The joy of broken jokes

I have been told that I have a dry sense of humor. People who are less concerned with being diplomatic have told me that I have a weird sense of humor. What I think I have is a British sense of humor, one that takes great delight in the silly and the absurd. Blame it on/credit it to a youth spent consuming Monty Python and Danger Mouse (no, not the DJ, the world’s greatest secret agent mouse).

One of the things I love the most is the “broken joke,” a joke that begins in typical fashion but ends with things being somehow not right, or incomplete, or more of a straightforward narrative than a joke. And this, to me, is absolutely hilarious, for some reason. It is intellectual silliness at its finest.

John Hodgman, he of The Daily Show and Mac commercial fame, is a genius at this. He has a chapter in his book “The Areas of My Expertise” called “Jokes that have never produced laughter.” Here’s one:

A duck goes into a pharmacy. He says to the pharmacist, “I need some ointment for my beak. It is very chapped.” The pharmacist says, “We have nothing for ducks.”

Hilarious! I cannot really articulate why this is funny, but trust me: It is very, very funny.

So I set about collecting some more. Some of these are from friends, some from the previously discussed MetaFilter, some from McSweeney’s. Enjoy!

Q: How many blonds can you fit in a Volkswagen Bug?
A: …
Q: (Before A can answer) That’s not the point. The point is that you can exceed the manufacturer’s stated limitation, and a well-built German automobile will still function. Try doing that with a Ford; doesn’t work, does it? This is why we have a trade deficit.

A priest, a rabbi and a prominent atheist walk into a bar. Over several rounds of drinks, they have an insightful and good-natured discussion on the role of ethics in public life. They pay their bar tabs, then go their separate ways.

There once was a man from Nantucket.
He owned a sailboat.
I haven’t seen him in years.

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: Because being run over would be a merciful release from the horrors of factory farming, America’s shame.

A man is driving down a country road at night when his car gets a flat tire.

He stops by a local farmhouse and asks the owner if he can stay there for the night.

“Sure,” says the farmer, “as long as you don’t touch my three beautiful daughters.”

The man did as he was told, because frankly, he didn’t find the girls nearly so attractive as their father seemed to.

Here’s the chapter from the John Hodgman book mentioned up above, here’s a bunch more broken jokes from McSweeney’s and a ton more from a question I posted on AskMe.

9 thoughts on “The joy of broken jokes”

  1. Classic. I love the way a good broken joke just blindsides people. Sometimes it takes them a minute to register what just happened… and then the laugh comes because it was exactly what they did not expect.

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