Anecdota

Laughter is the Best Medicine

What is the First Known Joke?


Born from cultures we can only read about
and making fun of customs we don’t always understand, many of the world’s oldest jokes,
to a modern audience, simply aren’t that funny. That said, humans being humans, with the oldest
joke that has survived through today, it would appear little has changed in the interim-
it, naturally, being a fart joke. To wit, recorded on a Sumerian tablet somewhere
between 1900 and 2300 BC, the first known joke is as follow: Something which has never occurred since time
immemorial; a young woman did not fart on her husband’s lap. The second oldest documented joke moves away
from potty humor in favor of a sex, recorded about 1600 BC on the Westcar Papyrus: “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.” The third oldest known joke was recorded on
a Babylonian tablet dating to about 1500 BC and, given some of the context is missing,
is interesting today mostly for its construction, being the oldest known “Yo’ Momma” joke… (We haven’t really changed all that much,
have we?): …of your mother is by the one who has intercourse
with her. What/who is it? *No answer* From this point, occasional surviving jokes
pop up here and there, and even references to no longer surviving joke books. The first known of these is a collection of
jokes from a social club in Athens that was reportedly compiled at the request of Philip
the Great of Macedon (382–336 BC), but unfortunately has been lost to history. Several hundred years later (and a few more
known references to lost joke books in the interim), we have a Greek joke book whose
contents have survived to today. That book, Philogelos, (full book here) dates
to around the 4th or 5th century AD and includes 265 jokes, a selection of which shows a wide
range of humor and, in some cases, how little basic joke themes have changed over the centuries: An intellectual was told by someone: “your
beard is now coming in.” So he went to the rear-entrance and waited
for it. Another intellectual asked what he was doing. Once he heard the whole story, he said: “I’m
not surprised that people say we lack common sense. How do you know that it’s not coming in
by the other gate?” Someone needled a jokester: “I had your
wife, without paying a dime.” He replied: “It’s my duty as a husband
to couple with such a monstrosity. What made you do it?” A man with bad breath asked his wife: “Madame,
why do you hate me? And she replied: “Because you love me.” A young man invited into his home frisky old
women. He said to his servants: “Mix a drink for
one, and have sex with the other, if she wants to.” The women spoke up as one: “I’m not thirsty.” A misogynist was sick, at death’s door. When his wife said to him, “If anything
bad happens to you, I’ll hang myself,” he looked up at her and said: “Do me the
favor while I’m still alive.” An intellectual during the night ravished
his grandmother and for this got a beating from his father. The intellectual complained: “You’ve been
mounting my mother for a long time, without suffering any consequences from me. And now you’re mad that you found me screwing
your mother for the first time ever!?” Consulting a hotheaded doctor, a fellow says:
“Professor, I’m unable to lie down or stand up; I can’t even sit down.” The doctor responds: “I guess the only thing
left is to hang yourself.” A student dunce went swimming and almost drowned. So now he swears he’ll never get into water
until he’s really learned to swim. A misogynist stood in the marketplace and
announced: “I’m putting my wife up for sale, tax-free!” When people asked him why, he said: “So
the authorities will impound her.” Finally, there are a few riddles from the
10th century AD Anglo-Saxons recorded in the Exeter Codex that are generally regarded as
the first known English jokes (albeit Old English) due to their double entendre nature. For example: “What hangs at a man’s thigh
and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before? Answer: A key.” And the similar themed: I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation,
a service for neighbors. I harm none of the citizens except my slayer
alone. My stem is erect, I stand up in bed, hairy
somewhere down below. A very comely peasant’s daughter, dares
sometimes, proud maiden, that she grips at me, attacks me in my redness, plunders my
head, confines me in a stronghold, feels my encounter directly, woman with braided hair. Wet be that eye. Answer: An Onion

100 thoughts on “What is the First Known Joke?

  1. One Day I would like to find out: If we traveled back in Time and visited Cleopatra on her 25th birthday and asked her; "In what year were you born?" What would be her answer? Clearly the Backward Counting Years down to 0 (BC/AD) is a Modern thing, well 9th to 16th century modern. So?

  2. Enjoy your videos and have a suggestion for a video. Why is shh universal to all human languages? or at least close enough. I haven't found any videos covering it. I thought about it because I was shhing the neighbours dogs and it works even on them.

  3. The oldest joke is.. Two cave men and one cave woman were in a cave.. One cave man said to the other cave man, " let's teach this woman how to talk. What harm can it do? "

  4. Why do Muslim country flags have crescents in them? I read somewhere this was because it was in the flag of Constantinople (a Christian state) and the Ottomans adopted it after conquering them, and then other people followed the Ottoman example because of their religious nature. It would be amazing if you could clarify this for me, I think it's a really ironic nice piece of info if true

  5. how long did it then take for someone to be offended?

    and obviously as everyone nowadays knows, being offended automatically puts you in the right.

  6. Simon: "If you are looking for something else to watch RIGHT NOW, you should absolutely check out the channel Cheddar you may b…"
    Me interrupting by pausing the video: "No thanks, I'm lactose intolerant."

  7. I don't understand Simon's Cheddar dairy joke. Would somebody explain, please? I fully expect the web site and organization to be misunderstood.

  8. A young graduate sells his used books from his studies.
    He writes to his father, "Congratulate me father, for I am already making money from my studies".

  9. I once heard that the oldest known joke, from ancient Greece was:
    Barber: How do you want your hair cut?
    Customer: In silence.

  10. Oh boy. "well it's" all over the place. "This joke, well it's a fart joke" — we could turn the "well it's" into a drinking game.

  11. The first joke ever?… its called The Book of Genesis… it just wasn't meant to be funny the first time it was told…
    But seriously…
    For anybody to even assume that they could even find out what the first joke was or when it came to be is not only ridiculous, but also a shameful waste of all the work and man hours involved in researching such a pointless fact. There's absolutely no way to know what the first joke was. I do not care what anybody says because the only way to know that would be if every person thats ever lived was born with their own personal stenographer to record every word ever spoken by a person on this planet since the dawn of man. For fuck's sake… half the people on this planet think it's only 2000 years old…

  12. I don't know if you can create a question around it, but I think it is interesting that it takes so much water to produce beef, about 2,400 gallons and most people are unaware of how much water really goes into producing our food.

  13. That was hysterical.
    Out of curiosity?
    I recall someone in the Bible (I believe it was Elijah) mocking priests of another faith for the failure of their gods, suggesting their gods were preoccupied on the toilet.

    While I know the old testament was oral tradition for a long time, and likely not written until after the Sumerian joke, is there no chance that that joke, itself, is nearly as old? I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned in this video.

  14. What happened to chariot races in the olympics and what was the reaction when it got removed? Why did they get removed?

  15. You should really work on your joke delivery, Simon,
    a lot of your readings fail on the correct intonation and emphasis.

  16. Here's an antijoke from that same book: "A sharp wit observes a slow runner: 'I know just what that gentleman needs.' 'What's that?' demands the sponsor of the race. 'He needs a horse, otherwise, he can't outrun the competition!'"

  17. what about that ancient joke: what's the cleanest leaf in the forest?…holly because no-one will wipe their arse with it

  18. Reminds me of the Pompeii graffiti, with things like someone calling some other guy gay, a guy saying he screw the barmaid, a bunch of people calling out someone who shat on the walls and a guy saying to look for a certain prostitute because she's cheap, among other things.
    People have always been people, but for some reason we think that ancient people were completely different from us.

  19. Now that you know about the first known joke check out this video and find out about The Greatest Practical Joke of the 19th Century:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb1_n668HTk

  20. I almost disliked for that fUCKIN CHEDDER JOKE, but I like your channel too much. And the video was great. Take your like, you informative bastard.

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