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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Comments (28)
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  • Ayun Halliday says:

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

  • kostas says:

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

  • Greg says:

    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.”

  • pipedreams says:

    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 who?
    No, to whom.
    Speak­ing of non-sequiturs .…
    But we weren’t.
    Now, we are.

  • RADBAM says:

    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 . };)

  • margarita ovadia says:

    how did Mozart die? he decom­posed like every­body else!

  • greg is stupid says:

    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”

  • esote says:

    Dear Math give up on try­ing to find your x.

  • Jack Cozzens says:

    Are you dis­re­spect­ing “INSULT?”

  • David says:

    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)

  • Pablo Aron says:

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

  • billyzz says:

    To do is to be ‑Niet­zsche

    to be is to do ‑Kant

    do be do be do ‑Sina­tra

  • Jonathan says:

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

  • Kevin Elliott says:

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

    A: An ety­mol­o­gist knows the dif­fer­ence.

  • OJ says:

    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.

  • Bo Andersen says:

    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.

  • Greg says:

    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”.

  • Greg says:

    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.

  • Andy says:

    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.”

  • Dan says:

    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.

  • Tom Tobey says:

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

  • Tom Tobey says:

    Oops, I meant original(oribinal is also).

  • Chas Wide says:

    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!

  • Isaiah E Starr says:

    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.

  • Ingkay Garutay says:

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

  • alice says:

    Old Chemists don’t die, they just reach equi­lib­ri­um!!!

  • Bill Abbott says:

    The Allen Gins­berg Knock Knock Joke:

    “Moloch! Moloch!”
    “Who’s there?”
    “The best minds of my gen­er­a­tion”
    “The best minds of my gen­er­a­tion” who?
    “I saw the best minds of my gen­er­a­tion destroyed by
    mad­ness, starv­ing hys­ter­i­cal naked,
    drag­ging them­selves through the negro streets at dawn
    look­ing for an angry fix,”

    (You can keep going if you remem­ber more…)

    I, my late, first, wife, Lori Twer­sky, and our friend Ted Brattstrom share the blame for this.
    I asked a clerk at City Lights Books in San Fran­cis­co, Lawrence Fer­linghet­ti’s store, if she’d ever heard any oth­er Allen Gins­berg jokes, giv­ing this as an exam­ple. She said this was the only one she’d heard.

  • John says:

    What did the dyslex­ic alco­holic with solip­sis­tic ten­den­cies say to his “ther­a­pist”?

    Some­times I feel like I’m alone in this bra!

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