s a function of whether the stereotype is hurtful (Poles are stupid, Jews are cheap) or benign (American men don’t ask for direction).

  • Mr Parrot 23rd September 2011

    UK men don’t ask for directions either. I guess it’s a universal theme, but not considered sexist apparently!

  • Yorkshire Pudding 23rd September 2011

    Of course the British joke has not faded away. After all, we are currently even led by two jokes!

  • Mr Parrot 23rd September 2011

    Darn! I meant to get in a dig at the Chuckle Brothers and forgot about it.


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