I love humor. I don’t mean that like in everyone’s “I love to laugh” dating profiles. Of course you like to laugh. Laughing is a physical expression of enjoyment and happiness. I mean that I love humor as a subject. I’ve studied it. I’m fascinated by it. And I’ve written about it. (Here, here, here, and here) I sometimes wonder why, given that we seem to be obsessed with rankings, no one every seems to talk about the best, or the top ten, jokes.
I’m restricting it to the English language. English is the only language I know. So much of what makes a joke great is the way it plays with language. I’m sure there are plenty of great jokes in other languages that I’m just incapable of getting. It would make almost too much sense if the funniest joke in the history of jokes is actually in Yiddish. It may be worth learning Yiddish just for the jokes, but I digress.
My nomination for the best joke in the English language is. . .
It’s truly brilliant. There is almost no background knowledge needed. A basic pre-school grasp of English vocabulary is enough. The sentences sound completely natural. The grammar and syntax are beyond reproach. And it perfectly strikes a balance between subverting expectations and being completely obvious. So, so brilliant.
This is just a nomination because I’m sure I haven’t heard every joke in the English language. So, help me out. If you know a joke that you think is as good, or better, let me know. Let’s see what kind of top ten list we can put together.