Jokes that, nowadays, need explaining

Army MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) used to be referred to as Meals Rejected by Ethiopians.

Anchovies were a traditional pizza topping. (And pasta puttanesca is a well-known style that contains anchovies.) When I was a kid in New York in the 1950s, anchovies were a universal option at any mom-and-pop pizza parlor. I’ve ordered them on pizza occasionally, but if ordering in a group they have to be restricted to half a pie since most people won’t eat them. I don’t know about chains, but I think most neighborhood pizzerias will have them as an option. Even if rarely ordered, it’s easy to keep a can on hand.

But from context anyone who should be trusted to get jokes can figure out that “Bob Packwood” must be someone who was famous for groping people. It’s different than e.g. the tattoo joke where it’s easy to miss that it was intended as a joke at all without the cultural context.

I second that. I can think of 3 places nearby where I can get an anchovy pie. This, in a medium sized city that where, say 20 years ago, any “ethnic” restaurant ( Asian, Italian, Mexican ) always had the “______ & American food” on their signs outside.

I may have been too quibbly, though that was not my intention. Maybe that is an example of a joke that needs explaining, not making sense in real life. I did watch L.A. Story, though:

The biggest culinary faux pas I ever made in real life was ordering the wrong kind of beer in Germany during Karneval. The waiter got a stony expression on his face, and for a brief moment we weren’t sure he wasn’t going to throw us out of the pub…

With all due respect, it doesn’t need explaining to most people. It’s a standard trope.

Is this maybe the origin of the joke? If you look at humor from around the 30s through 50s there is a huge obsession with any food even remotely “ethnic” or strong-smelling - you’d think that people accidentally putting Limburger cheese in their pocket happened on a daily basis from how often it popped up in comic strips and so on. Garlic, pickles, and other things that aren’t considered the least bit exotic today were frequent puchlines as well. If anchovies are a strong-smelling food that usually only appear in Mediterranean cuisine then this could just be a survival of that kind of humor long past the point where people understood the premise.

So is the current form of that joke about durian and surströmming? Things might get interesting next time I order a pizza.

Anchovies were common on pizza in some areas (at least as an option), and most people have heard of them. Have you seen such items on pizza anywhere? Far fewer people have heard of them than have heard of anchovies. (Anchovies are carried I think by most large supermarkets. The other items would be difficult or impossible to find in the US.)

Undoubtedly. I remember in areas, and/or among people where tastes were more adventurous, a kind of what I’d call “affectionate contempt” toward those whose food tastes were considered staid: remarking about those who probably boil their steak or fry their salads and considered anything spicier than salt & pepper to be an affectation.

I recall my father bought Limburger once in the 1960s just to try it out, but that’s the only time I ever encountered it. It was indeed very stinky.

I recall a joke from the 1950s where a mouse from outer space landed and said “Take me to your Liederkranz!”, a cheese that was extinct for 25 years but which has recently been revived.

Anything involving technology that didn’t exist at the time - cell phone annoyances don’t make sense to pre-cell-phone people. A lot of those fade out of relevance pretty quickly - jokes about using up phone minutes really only clicked from sometime in the 90s to 00s, they seem weird today. Anything involving major cultural change - marriage jokes involving same-sex couples, for example, would be interpreted as some kind of absurdist humor. Jokes from today about the annoyance of wearing masks, or having to social distance would flop for most of that time, though at some point (80 years maybe) people who had lived through Spanish Flu would get them - though the ones related to things like food delivery and Zoom conferences wouldn’t.

Back in the 50s, there were a lot of jokes about someone turning over an item that they had just purchased, and being dismayed to see that it was stamped “Made in Japan.” Now being made in Japan is a mark of quality and coolness.

Checking online menus quickly for places near me, on chains Papa John’s has them but Domino’s, Little Caesar’s, and Pizza Hut don’t, two local places that are Italian do have them, two other places that are more general don’t. So they’re far from universal, but not very hard to find.

I agree, there are some jokes where the specific reference isn’t something you don’t get, but can tell from the joke what the reference must be. I vaguely remember “Bob Packwood”, but it’s really obvious in the joke that he’s someone who was in the news for some kind of groping or sexual harassment.

She meant keep the coins.

In the U.S.? No, but I didn’t go looking for them, either.

Durian pizza I have seen, in fact it seems you can now order it from Pizza Hut in Singapore:

But, more importantly, I could swear I heard, or at least read somewhere, a couple of jokes about durian, nothing to do with pizza though, the gist simply being that they are smelly. So that fruit is or was already the subject of jokes in the US, unless I’m misremembering.

Haven’t personally seen surstromming pizza, I must admit, but I’m positive someone has tried it. I’ve heard cracks about lutefisk, BTW.

To continue the hijack… I find it strange when a place (I’m looking at you Domino’s!) doesn’t have anchovies.

I would guess that even if anchovies aren’t on the menu, they’d be available if you ask. It’s not like a tin in the restaurant kitchen would go bad waiting for someone to order them.

The best cheese joke is from Asterix in Corsica

…it explodes.

There is more than one layer to the joke, too, like how the Corsican can smell the unmistakable scent of Corsica over the cheese :slight_smile:

Based on my last visit to Europe in 2013, I don’t disagree with any of this. Like I mentioned earlier, it might have been more of an issue a couple of decades ago. And whatever less-than-stellar experiences* I had with a server in Europe in the '80s and '90s could also be attributed to the fact that I was in my 20s then. But I’m just guessing.

*And to be honest, I can only think of a few bad experiences out of dozens of good experiences, so it could also be selective recall.