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

Long before cap­i­tal “A” Acad­e­mia became a pro­fes­sion­al net­work of accred­it­ed schol­ars and fund-grub­bing insti­tu­tions, intel­lec­tu­al dis­course con­sist­ed of near­ly as much humor—bad puns, scat­ol­ogy, innu­en­do, bit­ing caricature—as deep philo­soph­i­cal dia­logue and sparkling eru­di­tion. So-called “wits” gath­ered in cof­fee hous­es to trade barbs and bon mots and to cir­cu­late their favorite lit­er­ary satires from writ­ers like Jonathan Swift, Alexan­der Pope, and John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester, whose poet­ic out­put was often equal parts raunchy prosody and thought­ful crit­i­cal inquiry.

In our dig­i­tal times, intel­lec­tu­al humor bub­bles around the mar­gins of high cul­ture, as much as in the oblique car­toons of The New York­er as in forums like Red­dit, where jokes can be crude, hate­ful, and bor­der­line psy­chot­ic, or gen­uine­ly wit­ty and unique. Slate recent­ly picked up on a Red­dit thread that asked users “what’s the most intel­lec­tu­al joke you know?” The authors of the Slate piece com­piled sev­er­al con­tenders (and inane­ly explained each joke with  “why it’s fun­ny” addenda—good humor should­n’t require didac­tic com­men­tary).

Below, find a sam­pling of some of the Red­dit sub­mis­sions. In the com­ments sec­tion, please feel free to sub­mit your own “intel­lec­tu­al jokes” after perus­ing Red­dit to make sure some­one hasn’t beat you to the punch­line.

  • From user Watch_Closely: “It’s hard to explain puns to klep­to­ma­ni­acs because they always take things lit­er­al­ly.”
  • From user Arca­di­an 5656: “A biol­o­gist, a chemist, and a sta­tis­ti­cian are out hunt­ing. The biol­o­gist shoots at a deer and miss­es 5ft to the left, the chemist takes a shot and miss­es 5ft to the right, and the sta­tis­ti­cian yells, ‘We got ‘im!’ ”
  • From user shan­n­man: “Who does Polyphe­mus hate more than Odysseus? Nobody!”

And below, two of the Red­di­tors’ favorites:

  • From user phattmatt: “Jean-Paul Sartre is sit­ting at a French cafe, revis­ing his draft of Being and Noth­ing­ness. He says to the wait­ress, “I’d like a cup of cof­fee, please, with no cream.” The wait­ress replies, “I’m sor­ry, Mon­sieur, but we’re out of cream. How about with no milk?”
  • From user snake­sand­doves: “An Irish­man goes to a build­ing site for his first day of work, and a cou­ple of Eng­lish­men think, ‘Ah, we’ll have some fun with him!’ So they walk up and say, ‘Hey, Pad­dy, as you’re new here make sure you know a joist from a gird­er…’ ‘Ah, sure, I knows’ says Pad­dy, ‘twas Joyce wrote Ulysses and Goethe wrote Faust.’”

Some clever humor above, I’d say (and in the ani­mat­ed New York­er car­toon at the top of the post). So, you think you can do bet­ter? Let’s hear your jokes in the com­ments.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Friedrich Niet­zsche & Exis­ten­tial­ism Explained to Five-Year-Olds (in Com­i­cal Video by Red­dit)

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 (65)
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  • Belisarius Mock says:

    Sim­i­lar to the one men­tioned by Arca­di­an 5656 in the fea­ture:

    A chemist, a physi­cist and a math­e­mati­cian are strand­ed on an island with only a can of beans and no equip­ment. The physi­cist man­ages to start a fire and tries heat­ing the can, using ther­mal expan­sion to crack it open, but it does­n’t work. The chemist places the can in the surf wash­ing ashore, rea­son­ing that chem­i­cal ero­sion will open the can, but that does­n’t work either.

    The math­e­mati­cian assumes he has a can open­er, and eats the beans.

  • Reverend Meta says:

    “WTF is a palin­drome”
    “no it’s not”

  • Baruch says:

    Q: What does the “B” in Benoit B. Man­del­brot stand for?

    A: Benoit B. Man­del­brot.

  • Ger says:

    The best piece of advice that Albert Ein­stein ever gave me was: “Nev­er cat-sit for Erwin Schrödinger”

  • justin says:

    Q: What to you get when you cross a moun­tain climber with a mos­qui­to?

    A: Trick ques­tion! You can’t cross a scalar with a vec­tor.

  • justin says:

    What “do” you get… rrr.

  • Doctor Divinity says:

    Rene Descartes is attend­ing a soiree at the Palais Ver­sailles. A som­malier approach­es and asks, “Mon­sieur Descartes, would you like a glass of wine?” Descartes paus­es and answers, “I think not.” And poof!–he dis­ap­pears.

  • La Professoressa says:

    A Luther­an man dies and approach­es the Pearly Gates, where he’s greet­ed by St. Peter. St. Peter reviews his life and says he looks like a good can­di­date for heav­en. “But,” says St. Peter, “I have one ques­tion: what church did you attend?” “Luther­an,” the man replies. “I’m sorry–go to hell!”
    The dev­il offers the man a tour of hell, and on the tour he notices that a great­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of inhab­i­tants are Luther­ans. Final­ly, the man and the dev­il reach the low­est, far­thest, deep­est, dank­est, dark­est part of hell, and there the man sees Mar­tin Luther him­self sit­ting in a cor­ner. Mar­tin Luther lifts his sad eyes and says woe­ful­ly to the man, “I’m sor­ry. It turned out to be works after all.”

  • brandnewguy says:

    Heisen­berg went for a dri­ve and got stopped by a traf­fic cop. The cop asked, “Do you know how fast you were going?” Heisen­berg replied, “No, but I know exact­ly where I am.”

  • Duncan says:

    I used to be a struc­tur­al lin­guist, but now I’m not Saus­sure.

  • Trevor says:

    Leonard Bern­stein is con­duct­ing a rehearsal of the final move­ment from Beethoven’s Ninth Sym­pho­ny. He gives the cho­rus a break to work with the strings for a while. The bass­es use the oppor­tu­ni­ty to go to the bar next door, where they pro­ceed to get quite ine­bri­at­ed. When they return no one can walk straight–two pass out on the ris­ers and one hap­less singer stum­bles into Bern­stein’s music stand, send­ing pages of sheet music fly­ing and prompt­ing LB to tie the music down onto the stand to pre­vent fur­ther mishaps.

    Lat­er, as he recount­ed the worst rehearsal of his career: “There I was, at the bot­tom of the Ninth, with two out, the bass­es loaded, and the score tied.”

  • my favorite joke ever says:

    masochist walks up to a sadist in a bar, says to the sadist “hurt me”. sadist says “no”.

  • Roos says:

    What do you get when you com­bine a joke with a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion?

  • Doc AJ says:

    There are 10 types of peo­ple in the world, those that under­stand bina­ry and those that don’t.

  • Sean says:

    Two behav­ior­ists are lay­ing in bed, they have just made love. The man says, “It was good for you… was it good for me?”

  • Andre Urbina says:

    ‘A man walks into a zoo. There was only one dog. It was a shit zoo.’

  • Dan McGuire says:

    Guy from the mid­west nev­er ate fresh seafood from the ocean. He flies into Logan Air­port in Boston gets in a cab, and says: “I’m new in town and I’d like to get scrod.”
    Taxi dri­ver looks at him blankly.
    Mid­west guy says “Don’t know know what I’m talk­ing about?”
    Dri­ver says “I do, I just nev­er heard the plu­per­fect sub­junc­tive”

  • Robert P says:

    What did the indige­nous per­son say to the post­mod­ern anthro­pol­o­gist?

    “Can we talk about me for a change?”

  • Sarah Frazier says:

    Q. What does the H in Jesus H. Christ stand for?
    A. Hap­loid.

  • David E says:

    A lin­guis­tics pro­fes­sor gives a lec­ture about dou­ble neg­a­tives, explain­ing that in Eng­lish it indi­cates a pos­i­tive, but in some cul­tures and oth­er lan­guages, it can still mean a neg­a­tive. He says, how­ev­er, that nowhere does a dou­ble pos­i­tive ever mean a neg­a­tive.

    A rival pro­fes­sor sit­ting in the back says, “Yeah, yeah.…”

  • Bill Troiani says:

    Why did the chick­en cross the Mobius Strip ?
    To get to the same side …

  • Ray Halpin says:

    I heard this joke 33 years ago. I thought it was hilar­i­ous, but then again I was stoned at the time. It was described to me as a ‘Zen’ joke:

    Q: What’s the dif­fer­ence between a duck?

    A: One of its legs is both the same.

    I think that qual­i­fies as an intel­lec­tu­al joke. It was cer­tain­ly over my head.

  • Marcia says:

    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.”

  • SREW says:

    If you drop a piece of toast it always falls but­ter side down.
    If you drop a cat it always lands right way up.
    So if you attach a piece of toast to a cat and drop it, will it revolve around for­ev­er and nev­er hit the ground?

  • Cat says:

    Dia­grams for the joke above me


    Recent­ly a mas­ter thief near­ly got away with steal­ing sev­er­al paint­ings from the Lou­vre. How­ev­er, after plan­ning the crime, break­ing in, evad­ing secu­ri­ty, get­ting out, and escap­ing with the goods, he was cap­tured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

    When asked how he could mas­ter­mind such a crime and then make such a fool­ish error, he replied, “I had no Mon­et to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh.”

  • Hal says:

    There are three kinds of peo­ple in this world: Peo­ple who can count, and peo­ple who can’t.

  • Sam L says:

    Q: Why does Karl Marx’s toi­let play music & squawk when you flush it? A: Because of the vio­lins and herons in the cis­tern.

  • Jimmyboy says:

    Rene Magritte stopped at a cheese store to buy a wedge of Camem­bert. The own­er, going to the front win­dow, with­drew a large wheel from which he intend­ed to take a slice. Magritte recoiled in hor­ror: “No, no, not from that wheel; it’s been looked at all day!”

    Jim­my boy

  • S. Schearer says:

    What’s the dif­fer­ence between Heav­en and Hell in Europe? In Heav­en the cops are British, the mechan­ics are Ger­man, the chefs are French, the lovers are Ital­ian, and the busi­ness­men are Swiss. In Hell the cops are Ger­man, the mechan­ics are French, the chefs are British, the lovers are Swiss, and the busi­ness­men are Ital­ian.

  • EverythingALREADY says:

    Grav­i­ty. Not just a good idea. It’s the law.

  • Charles DuFarle says:

    Pad­dy walks into a bar and orders three drinks to be lined up. OK says the bar­keep but they will go flat. Pad­dy explains he has two broth­ers. One has gone to Amer­i­ca and the oth­er to Aus­tralia, but before they part­ed they all agreed to have beers for each oth­er. Why that’s a love­ly tra­di­tion says the bar keep. This goes on as Pad­dy orders three pints at once. Then one day Pad­dy orders only two. The bar goes quite. Oh I’m so sor­ry for your loss says the bar­keep. NO,No say Pad­dy, noth­ing like that, I’ve con­vert­ed to a Mor­mon and have giv­en up drink­ing.

  • Philip says:

    Q:Why did the sur­re­al­ist cross the road ?
    A:A fish !!

  • Pragna Sen says:

    Q: What does a dyslex­ic, agnos­tic insom­ni­ac do?

    A: Stays up nights won­der­ing if there’s a dog.

  • Eel says:

    A lit­er­al­ist walks into a bar and says “ouch.”

  • Sahra says:

    I’m read­ing a great book on anti-grav­i­ta­tion­al the­o­ry. I can’t put it down.

  • HideousC says:

    The pes­simist says the glass is half full, while the opti­mist says the glass is half emp­ty. The engi­neer says the glass is too large, and 50% of its capac­i­ty is wast­ed.

    There are two kinds of peo­ple: peo­ple who will tell you there are two kinds of peo­ple, and peo­ple who won’t.

  • dr jay says:

    High on a hill­top in what is now Croa­t­ia, with a hazy view of the Adri­at­ic in the dis­tance, sits a build­ing with a fas­ci­nat­ing­ly com­pli­cat­ed his­to­ry. It was orig­i­nal­ly built by the ancient Romans as a tem­ple to their god of love. Then Atti­la and his band attacked it on the way both to and from Rome, and his descen­dants held it until the Byzan­tine Emper­or Jus­tin­ian recap­tured it in the 6th cen­tu­ry. He used it as a legal library, stor­ing doc­u­ments and deci­sions pur­suant to his famous Code. For many cen­turies after that, it was used as a mil­i­tary instal­la­tion and muni­tions depot by every­one from the Turks to the Nazis and their Ustashe allies, which unfor­tu­nate­ly result­ed in repeat­ed explo­sions and fires that destroyed near­ly all the old doc­u­ments. Then after World War II the Catholic Church turned it into a con­vent, but decades of Com­mu­nist rule, com­bined with nat­ur­al attri­tion, left it with only one sur­viv­ing Sis­ter. And so the place entered the third mil­len­ni­um with no Huns, no writs, no Eros, and nun left on base.

  • Jon says:

    A sta­tis­ti­cian, a biol­o­gist, and a physi­cist are abduct­ed by the mafia to help them win at the horse races. After a few months of work, they ask the sta­tis­ti­cian what he’s devel­oped. “I have a for­mu­la that pre­dicts which horse have a bet­ter chance of win­ning on hot, rainy days.” “Great” says the mafioso.

    When asked for his results, the biol­o­gist says “I’ve devel­oped an unde­tectable serum which will make a horse run 26% faster”. “Even bet­ter” say the mafioso.

    Flush with his suc­cess so far, the mafioso comes to the physi­cist. “What have you got?”, to which the physi­cist replies, “Well, imag­ine the horse is a sphere, .…”

  • M. P. Ryan says:

    “In some lan­guages,” said the Oxford philoso­pher J.L. Austin, “a dou­ble neg­a­tive yields an affir­ma­tive. In oth­er lan­guages, a dou­ble neg­a­tive yields a more emphat­ic neg­a­tive. Yet, curi­ous­ly enough, I know of no lan­guage, either nat­ur­al or arti­fi­cial, in which a dou­ble affir­ma­tive yields a neg­a­tive.”

    Sud­den­ly, from the back of the hall, in a thick Brook­lyn accent came the com­ment, “Yeah, yeah.”

  • HOWARD HAIGH says:

    JOKE: What do Japan­ese pigeons sing?

    Answer: High Coos

  • Jon lee says:

    Argon walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bar ten­der says, “sir, we don’t serve noble gasses.”
    There was no reac­tion.

  • SDJH says:

    Why did Jacques Der­ri­da hate Christ­mas?
    Because of the absence of pres­ence.

  • martin doughty says:

    There was a dyslex­ic agnos­tic insom­ni­ac who was kept awake at night won­der­ing if there was a dog

  • joan says:


    think about it for a sec.


  • joan says:

    btw, that one is my favorite of all…;)

  • David E says:

    @Jon lee, thanks. Now all the good chem­istry jokes Argon.

  • Jerry Russo says:

    A horse walks into a bar, the bar­tender says,‘Why the long face?”

    Phi­los­o­phy of life: It is bet­ter to be rich and healthy than to be poor and sick.

    Two friends tell each oth­er so many jokes they sim­ply assigned a num­ber to each to save time. One would say # 316 the oth­er would laugh out loud and so forth. Once a third friend was present and asked about the num­ber call­ing and it was explained to him how it worked, so he tried it # 47, no response from the oth­er two. He asked why did­n’t you laugh. they replied it’s the way you TELL a joke.

  • Gerald says:

    An internist, a radi­ol­o­gist, and an emer­gency room physi­cian go duck hunt­ing.

    A bird appears, it’s the internist’s turn to shoot. He says: “what is it? a pigeon, a goose, a black­bird?” By then it’s gone.

    Then it’s the radi­ol­o­gist’s turn. Anoth­er bird appears. The radi­ol­o­gist says, “I think it’s a duck, but maybe it’s a goose. I’ll take anoth­er look”. By then it’s gone.

    Then It’s the ER Doc’s turn. A bird appears. Bang! “Got the SOB. What was it?”

  • Sam says:

    What did the Bud­dhist Monk say to the hot dog ven­dor? Make me one with every­thing.

  • Robert DePietro says:


    Two dyslex­ic guys walk into a bra

  • Eamon Ryan says:

    The minor poet died and went to heav­en. First per­son he met inside the pearly gates was William Shake­speare. “Mr. Shake­speare”, he says, “I have been writ­ing poet­ry for over fifty years with no recog­ni­tion and not one line pub­lished. You, how­ev­er, dead for over four hun­dred years, are still hav­ing your works per­formed. I need to know. What is your secret?
    Shake­speare replies: “It is not what you write but how you write it. For instance, if you met a man with bandy legs how would you describe the expe­ri­ence in verse.
    The minor poet thought for a while and the ven­tured:
    As I was walk­ing down the road
    I met a man whose legs were bowed.

    “Codswal­lop”, says Shake­speare.
    “How would you write it”, asks the minor poet.
    Shake­speare intones:
    For­sooth what man­ner of man is this
    Who wears his balls in paren­the­sis

  • G Smyth says:

    A blonde walked into a bar and asked the bar­tender for a dou­ble enten­dre.
    So he gave her one.

  • Papposilenus says:

    The final exam at Oxford dur­ing the Dark Ages was, “Who chased whom three times around what?” Not real­ly a joke, but it always made me laugh.

  • Roebuck says:

    Two atoms walk into a bar. One atom says to the oth­er “I think I’ve lost an elec­tron!” “Are you sure?” the oth­er asks. “Yes” He says, “I’m Pos­i­tive!”

  • my dog poops in your yard says:

    Joe Pater­no walks into a bar.

    that’s it. he does noth­ing.

  • Tom Tobey says:

    An Oxy­gen atom walked into a bar, and said to the bar­tender “Quick, give me 2 hydro­gen atoms, I’m real­ly thirsty.”

  • Tom Tobey says:

    I’ve improved my joke:
    An Oxy­gen atom went into the bar and said “I’m thirsty; give me a hydro­gen atom. Wait a minute: bet­ter make it a dou­ble!”

  • loopdeloop says:

    There are 10 types of peo­ple on Earth. Those who under­stand hexa­dec­i­mal and F the rest.

  • Steve Mahan says:

    I hear a pierc­ing eco!

  • Steve Mahan says:

    Homony­mous Bosch!

  • NDeanM says:

    An A, a C and an E walked into a bar. The bar­tender said, “Sor­ry. We don’t serve minors.”

    So C left and the oth­er two had an open fifth between them.

  • buster hyman says:

    two physic­sts pass­ing by in the hall­way One says to the oth­er “What’s new?” the oth­er replies E over h!”

  • Dave Lagergren says:

    I wrote that joke in 1969. I was sit­ting around with a bunch of friends in the jour­nal­ism class at Fed­er­al Way High School in Wash­ing­ton State. We were telling stu­pid knock knock jokes and puns (a com­mon occur­rence for us) when I made the stu­pid­est joke. “What’s the dif­fer­ence between a duck?/One legs both the same” I have shared the joke many times over the years (my kids get tired of hear­ing it). Today I asked Google Home to tell me a joke. Her’s was pret­ty fun­ny. Then I asked Hey Google, “What’s the dif­fer­ence between a duck?” And she replied “One legs both the same.” I was shocked! Do I Googled the joke. I guess it is all over the inter­net in anti-joke forums and tech sites. Some peo­ple actu­al­ly try and fig­ure it out! In a strange way the joke IS fun­ny. I guess I should have copy­right­ed it.

  • gerard says:

    Q. How many Mon­keys does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A. mon­keys screw in trees not light bulbs

  • Kim says:

    appar­ent­ly, this Shake­speare imposter nev­er went beyond the gates. He is one iamb too short.

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