A friend told me a joke the other day:
“How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?”
Answer: “None. Feminists can’t change anything.”
Alright, pretty much the funniest joke I ever heard. And then the friend said, “Yeah, Ryan came up with that the other day.”
He came up with that? I’m a little skeptical. People don’t just come up with jokes. They’re just there. Nobody writes them.
“Yeah,” another friend said. “The jokes have been here always, like God created them on the sixth day.”
But it did make me think. Where do jokes come from? Who writes it? I guess somebody must.
In a research paper, when quoting something you didn’t write, you must
cite your sources. Can you imagine if we had to do that for jokes?
“Two men walked into a bar. The third one ducked. Copyright John Smith 1983.”
“Why did the turtle cross the playground? To get to the other slide (Rogers 51).”
“Mary Bennett said in 1995 that a man went into a library and
approached a librarian. According to Bennett, the man said, ‘Hi, can I
have a hamburger?’ Bennett continues that the librarian exclaimed,
“What are you talking about? This is a library.’ The man, Bennett
writes, said, in a whisper, ‘Oh, sorry. Can I have a hamburger?'”
My dad had a story about this that I thought was funny.
“I used to write limericks on the wall of the men’s room in Annie May
Swift Hall. I signed them ‘J’ or ‘Collected by J,’ as I thought that
the writers should get credit for their creativity.
“So one day, at some kind of fancy dinner, I ran
into the Dean of the School of Speech. He said to me, ‘Are you J?’ I
said, ‘I’m not saying I am, and I’m not saying I’m not, but if you buy
the paint, I’ll repaint the bathroom.’
“So the next day, there were a couple of gallons of
white paint by the door to the bathroom. (I was a house painter during
college, so I had all of the appropriate equipment.) So I painted the
bathroom, and did a darn good job of it.
“I don’t endorse vandalism, of course, but I also promote creativity.”
–Jonathan Lehrer, 2005
So, in the future, try citing your jokes. Give credit where credit is due!