The Most “Intellectual Jokes”: Our Favorite Open Culture Reader Submissions

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.

Related Content:

What’s the Most Intellectual Joke You Know?: The Best from Reddit (and You?)

New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff Reveals the Secret of a Successful New Yorker Cartoon

What’s the Deal with Pop Tarts? Jerry Seinfeld Explains How to Write a Joke

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him at @jdmagness



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  1. Ayun Halliday says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 5:30 am

    Just what I needed this morning! (Especially the part about the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac.)

  2. kostas says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 7:33 am

    Ok,there is a spaghetti walks into a bar and orders a beer,the bartender says,Sorry pal we don’t serve food.

  3. Greg says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 8:28 am

    1. Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum
    2. Seen on a t-shirt: Aquinas, The Original Deep Fat Friar
    3. A policemen pulls Heisenberg over. “Do you know how fast you were driving?” asks the cop. “No, but I know where I’m going.”

  4. pipedreams says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 9:27 am

    Einstein, Newton and Pascal are playing hide and seek. Einstein closes his eyes and counts, while Newton chalks a square around himself, a meter on each side.
    Einstein turns around and says, “I found you, Newton!” Newton says, “No, you found a Newton per square meter — you found Pascal!”
    I can’t follow eschatology. I believe the world won’t end, but rather, we’ll advance up a spiritual staircase, until, at the top, we find we’re again at the bottom.
    I call it Eschertology.
    Knock, knock.
    Who’s there?
    To.
    To who?
    No, to whom.
    Speaking of non-sequiturs ….
    But we weren’t.
    Now, we are.

  5. RADBAM says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 9:35 am

    All these ‘jokes’ I’ve read herein are, by technical definition…collections of words…NOT going out on a limb as to their quality, though. Here’s one I remember from my youth for the “Chem Heads” (sorry I couldn’t sublimate the # of atoms) :

    Poor Little Johnny
    We won’t see him no more
    For what he thought was H2O
    Was H2SO4 . };)

  6. margarita ovadia says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 9:41 am

    how did Mozart die? he decomposed like everybody else!

  7. greg is stupid says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 9:53 am

    the joke greg posted about the policeman and Heisenberg is plain wrong. and that proofs that the poster didn’t actually got the joke in the first place :)))

    Heisenberg’s response is as follows: “no, but I know _exactly_ where I am”

  8. Dan Colman says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 10:01 am

    One of our readers sent this via email this morning. I like it:

    “Dr. Freud, can you tell us what the connection is between fear and sex?”
    “Fünf.”

    Cheers,
    Dan

  9. esote says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 10:14 am

    Dear Math give up on trying to find your x.

  10. Jack Cozzens says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 12:29 pm

    Are you disrespecting “INSULT?”

  11. David says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 12:38 pm

    A policeman pulls over a car that speeds through a red light on the Princeton campus. After pulling up to the stopped vehicle, he discovers it was being driven by Prof Albert Einstein.

    Cop: Professor, I’m afraid I’m going to have to give you a citation for running that red light.

    AE: Vell, you see officer, due to my speed relative to the traffic signal, the wavelenght of the light had shifted due to the Doppler Effect. Therefore, the red light _looked_ green to me.

    Cop: (after thinking for a minute) Okay, I can tear up the ticket for the red light. However, the fine is $1 for every mile per hour you were going over 30.

    (this was actually a physics problem for me on a test in physics 101 – bonus points for anyone who can determine the fine)

  12. Pablo Aron says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 3:11 pm

    I named my parrot Onan because he spilled his seed in the floor.

  13. billyzz says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 4:24 pm

    To do is to be -Nietzsche

    to be is to do -Kant

    do be do be do -Sinatra

  14. Jonathan says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 8:04 pm

    I’m an Arts student. You do the math.

  15. Kevin Elliott says . . . | July 9, 2013 / 12:04 am

    Q: What’s the difference between an entomologist and an etymologist?

    A: An etymologist knows the difference.

  16. OJ says . . . | July 9, 2013 / 2:43 am

    Three nude sunbathing professors notice the Vice Chancellor coming towards them. The two humanities professors quickly cover their genitals; the professor of logic looks at them strangely and says “I don’t know about you two but the VC doesn’t normally recognise me by my wedding tackle” and promptly covers his face.

  17. Bo Andersen says . . . | July 9, 2013 / 6:59 am

    Bit off topic maybe.. the non-american mentioned in the intro reminded me of the great culture clash of Jon Steward vs Victoria Beckham on the daily show.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfyM01G_Yjs

  18. Greg says . . . | July 9, 2013 / 8:32 am

    To Greg is stupid,
    Actually I do understand the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle quite well. And I’m a big enough man to admit I screwed up the punch line and you got it right. But I’m not so big as to not note that you don’t know how to spell the word “proves”, and it’s “get” not “got”.

  19. Greg says . . . | July 9, 2013 / 10:08 am

    Anyway…
    A young, college Freshman walks into the English department on his campus, clearly lost. He walks up to a old man in an open office and asks, “Excuse me, where’s the library at?”
    The professor responds, “Young man, if you’d like answers from me, I’d advise you never to end your sentence with a preposition.”
    The young student rephrases, “Oh, I’m sorry. Where’s the library at, asshole?”

    Oh, I vote best joke yet is Onan.

  20. Andy says . . . | July 19, 2013 / 7:58 pm

    A man walks into a tailor shop holding a pair of pants and the tailor says, “Euripides?” To which the man replies, “Eumenides?” To which the tailor replies, “Alcibiades.”

  21. Dan says . . . | July 27, 2013 / 5:37 am

    Heard a few of these before, but very good nonetheless.

    A roman soldier walks into a bar and says to the barman, “I’ll have a martinus please.” The barman replies, “Do you mean a martini?”
    “If i’d wanted a double, i’d have asked for one!”

    Why did the chicken cross the mobius strip? To get to the same side.

  22. Tom Tobey says . . . | August 10, 2013 / 1:29 am

    An oxygen atom goes into the bar and says “Give me a hydrogen atom, and make it a double; I’m really thirsty.”
    (Oribinal)

  23. Tom Tobey says . . . | August 10, 2013 / 1:31 am

    Oops, I meant original(oribinal is also).

  24. Chas Wide says . . . | August 23, 2013 / 12:55 pm

    Two chemists walk into a bar.One says “i’llhave a glass of H20 please.The other chemist says “I’ll have H2o too and died instantly!

  25. Isaiah E Starr says . . . | September 21, 2013 / 10:57 pm

    Two chemists walk in to a bar. one says i’ll have a glass of H2O, The other chemist says I’ll have a glass of water and turns to the first asking him why he said it like that when they were off of work? The first rushed home, his assassination attempt failed.

  26. Ingkay Garutay says . . . | March 18, 2014 / 6:42 am

    Do not make pun jokes to a kleptomaniac. He takes things, literally.

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