What IS the oldest joke in the book?

And does it have anything to do with prostitution? :slight_smile:

Og and Grog walk into a cave-bar dragging their wives…

Maybe … this one

Adam and Eve are in the garden of Eden.
Having had a nibble of the forbidden apple, Eve smiles seductively at Adam.
Adam reacts instinctively, then says…

“Stand back - I don’t know how big this gets!” :eek:

<charlton heston>“I said, light not lite”</charlton heston>

Why did Hammurabi climb the ziggurat?
To get to the other side.
(You just don’t understand the Sumerian sense of humor. :smiley: )

OK, seriously, there are jokes in the Bible – puns and wordplay, and humorous settings and stories. They don’t end in a “punchline”, but they’re clearly jokes, nonetheless.

Example: Young teenaged David is going out to battle the giant Goliath, King Saul gives him armor for protection. David puts on the armor, it’s too heavy, and he falls over. Not exactly a ROFL today, but pretty amusing in a Three Stooges sort of way.

See Cecil’s column Are there any jokes in the Bible? for more.

Some of those biblical jokes could get us back around 1000 BC or so, give or take a few centuries.

Doesn’t one of the Greek plays have a line along the lines of “Is that a message rod in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”

Host:Ms. Smith, now for the final question, what was the first thing Eve said upon seeing Adam?

Ms Smith: Uh, that’s a hard one. . .

Host: Correct, give that lady the prizes.

Aristophanes (448-380 B.C.E.) wrote the first “comedies” in Western Literature. It was stuff written partially to with the idea of making the audience roar with laughter (like a sitcom with a serious religious/political/teaching message)

Here is a copy of The Frogs (you won’t be LOL), but if you can see it performed by a competent theater guy, who knows what he’s doing — you probably still won’t laugh — but you’ll see/hear the humor

Review of a play done by a modern guy

I’m guessing it’s the “pull my finger” gag. Doesn’t even really require speech.

Surely, that’s code for something else. :slight_smile:

From the trend of the discussion, it may be that an attempt at a serious answer was not expected or desired.

On the chance that it was, I recall many years ago reading a book by a cartoonist named Breger about cartooning and about humor generally. In it he reproduced an ancient Messopotamian frieze. He said that it contained a joke, and that this joke was the oldest on record. I accepted on faith that this was genuine. In any case, it went like this:

Barber: So, how do you want your hair cut today, Your Majesty?

King: Quietly, for a change.

Strips of papyrus from ancient Egypt have been found on which are drawn aimals that are walking upright and wearing clothes. This appears to have been meant as a joke; it is as thought it was originally enough for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to just show up, and they didn’t have to say or do anything.

A semantic device called the Irish Bull appears to be very, very old, and still gets laughs. Ths is not a specific joke, but a formula for them. Some examples:

“And behold: when they awoke in the morning, they were all dead corpses.” (This is from the King James Version).

“I don’t eat spinach and I’m glad, because if I did, I’d eat the stuff, and I can’t stand it.” (Clarence Darrow and Lew Carroll both used that one).

“When passing a cow on the road, it is best to stay behind it at all times”. (Said to be from an official Irish government publication).

Whatever is the oldest joke on record, there seems a good chance that it or a variant was included in the Joe Miller Jokebook.
Miller was an 18th Century British actor. After he died some of his friends made up a pamphlet of his favorite jokes which they sold as a means of raising money for charity. In time Joe Miller’s name became sort of synonymous with joke books and, a sort of canon of jokes, over one thousand of them, was developed which remained in print for centuries.

Abraham Lincoln used the Joe Miller collection. At least one of Will Rogers’ more celebrated comebacks, an apparent ad lib, was very, very similar to a joke in the collection. A kind of urban legend has grown up that one can find essentially every joke in the Joe Miller collection. (Now that I’ve done this, it occurs to me Cecil may have had something to say on Miller already).

Take my blue green algae, please!

I’d just like to point out that the phrase is “the oldest trick in the book”. This thread is completely invalid! Moo-haha!

Another thought:

In Here at the New Yorker, James Thurber told about an anecdote which was printed in the Talk of the Town feature.

It said that a young man who was about to leave the navy was asked about how he felt about his experiences. He said that when he got out he was going to buy an oar. Then he was going to get on a train. At the first town he came to that he thought he might like, he was going to get off and walk around with the oar until somebody asked him what he had an oar for. Then he was going to leave town on the train. He was going to keep doing this until he found a town where people asked him what he called that thing he carried. There he would settle down. That was because not only did he not want to be on the water again, not only did he not want to even see the water again, but he didn’t even want to be around anybody who had been on the water again.

Readers wrote in to the magazine to point out that, aside from the part about the train, this story was taken from the writings of Homer.

Big Bang Particle Thingamajig: PROTON SHAPED OBJECT,PULL MY FINGER!!!(followed by an infinite amount of exclamation marks)

Proton Shaped Object: Sure!

Big Bang Particle Thingamajig explodes.

If you’re a comedian/comic/vaudevillean and your onstage partner ‘adlibs’ an old joke (doesn’t have to be the oldest) and you think it sucks, or, you’ve now been upstaged by someone pawning off dated (or someone else’s) material as fresh comedy, you then have a right to declare, That’s the oldest joke in the book.

In this way, you’ve now embarrassed your fellow comic by pointing out their use of old and/or stolen material, taking them down a peg for their offense.

Of course, the book you’re referring to is the official Compendium of All Jokes Ever Told, which, by the way, doesn’t exist – but remember, you’re a comedian. And since the book doesn’t exist, there is no oldest joke (although, I’m willing to guess the old slip on dung and get gored by a mammoth was the first, and rather sidesplitting [literally] joke).


“If I could walk that way, I wouldn’t need the talcum powder.”

A couple of previous threads:



The ancient Greeks told “dumb peasant jokes”. The only one I know is about the dumb peasant who heard that parrots live for a hundred years. So he bought one to see if it was true.

Those ancient Greeks were a real wukka-wukka bunch.