Joke about Englishmen and humo(u)r

I heard this joke long ago, and never understood it:

“If you want to make an Englishman happy in his old age, tell him a good joke in his youth.”

What the heck does this mean? Does it imply that Englishmen are slow at figuring out humor? (or is that “humour”?) Does it rest on some sort of British stereotype that I’m unaware of? Or am I possibly the butt of the joke myself, and will finally get it in my rapidly approaching dotage?

Looking for assistance here! Google is not helping. Thanks!

I (an Englishman) don’t get it (yes, irony).

it appears to be implying either slow wit, or a tendency to cling to (and re-use) a good joke. Charitably, i guess it could be about long memory, but none of this really rings any bells with me (not like jokes about queues, the weather, complaining, or repressed sexuality, for example)


It’s similar to: *Q: Why don’t Brits tell each other jokes on Saturday night?

A: They don’t want to take the risk that they’ll start laughing in Church…*

Sure. never heard of it though. I guess as the butt of the joke, maybe I wouldn’t have.

Seeing as how 90+% of us don’t actually go to church…

But these things are passed on from one group to the next. As in Sidney Smith’s “It requires a surgical operation to get a joke well into a Scotsman’s understanding” or PG Wodehouse’s “It is seldom difficult to distinguish a Scotsman with a grievance from a ray of sunshine”. But then, we all laugh at Rab C Nesbitt, and (for those who’ve had access) the Rev IM Jolly, so we all know what those cracks are worth.

“An Englishman laughs three times at a joke. First when he hears it; second, when it’s explained to him; third, when he understands it.”

The joke is, the English are slow at jokes. The first is a polite laugh, by which the joke-teller realizes he needs to explain the joke. The second is another polite laugh. Then he genuinely laughs once he gets it, probably hours later in the bath-tub.

It’s no more true than any other ethnic stereotype but hey, I didn’t make the joke.

Some jokes just take time to sink in.

I may be wrong but based on the British men I know, I immediately understood this as their tendency to repeat the same jokes and stories again and again (and again!). Maybe (probably) it’s just my circle that are that way, but this is such a glaring thing that they all do that I “got” the joke the second I read it.

My take on it is that a good joke gets repeated, and an Englishman will keep dining out on it right into old age.

Hence the old Ken Dodd line ‘I’ll bet you wish you’d told that joke, but you will’

You’ve met my father then

Nicked, of course, from James McNeill Whistler (“You will, Oscar, you will!”)

The Irishman laughs twice: once when he hears it, to be polite, and second, when he gets it.

The Scotsman laughs once: when he hears it, to be polite. He never does get it.

Ah, but the German: he simply never laughs.

That expression has always brought to mind a particular stereotype of a sentimental Englishman, mired in the past, poring over dusty leatherbound tomes, dreaming of past Imperial glories, and reminiscing about a joke heard back when gentlemen wore hats and the lower classes knew their place.
It never occurred to me that it meant that English people were just kind of dumb, but hey, that works too.

“We are not amused.”

Au contraire; they *are *amused over and over and over. . . :stuck_out_tongue:

And here I was hoping for jokes about Englishmen…

What does an Englishman say when he catches his wife in bed with three men?

Hello, Hello, Hello… :smiley:

  • I’m 1/2 English FTR.