We knew PJs in IIT days. I myself was never good at it. In Hind Motors, I clearly remember two persons- Mr. Raju and Mr. KP Gupta, who were in demand to entertain with their jokes. However, I was thrilled by the endeavour of the team members who worked on compiling the list of the world’s oldest top 10 jokes. I wonder why they couldn’t lay hand on some Chinese or Indian jokes. Can some knowledgeable Indian help?
The Dave Historical Humour Study defines a joke as having a clear set-up and punch line structure. The team has created the history of the joke that goes as far back as 1900 BC. It also provides a unique and compelling insight into how jokes have evolved over the years, both globally and in the UK.
The world’s oldest joke is revealed to be an ancient Sumerian proverb dating back to 1900 BC. The Sumerian version of this joke occurs in tablets dating to the Old Babylonian period and possibly even dates back to 2,300 BC. The Dave Historical Humour study spent two months trawling the annals of history to produce the first report of its kind into the world’s oldest recorded jokes.
1. Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap (1900 BC – 1600 BC Sumerian Proverb Collection 1.12-1.13)
2. How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish (An abridged version first found in 1600 BC on the Westcar Papryus)
3. Three ox drivers from Adab were thirsty: one owned the ox, the other owned the cow and the other owned the wagon’s load. The owner of the ox refused to get water because he feared his ox would be eaten by a lion; the owner of the cow refused because he thought his cow might wander off into the desert; the owner of the wagon refused because he feared his load would be stolen. So they all went. In their absence the ox made love to the cow which gave birth to a calf which ate the wagon’s load. Problem: Who owns the calf?! (1200 BC)
4. A woman who was blind in one eye has been married to a man for 20 years. When he found another woman he said to her, “I shall divorce you because you are said to be blind in one eye.” And she answered him: “Have you just discovered that after 20 years of marriage!?” (Egyptian circa 1100 BC)
5. Odysseus tells the Cyclops that his real name is nobody. When Odysseus instructs his men to attack the Cyclops, the Cyclops shouts: “Help, nobody is attacking me!” No one comes to help. (Homer. The Odyssey 800 BC)
6. Question: What animal walks on four feet in the morning, two at noon and three at evening? Answer: Man. He goes on all fours as a baby, on two feet as a man and uses a cane in old age (Appears in Oedipus Tyrannus and first performed in 429 BC)
7. Man is even more eager to copulate than a donkey – his purse is what restrains him (Egyptian, Ptolemaic Period 304 BC – 30 BC)
8. Augustus was touring his Empire and noticed a man in the crowd who bore a striking resemblance to himself. Intrigued he asked: “Was your mother at one time in service at the Palace?” “No your Highness,” he replied, “but my father was.” (Credited to the Emporer Augustus 63 BC – 29 AD)
9. Wishing to teach his donkey not to eat, a pedant did not offer him any food. When the donkey died of hunger, he said “I’ve had a great loss. Just when he had learned not to eat, he died.” (Dated to the Philogelos 4th /5th Century AD)
10. Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied: “In silence.” (Collected in the Philogelos or “Laughter-Lover” the oldest extant jest book and compiled in the 4th/5th Century AD)