Friday, August 1, 2008

The World’s Oldest Jokes, a.k.a Proof That Ancient History Is No Laughing Matter

You know when old people make a joke, and it’s kind of awkward because it’s not really funny and you kind of just chuckle along to humor them even though you have no idea why the secretary forgetting her cardigan in the sweatshop is supposed to be funny?

Well it turns out it’s not their fault.

They were simply raised in a time when humor hadn’t reached the full maturation that it has today, where jokes routinely start with “So I was having anal sex with my wife . . .” and end with “. . . and my neighbor’s like, ‘Hey, that’s my wife!’”

At least that’s what I gleaned from an article I found listing the top ten world’s oldest jokes. The oldest one dates back to 1900 BC, which seems a little recent if you ask me considering how funny those cavemen in the GEICO commercials are. Either they’ve done some major evolving or someone’s been taking improv classes!

Herewith, the list and my comments for each joke:

1. Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap (1900 BC – 1600 BC Sumerian Proverb Collection 1.12-1.13)

Comment: I’m not even sure what this guy is saying, let alone if it’s funny. But one time an ex-girlfriend of mine was sitting on my lap at a party and someone fell down the stairs spilling their beer everywhere and she laughed so hard that she farted on my lap. So naturally I started laughing too, but I pretended I was laughing at the guy who fell down the stairs, not at the fart on my leg. It kind of smelled, too. We broke up not long after that.

2. How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish (An abridged version first found in 1600 BC on the Westcar Papyrus)

Comment: One big problem with this one – You can’t convince a Pharaoh to go fishing; that’s common knowledge. So what’s going to happen is that those young women are going to go floating down the Nile for days and days, wrapped up in fishing nets, and eventually starve to death. Which reminds me of another ancient Egyptian joke. What did the Pharaoh say when he discovered a boatload of pretty dead girls wrapped in nets? “Seems fishy.”

3. Three ox drivers from Adab were thirsty: one owned the ox, the other owned the cow and the other owned the wagon's load. The owner of the ox refused to get water because he feared his ox would be eaten by a lion; the owner of the cow refused because he thought his cow might wander off into the desert; the owner of the wagon refused because he feared his load would be stolen. So they all went. In their absence the ox made love to the cow which gave birth to a calf which ate the wagon's load. Problem: Who owns the calf?! (1200 BC)

Comment: Those crazy Arabs! Nothing’s funnier than 13th century BC property rights. Here’s a piece of advice though. Everyone should stop worrying about who owns the calf and start worrying about the mutant calf who apparently came out of the birth canal eating.

4. A woman who was blind in one eye has been married to a man for 20 years. When he found another woman he said to her, "I shall divorce you because you are said to be blind in one eye." And she answered him: "Have you just discovered that after 20 years of marriage!?" (Egyptian circa 1100 BC)

Comment: Saddest joke ever told?

5. Odysseus tells the Cyclops that his real name is nobody. When Odysseus instructs his men to attack the Cyclops, the Cyclops shouts: "Help, nobody is attacking me!" No one comes to help. (Homer. The Odyssey 800 BC)

Comment: That’s why Odysseus is the fucking man. He was like the George Clooney of ancient times. As a side note, this sounds suspiciously similar to the time when my doctor took his pants off to give me a rectal exam and when I asked what he was doing, he said he was “Doing a necessary procedure that a lot of people complain about because it’s a bit uncomfortable.” When I got home and told my mom about it, she told not to be such a cry baby and she laughed at me. So I guess it is kind of funny.

6. Question: What animal walks on four feet in the morning, two at noon and three at evening? Answer: Man. He goes on all fours as a baby, on two feet as a man and uses a cane in old age. (Appears in Oedipus Tyrannus and first performed in 429 BC)

Comment: Better answer: A well-hung gay porn actor. (Of course back then they just called them “actors.”)

7. Man is even more eager to copulate than a donkey - his purse is what restrains him. (Egyptian, Ptolemaic Period 304 BC – 30 BC)

Comment: Call me low brow, but I like jokes involving donkeys and prostitution. I can’t say I’m in love with the set-up here, but there’s something to it. It just needs something more. Maybe a line about “going to town in her ass”? I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud here.

8. Augustus was touring his Empire and noticed a man in the crowd who bore a striking resemblance to himself. Intrigued he asked: "Was your mother at one time in service at the Palace?" "No your Highness," he replied, "but my father was." (Credited to the Emperor Augustus 63 BC – 29 AD)

Comment: Not so sure about this one. I’m no humorist, but it seems to me what started out like a promising “Yo mama” joke devolved into a legitimate conversation on paternity and the royal hierarchy. Is it really so funny that this guy may be your cousin. Well that depends, is he retarded? Because THAT’S good laughs.

9. Wishing to teach his donkey not to eat, a pedant did not offer him any food. When the donkey died of hunger, he said "I've had a great loss. Just when he had learned not to eat, he died." (Dated to the Philogelos 4th /5th Century AD)

Comment: This joke has been redacted by PETA.

10. Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied: "In silence." (Collected in the Philogelos or "Laughter-Lover" the oldest extant jest book and compiled in the 4th/5th Century AD)

Comment: Genius. This works in so many situations. How would you like your steak cooked? In silence. How would you like me to tailor your clothes? In silence. How should we bury my dead donkey? In silence.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could be wrong, but I think number 8 is a still a "yo' mama" joke--they're not cousins, they're brothers.

August 1, 2008 at 5:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nicole said...

Yeah, I'm with anonymous. I think they're brothers. It's more of an our momma joke. I think their mother was a bit of a slut.

Either way I'm just glad you're posting again, Dan. So if you want them to be cousins then so shall it be.

August 1, 2008 at 6:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Native Minnow said...

Just how long did it take those three Arabs to get the river if the ox and the cow had sex and the cow gave birth before they returned? Wait, nevermind, it is a desert over there, isn't it?

August 1, 2008 at 7:59:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're all sad jokes, except the last one. I'm totally stealing the last one.

August 2, 2008 at 3:16:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I think it was just a your mamma joke. They had the same dad, not the same mom.

August 2, 2008 at 7:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger sid said...

Like everyone before me ... they were brothers. Also the last joke was actually funny. So planning on stealing that.

August 4, 2008 at 1:41:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is that Conan's kid?

Same hair.

August 4, 2008 at 10:48:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm not sure if this guy's rich, but words like "yacht" and "merlot" make it into his paragraphs frequently. He once mentioned that his girlfriend said some department store called Talbott's was "where the poor people go." His readers said if his girlfriend thought that store was for the poor, she must be a rich bitch.

In an earlier post he mentioned that a college acquaintance offered him a year assignment writing reviews for a wine magazine, and another college pal directed the Tony Awards.

He has written of his fear of blue-collar workers, which annoyed me, seeing as how my dad was a blue-collar worker and at least at this point, so am I. "

August 4, 2008 at 3:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dana said...

"seems fishy" hahah!

Art seems a bit testy and perhaps just a smidge jealous. Also, he might be gay.

August 4, 2008 at 4:44:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't help but feel that this is some sort of awkward attempt to conjure up readership through viral internet dramarama. Just like the PinkIndiaInk vs. ClinkNY battle of 2007 (hi, I spend too much time on the internet).

(ps that blog blows)

August 4, 2008 at 5:57:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Is it sad that I totally know joke #6? I knew the answer to it and everything before reading... I definitely heard it before...

August 4, 2008 at 8:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger tarnishedsilver said...

those are jokes? it's a wonder they've survived all these centuries--- I would've moved on if not for your comments. but yeah, "joke" number 10 is a winner, something I'd probably use when the opportunity arises :)

August 6, 2008 at 1:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Toni Lea Andrews said...

Okay, some of them are still funny. And I actually like the one about the three guys and the wagon...

August 7, 2008 at 10:17:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous jackandjill said...

Donald Trump baby!

August 19, 2008 at 2:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Smart Saqib said...

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June 5, 2018 at 3:59:00 PM EDT  

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