What is the origin of this joke?

The joke goes like this:

Person A: Back in the day we had X.
Person B: You had X? All we had was Y (something inferior to X) and we were glad to have it.
Person C: You had Y? All we had was Z (something inferior to Y) and we were glad to have it.

I’ve seen it several times here on the SDMB. Is this some kind of inside joke?

SDMB Ha! in my day all we had was telnet and BBSs.

Probably lots of sources, but the most well-known one is a Monty Python sketch.

I don’t know if it’s the original, but Monty Python had a sketch along these lines with 3 old geezers trying to one-up each other with the poverty and hardship of their youth, ending with a completely and utterly ridiculous bit about working 36 hours a day at the mill, paying for the privilege and being killed by one’s father every night by being hacked to pieces, but “tell that to young people these days and they don’t believe you.”

This may be an inside reference to a sketch that’s usually called “The Four Yorkshiremen”, although other variations are out there.

The Four Yorkshiremen was most famously done by Monty Python during their concert at the Hollywood Bowl, but I think it was written either by Marty Feldman or by members of the Goon Squad. I am sure I saw it with Marty Feldman on TV, long before Monty Python ever came out.

In the sketch, four men from Yorkshire are sitting around in a swanky setting, reminiscing about their youth. Their tales of privation and hardship grow increasingly absurd and outrageous, and they constantly try to outdo each other: “House? You were lucky. We had to live in a hole in the road!” “We had to work in mine 24 hours a day, pay 10pence for the privilege, and when we came home, our parents would slice us up with bread knife…”

At the end, one of the Yorkshiremen says “and you try telling that to the youth of today, and they won’t believe you!”

Occasionally one of them will say “and we were glad to have it!” This has been exaggerated over time into a standard line of “oldsters” remembering how hard things were back in the “old days” and yet how they never complained.

Bill Cosby does this sort of stuff, too.

An example:
In my day, we only had 300 bps modems. And we were thankful!

Specifically, this one:


So much for answering the question before the frivolousness starts…

I think it’s from a Monty Python sketch, but I’ve never seen that particular one. Thing is, the Monty Python version ended, eventually… Once it sets hold in a thread, though, the posters never seem willing to let it go.

Though its origins are no doubt much older, the most popular source is the Four Yorkshire Men sketch by the Monty Python comedy troupe.

More recently, a comedy sketch where the characters rapidly increase the absurdity was a recurring bit on SNL in the “Bill Brassky” routines.

I first recall seeing it as a Monty Python skit from the original series. That kind of one up manship has gone on forever but the Monty Python skit took it to extremes.

From here:

Dang it! (I should’ve known I wouldn’t be first in a Python thread)

According to “Monty Python Speaks!”, the sketch was originally done for “At Last The 1948 Show”, which John Cleese and Graham Chapman were writers for.

The sketch never appeared on the Monty Python television program; rather, it was dusted off and performed by Python at their stage show, where it was filmed as part of the Hollywood Bowl concert.

Dana Carvey’s recurring SNL sketch of The Grumpy Old Man, in which he’d tell a story like the one above, and end it with “And that’s the way it was, and we liked it!” reinforced the meme.

I think Monty Python just took the joke and stretched it to ridiculous extremes, they didn’t invent it. The version of this joke I’ve most often heard was,

Man #1: “We had to walk through 2 miles of snow with holes in our shoes.”
Man #2: “You had shoes?”
Man #3: “You had feet?”

The joke is old, very old. I have seen old footage from the 40’s of either George Burns or another ex-vaudvillian perform a series of exchanges like this.
In the early 70’s I first saw it on the Flip Wilson show. This may or mey not pre-date Monty Python’s skit.

I’m pretty sure that every kid who’s ever had to listen to his Dad has come up with some riff on this. I know I’m giving my kid material.

I’ve only ever seen the Four Yorkshiremen sketch as something which was already playing on layer-upon-layer of cliches and self-referential jokes. And it wouldn’t be the only in-joke among comics, The Aristocrats (possibly NSFW link) being perhaps the best example.

Oneupmanship, Nerd Style!

Back in our day, we would have killed for frivolousness. We had to make do with simple merriment.

It’s a pretty obvious thing about which to joke and I am sure it goes back to pre-history. When I was around ten years old, my friend’s father used to tell us about going to the movies and getting a giant bag of popcorn all for a dollar or something. We’d make fun of him with the price getting cheaper and the bag of popcorn getting bigger. Of course we weren’t nearly as clever or funny as the famous Python version of this.

You had merriment? Back in the day, all we had was restrained mirth.