Last week, we pointed to a Reddit thread that asked for users’ most “intellectual jokes.” Using that idea as a platform, we asked our readers to submit their favorites, and we received a healthy number of howlers (and some clunkers). We also got a piece of dour criticism from one reader, who wrote, “really? intelligent humor means that it’s witty and subtle, not that it’s [sic] standard type of joke with ‘smarter’ content.. come on americans, you can do better.”
I can only assume two things here (perhaps making an an ass of u and me): the writer is not an “american” and is something of a connoisseur of what he or she calls “intelligent humor.” I am very sympathetic. Whether this person has in mind the mordant absurdism of Beckett, the trenchant wit of Swift or Wilde, the surrealistic flights of farce in Vonnegut, or the heights of high-toned silliness in Monty Python, I can’t say. All of these are excellent examples of "intelligent humor."
But I’m afraid our reader has misread the prompt, which asked specifically for “intellectual jokes”—like the animated New Yorker cartoon above. The formula for jokes everyone knows: setup, punchline. The “intellectual” part relates, I think, expressly to the “smarter” content, but the judgment of such humor is subjective, of course, and in the brief selection below of my favorite submissions, I will certainly admit as much. My sense of humor is neither witty nor subtle; I’m partial to the puerile—puns, silly reversals, broad satire. Of course, the same can be said of all of the writers above to some degree or another.
So without further going-on about it, here are a few of my favorite Open Culture readers’ “intellectual jokes” (with my editorial intrusions in brackets):
- Rene Descartes is attending a soiree at the Palais Versailles. A sommelier approaches and asks, “Monsieur Descartes, would you like a glass of wine?” Descartes pauses and answers, “I think not.” And poof!–he disappears.
[This one’s not particularly funny—it’s cute—but I quite like the specificity in the setup and the fun surprise of "poof!"]
- I used to be a structural linguist, but now I’m not Saussure.
[Told you I like puns]
- Masochist walks up to a sadist in a bar, says to the sadist “hurt me.” Sadist says “no.”
- What do you get when you combine a joke with a rhetorical question?
[So dry and deadpan, these two. Love it.]
- What did the indigenous person say to the postmodern anthropologist? “Can we talk about me for a change?”
[A little crack at navel-gazing po-mo academics—part of a popular genre]
- Blind guy with a seeing eye dog walks into a department store. Guy picks up dog by the tail and starts swinging him around over his head. Clerk rushes over and says nervously “Can I help you sir?” Guy replies: “No thanks, I’m just looking around.”
[I don’t think the content of this one is particularly “intellectual,” but the style is—it’s dark and weird and skirts a line between slapstick and cruelty, requiring a morbid and elastic imagination.]
- Q: What does a dyslexic, agnostic insomniac do? A: Stays up nights wondering if there’s a dog.
- JOKE: What do Japanese pigeons sing? Answer: High Coos
[More puns, bless ‘em]
- Argon walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender says, “sir, we don’t serve noble gasses.” There was no reaction.
[For you science types. Another reader responds with a pun for bonus points]:
- Thanks. Now all the good chemistry jokes Argon.
Good work, readers. Keep ‘em coming. This was fun. Remember, you can scan through the other submissions here.