Studying some jokes told by stand-up comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival, and dissecting them for vocabulary. Learn English with some jokes and find out about typical joke structures used by stand-up comedians. Transcripts and jokes available below.
This episode is going to contain loads of jokes and their explanations. Listening to this might give you a chuckle if you understand the jokes, and at the very least you’ll learn some English in the process.
The Edinburgh Festival is an arts festival that happens every August in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is officially the largest arts festival in the world and it includes all kinds of art, including theatre and dance. However, there is also an alternative festival that runs at the same time and this is perhaps the more famous one these days. This alternative festival is called The Edinburgh Festival Fringe or simply Edinburgh Fringe.
The word “fringe” means “edge” and it’s a way of referring to performances which are alternative, on the edge, different to the mainstream acts.
These days this largely means comedy, particularly stand up comedy – that form of comedy which involves someone standing on the stage armed only with a microphone and their witty jokes and stories.
The fringe gets a lot of media coverage because that’s where the country’s best comedians are often discovered. It’s a huge event for the industry. Also it’s pretty entertaining for us to read the year’s best jokes when they’re published in all the newspapers.
I was going to do an episode about the best jokes from this year’s Edinburgh fringe. Every year a TV channel called Dave chooses their favourite jokes of the fringe, and people vote for the best.
The jokes are then published in the newspapers and shared around on social networks.
Someone asked me to do an episode about it actually. Sorry, I’m afraid I can’t remember who that was! I get messages across lots of different platforms and I can’t keep up.
That was about the best jokes of Edinburgh 2018.
I had a look and some of them are pretty good, but not all of them and I thought instead that I’d find a list of top jokes from all Edinburgh festivals, just as a way to make sure the jokes are basically good enough. Even still, these are just jokes made up by comedians at the festival, sometimes improvised live on stage. They’re not those jokes that just go around and have no author. These are written by possibly desperate 20 or 30 something comedians trying to make their audiences laugh.
I’ve never actually been to the Edinburgh Festival or taken part in the fringe. I did the Brighton Fringe three times, but never Edinburgh. It’s one of the world’s biggest comedy festivals. Every year thousands of comedians from all over the world go there, do their shows and desperately try to get reviewed, get featured in the newspaper articles, try to win awards, try to make a name for themselves.
In my experience, it just costs a lot of money, it’s exhausting and you drink too much. So, no thanks. But still, imagine the main street in Edinburgh at lunchtime in August. The whole street will be lined with aspiring comics flyering for their shows. At those shows the comics will be doing their best to make the audience laugh as much as possible. These jokes are part of their routines.
To be honest, It’s probably not fair to judge these jokes on their own. They belong in these comedians’ routines, performed live. Usually in stand up the comedians don’t just go up and tell some jokes. They go up and tell stories about their lives, share experiences and so on. The jokes are included in the stories and they are weaved in seamlessly. For the joke to properly have a chance, it has to be delivered in context. So much of that is about the person telling the joke – what do they look like? What do they sound like? What kind of stories are they telling? Are they happy, unhappy, desperate, stupid? All this context informs the joke. So, it’s not fair to just pick out the jokes on their own and then scrutinise them out of context.
But, that’s exactly what we’re going to do here and now in this episode.
We’re going to go through a selection of jokes from Edinburgh Fringe over the years. I’ll tell them, and then scrutinise them for meaning and language, leaving the jokes like dead frogs which have been dissected in a science lab at school.
Remember – explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog… it’s possible to learn something from it, but the frog dies in the process.
Some types of joke / Joke structures
There are certain joke structures or techniques which get used a lot. They’re very commonly used in stand up routines. Let’s identify some.
- Puns (word jokes) – one word or phrase means two things at the same time.
- Pull back and reveal – the situation radically changes when we get more information.
- Observational humour – noticing things about everyday life that we all experience, but haven’t put into words yet.
- similes – Showing how two things are similar in unexpected and revealing ways. (Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog…)
So, here we go. Lower your expectations now…
First of all, here are some of the jokes from the 2018 fringe, considered the best ones.
“Working at the Jobcentre has to be a tense job – knowing that if you get fired, you still have to come in the next day.” Adam Rowe
“I had a job drilling holes for water – it was well boring.” – Leo Kearse
“I took out a loan to pay for an exorcism. If I don’t pay it back, I’m going to get repossessed.” – Olaf Falafel
“When I was younger I felt like a man trapped inside a woman’s body. Then I was born.” Yianni (2015)
“I was playing chess with my friend and he said, ‘Let’s make this interesting’. So we stopped playing chess.” Matt Kirshen (2011)
“Love is like a fart. If you have to force it it’s probably shit.” Stephen K. Amos (2014)
“Life is like a box of chocolates. It doesn’t last long if you’re fat.” Joe Lycett (2014)
“I was raised as an only child, which really annoyed my sister.” Will Marsh (2012)
“I was thinking of running a marathon, but I think it might be too difficult getting all the roads closed and providing enough water for everyone.” Jordan Brookes (2016)
“My wife told me: ‘Sex is better on holiday.’ That wasn’t a nice postcard to receive.” Joe Bor (2014)
“If you arrive fashionably late in Crocs, you’re just late.” Joel Dommett (2014)
“I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: ‘This could be interesting.” Paddy Lennox (2009)
“I’m sure wherever my Dad is: he’s looking down on us. He’s not dead, just very condescending.” Jack Whitehall (2009)
“My granny was recently beaten to death by my grandad. Not as in, with a stick – he just died first” Alex Horne (2008)
“I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” Nick Helm (2011)
“I went to Waterstones and asked the woman for a book about turtles, she said ‘hardback?’ and I was like, ‘yeah and little heads” Mark Simmons (2015)
That last joke reminds me of Tim Vine – “Hello, I’d like to buy a watch please” “Analogue?” “No, just the watch thanks”.
Some vocabulary to notice in this episode:
- to chuckle / a chuckle
- a tense job
- to get fired
- to get repossessed
- well boring
- To take out a loan
- I felt like a man trapped inside a woman’s body
- Let’s make this interesting’.
- If you have to force it, it’s probably shit
- I was raised as an only child
- running a marathon
- fashionably late
- he’s looking down on us
- very condescending
- beaten to death