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Oldies but goodies
Do you know any good jokes?
on

Know any good jokes? All of mine are really old.

Nothing To Laugh About

Nothing: Do I know any good jokes? Are bears Catholic? Does the pope shit in the woods? Of course I know some good jokes! (Some would say I am a joke.) The problem is, mine are even older than yours. That's okay, of course, since there are no new jokes in this humor-deprived world of ours. Like a stand-up comic whose material could use some refreshing, we humanoids just keep recycling the old jokes, over and over again, for thousands of years. And that's why, for your own personal delectation, I have dug up the world's oldest known jokes. In fact, they're so old they're new, so out they're in. And with the right delivery, they'll have your friends laughing their butts off.

I said I dug them up. Actually, somebody else dug them up - a crack team of academic types led by Paul McDonald, Senior Lecturer of Something or Other at the University of Wolverhampton in Merrie Olde England. I know what you're thinking: The Brits wouldn't know a good joke if it reached up and bit them in the ass. But these aren't necessarily the best jokes in the world, just the oldest. And as I said, it's all in the delivery. Okay, without further ado, here is the world's oldest known joke, courtesy of the ancient Sumerians, who lived in what is now southern Iraq, so you may already be starting to chuckle a little bit. By the way, it's not in the form of a set-up and punch line, like so many of today's jokes. It's just a saying, like "Two out of three ain't bad."

Okay, here we go. Imagine someone like Chris Rock springing this on an audience halfway through his act. Are you ready? Uh, you might want to be sitting down. And if you've just taken a swig of milk, you might want to make sure it's past the point where it could come shooting out your nostrils. Okay, from ancient Sumer, ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you the oldest joke in the world, and it goes like this: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."

Rim-shot, please!

Well, maybe you had to be there. And I know for a fact that this joke used to kill in the older parts of Nineveh. But I will admit that it seems to have lost something in translation. What I like about it is that 1) it's a fart joke and 2) it's a fart joke about a woman. To be quite honest, though, I'm not exactly sure what the point is. That women never fart? Bada-bing! That they never admit to having farted? Bada-boom! When I went looking for the world's oldest joke, I thought it would be something along the lines of "A priest, a rabbi and a pterodactyl walk into a bar." And I was all prepared to say "Yeah, well, the last time I heard that one I nearly fell off my dinosaur." But apparently you don't have to go all the way back to the Stone Age to bomb.

I could take you through the second-oldest joke in the world, a gag from 1600 B.C. about an amorous pharaoh named King Snofru, but I suspect it didn't go over all that well even back then. (Ancient Egyptians, tough crowd.) In fact, of all the Top Ten Oldest Jokes in the History of the World, the only one that got a rise out of me was one that Emperor Augustus used to tell on himself. It seems that, while out touring the empire one day, he noticed a face in the crowd that bore a striking resemblance to his own. "Was your mother at one time in service at the palace?" Gus asked the man. "No, Your Highness," came the reply, "but my father was." I know, I know, the last time you heard that one you nearly fell off your chariot. But, like a young woman's fart, it holds up surprisingly well over the years.

If you must be joking, write to: Mr. Right, Isthmus, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or call 251-1206, ext. 152. Or email mrright@isthmus.com.

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