Over dinner Saturday night a four year-old told me this joke:
Him: Knock knock.
Me: Who’s there?
Me: Undies who?
Him: Undies pants!
Yes, it lacks some of the surreal sublimity of the jokes found in the Achoo’nior repertoire, but y’gotta give the kid credit for having The World’s Funniest Word (underpants) as a punchline and using a synonym for it (undies) in the setup. That youngster knows what the audience craves and, by gum, he gonna give it to ‘em.
Speaking of jokes, I saw an ad for The Simpsons on TV the other day, which featured this snippet of comedy gold:
Home: You’re sure spending a lot of time with Moe.
Bart: Yeah, he’s like the father I never had.
Homer: Wait a minute: I’m your father!
It’s so nice to see that the writers on The Simpsons have, at long last, adopted the Joke 3.0 format.
To put this in context, I’ll need to give you a quick primer in the history of the joke.
Jokes originated in ancient Egypt, though the earliest consisted of only the straightline.
Sphinx: What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?
Ramses II: I don’t know.
Sphinx: No one does.
Ramses II: I really think you should get that thing on your nose looked at.
Jokes persisted in this form for thousands of years. They were particularly popular with Zen monks, who would ask each other “What is the sound of one hand laughing?” or “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the west?” and then collapse into hysterics.
Then, in 1882, George Washington Carter revolutionized comedy with his invention of the punchline.
George Washington Carver: What do you call four nuns and a bicycle with no seat?
Nick Fury, who has been sent back in time to assassinate the grandfather of Benito Mussolini: I don’t know, what?
George Washington Carver: Peanuts!
It took a few more years of combining various straightline and punchlines to refine the formula (“What’s brown and sticky? Arr, it’s drivin’ me nuts!”), but soon the “joke” as we know it was perfected.
But did we Americans rest on our laurels? NO! In the late 20th century we pioneered Joke 3.0, which added a third line — the
explainline aftermirth — to the equation. Pioneered by such ground-breaking shows as Home Improvement and the comic styling of Gallagher, the explainline aftermirth finally made humor accessible to everyone, even mooncalves like you and I.
Oh I get it: Homer is his father! It’s funny because it’s true!
So next time you tell your favorite joke, don’t forget the
Why are fish so smart?
Because they live in schools.
The word “school” could refer to either a group of fish or a place where children are educated!
Did you hear about the psychic in San Francisco who specialized in predicting bad breath?
Her sign read “Super California mystic, expert: halitosis.”
The people in California are so dumb they elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor — you can’t help but laugh!
Supreme Court Justice One: Who’s there?
Supreme Court Justice Two: Undies.
Supreme Court Justice One: Undies who?
Supreme Court Justice Two: Undies pants!
Supreme Court Justice One: I’m afraid I’m still not entirely clear on who you are.
Supreme Court Justice Two: “Underpants” is the world’s funniest word.
Supreme Court Justice One: Hahahaha!
And remember: it’s innovations like Joke 3.0, born of pure Yankee ingenuity, that have made our nation the “shining city on the hill” it is today.
That’s sarcasm. In truth the United States is not highly regarded in the International community!