Tag Archives: jokes

623. 13 Terrible Jokes, Explained

Actually, it’s 17 jokes, including some simple one-liners and a few longer story-based jokes for you to remember and practise telling yourself. Listen to Luke read out and explain some pretty awful but enjoyable word puns and shaggy dog stories, and learn some English in the process.

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13 Short Jokes

  1. I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant but then I changed my mind.

  2. Did you hear about the guy who cut his whole left side off? Luckily he is all right now.

  3. I’d tell you a chemistry joke but it probably wouldn’t get a reaction.

  4. I tried eating a clock. It turns out that it’s very time-consuming.

  5. I am reading a book about anti gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

  6. I accidentally swallowed some food colouring. I feel like I’ve dyed a little inside.

  7. Did you hear about the guy who got cooled to absolute zero? He is OK now.

  8. Asked my dad if we could turn him into a salad ingredient, but he wouldn’t lettuce.

  9. Last night I was dreaming that I had written Lord of the Rings. My bro said I was Tolkien in my sleep.

  10. South Korea is so much more inviting than North Korea.

    North Korea is a Seoulless place.

  11. Have you heard about the difference between a hippo and a zippo?

    One is REALLY heavy, and one is a little lighter.

  12. I used to have a soap addiction,

    But I’m clean now...

  13. Next time you’re cold, go stand in the corner it’s always 90 degrees there.

Longer Jokes

To Absent Brothers

An Irishman walks into a bar in Dublin, orders three pints of Guinness and sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn.

When he finishes all three, he comes back to the bar and orders three more.
The bartender says to him, ‘You know, a pint goes flat after I draw it; it would taste better if you bought one at a time.’

The Irishman replies, ‘Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in America, the other in Australia, and I’m here in Dublin. When we all left home, we promised that we’d drink this way to remember the days we all drank together.

The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there.

The Irishman becomes a regular in the bar and always drinks the same way: he orders three pints and drinks the three pints by taking drinks from each of them in turn.

One day, he comes in and orders two pints. All the other regulars in the bar notice and fall silent.

When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, ‘I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your great loss.’
The Irishman looks confused for a moment, then a light dawns in his eye and he laughs. ‘Oh, no, ‘ he says, ‘Everyone is fine. I’ve just quit drinking!

Some Things You Just Can’t Explain

A farmer was sitting in the neighbourhood bar getting drunk.

A man came in and asked the farmer, “Hey, why are you sitting here on this beautiful day, getting drunk?”

The farmer shook his head and replied, “Some things you just can’t explain.”

“So what happened that’s so horrible?” the man asked as he sat down next to the farmer.

“Well,” the farmer said, “today I was sitting by my cow, milking her. Just as I got the bucket full, she lifted her left leg and kicked over the bucket.”

“Okay,” said the man, “but that’s not so bad.” “Some things you just can’t explain,” the farmer replied. “So what happened then?” the man asked. The farmer said, “I took her left leg and tied it to the post on the left.”

“And then?”

“Well, I sat back down and continued to milk her. Just as I got the bucket full, she took her right leg and kicked over the bucket.”

The man laughed and said, “Again?” The farmer replied, “Some things you just can’t explain.” “So, what did you do then?” the man asked.

“I took her right leg this time and tied it to the post on the right.”

“And then?”

“Well, I sat back down and began milking her again. Just as I got the bucket full, the stupid cow knocked over the bucket with her tail.”

“Hmmm,” the man said and nodded his head. “Some things you just can’t explain,” the farmer said.

“So, what did you do?” the man asked.

“Well,” the farmer said, “I didn’t have anymore rope, so I took off my belt and tied her tail to the rafter. In that moment, my pants fell down and my wife walked in … Some things you just can’t explain.

The British Abroad

Roland, an Englishman went to Spain on a fishing trip.

While there, Roland hired a Spanish guide to help him find the best fishing spots. Since Roland was learning Spanish, he asked the guide to speak to him in Spanish and to correct any mistakes of usage.

Together they were hiking on a mountain trail when a very large, purple and blue fly crossed their path. The Englishmen pointed at the insect with his fishing rod, and announced, ‘Mira el mosca.’

The guide, sensing a teaching opportunity to teach Roland, replied, ‘No, senor, “la mosca”… es feminina.’

Roland looked at him in amazement, then back at the fly, and then said, ‘Good heavens….. you must have incredibly good eyesight.’

Twins

During Desert Storm, an American Air Force officer met a Saudi Air Force officer. Their love of flying bonded them together and soon they became friends. One day, while making small talk, the discussion turned to family. Each expressed how much they missed their wives and children. The Saudi officer decided to pull out his wallet and show pictures of his family to the American.

When the American saw the picture of the Saudi’s family, he was shocked. “Hey, that looks like my son,” he said, referring to one of the Saudi officer’s children. “That looks just like my Juan!”
The Saudi officer explained. “About 15 years ago, I went to Mexico to drill for oil. While I was there, my wife and I decided to adopt a young boy. We named him Amal and he has grown up with us.”

The American said, “Well, about 15 years ago, my wife and I were stationed at the American embassy in Mexico City. We adopted Juan and now he is in high school. I wonder if your boy and mine are twins!”

Excitedly, both officers compared the boys’ birthdays, and sure enough, the boys shared the same day. They agreed that the two boys must be twins. Immediately, they vowed that after the war ended they would meet in Los Angeles and have a big reunion to unite the two long-lost brothers.

When the news media received word of this, they created media frenzy as they eagerly promoted the day when the boys would meet. Eventually, the big day arrived and local, national and international news outlets, as well as several hundred onlookers descended on LAX airport.

There was a festive mood in the air, and representatives from the Mexican, U.S., and Saudi Arabian governments attended.

However, to the disappointment of the assembled crowd, a representative from Saudi Arabian Airlines announced that the plane had been delayed and would be over six hours late.

Juan’s mother took the podium and addressed the crowd saying, “You might as well go home. There’s no point in waiting here.”

“Why would we want to do that?” asked a reporter.
“Well,” she replied, “they’re identical twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Amal.”

Practise telling the jokes until you can do it comfortably without a script!

560. Sarah Donnelly Returns – Writing jokes, public speaking, doing comedy in another language

Talking to comedian Sarah Donnelly about how she writes her jokes, advice on public speaking and how to avoid nerves and negative feelings, performing stand-up comedy in another language, and more. Sarah is a comedian and language teacher from the US,  now living in France.

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Introduction

Today I am talking to friend of the podcast, Sarah Donnelly.

It’s not the first time Sarah has been on this podcast, but it’s been quite a long time since she was in an episode on her own, I mean – as the only guest, not just alone. She wasn’t completely on her own in front of a microphone in an empty room, like “Umm, Luke? Hello? Is anyone here?” I was there too of course. I mean, without any other guests.

Mostly Sarah has been in episodes of this podcast with other people you see. Earlier this year I talked to her and Amber about their comedy show about becoming a Mum in France (episode 515), and before that she was in a couple of episodes with Amber & Paul (episodes 460 & 461) and she was in one with Sebastian Marx in which we discussed the 2016 Presidential Elections in the USA (388 & 389).

Sarah’s first appearance on the podcast was all the way back in 2013 (episodes 155 & 157).

You’ll hear us talk about that episode a little bit, and how Sarah felt about it.

Sarah is from the United States of America (I’m sure you’ve heard of it, it’s quite a famous country). She originally comes from North Carolina but also has lived and worked in Washington DC, which is where she first started performing stand up comedy.

Then in 2012 she moved to France – roughly at the same time as I did, after she met a French guy. Her story is not dissimilar to mine in fact, except for the differences.

Sarah is a primarily a comedian – she’s a stand-up and also a comedy writer. She performs on stage very regularly – as a solo stand up performer and also with Amber Minogue in their show Becoming Maman – which by the way happens every Thursday evening at 20:15 at Théâtre BO Saint Martin 75003 Paris. If you’re in town, check it out!

Sarah also works as an English teacher at university in Paris.

Our conversation covers quite a lot of things but mainly we talk about:

  • How Sarah writes jokes and comes up with material for her stand up comedy performances
  • Some tips for successful public speaking including how to deal with feelings of nervousness that you might have before you do a speech or performance, and any feelings of shame that you might experience if you feel like you didn’t do as well as you wanted – all the usual difficult feelings we experience when doing public speaking. Sarah’s been doing stand up comedy very regularly for years now, and also she has plenty of experience of talking to large groups of students as a teacher, so she knows a lot about speaking to audiences and has some good advice and experience to share.
  • Sarah is also a language learner – French in this case, and we talk about her experiences of performing comedy in French.

There are also the usual tangents and silly stories and things, but I think this conversation should be useful and relevant for anyone doing public speaking, or speaking publicly in another language, and it’s also just nice and fun to spend some time with Sarah. She brought some pumpkin pie for my wife and me, which was nice of her. Pumpkin pie is a bit of a tradition in the states at this time of year and it was delicious.

So then, without any further ado. Let’s get started.


Ending

So, don’t listen to the shame wizard! Don’t listen to those feelings of shame or embarrassment that we do feel from time to time. Try to ignore those voices. Switch it off if possible.

When you’re speaking English, or thinking about your English, the shame wizard might creep up on you and whisper negative thoughts in your ear, making you feel ashamed of yourself. But don’t listen to him. Tell him to get lost.

When you’ve got a presentation to do, the shame wizard might whisper in your ear that everyone thinks you’re rubbish and you have no right to do what you’re doing. Don’t listen to him, he’s LYING!

Good advice from Sarah there.

In the moments before your presentation, stretch out your arms, stand up, take up some space with your body – but don’t punch someone in the face accidentally of course.

Vocabulary

Language to describe stand up comedy, writing comedy and writing jokes

Parts of a stand up performance

A set = the whole performance from start to finish. E.g. “I did a 15 minute set last night” or “Did you see Sarah? She did a 30 minute set and it was hilarious.”

A bit = one part of a comedian’s set. It could be a story or just a series of jokes based on a particular premise. For example, “She did a whole bit about puberty, and it was funny because it was soooo true”

A joke = one single statement that is intended to make you laugh. It could be a line or a few lines. “Did Sarah do her chalk joke last night? Oh, man, I love that joke.” “Yeah she did, but I don’t think the audience knew what chalk was… But they laughed anyway!”

Parts of a joke

A joke can be broken down into parts.

The premise = the basic idea of a joke, the foundation of it. Like just the idea that it’s pretty weird that we used to use chalk all the time to write on blackboards, but now, younger people don’t even know what chalk is and essentially we used to write on rocks with other rocks, that was our technology, and it was a bit weird” (that’s a bit nebulous, I mean vague, but it’s a starting point – that’s a premise, just the general idea of a joke)

The set up = parts of a joke that set up the situation and put all the elements in place

The punchline = the funny line that, hopefully, makes people laugh.

The wording of a joke = the specific way the joke is worded – the specific construction of a joke. The wording of a joke can be very important in making it funny or not. Often if you believe the premise of the joke is funny, but audiences aren’t laughing at it, you just need to reconsider the wording of that joke. Once you’ve got the wording right, the joke might be more successful.

Other vocabulary for comedy

Material = all the jokes, bits and sets that a comedian has in his or her repertoire. “She’s got so much material, she could do several Netflix specials now.”
Tried and tested material = the material you’ve done lots of times. You know it well and you’re confident it should get laughs pretty much every time.

To improvise = to make things up on the spot without preparation

An open mic = the sort of comedy show you do when you first start out as a comedian. An open mic means anyone can perform. Often these “open mics” are good places to try out new material, but often the whole arrangement is not exactly “professional level show business”. It could be just in the back room of a bar with people coming and going and a generally sketchy atmosphere.


What about that whole Louis CK thing?

Didn’t Sarah open one of his shows in Paris recently?

Recently on the podcast I talked a bit about how disgraced comedian Louis CK had made a surprise visit to one of our comedy shows in Paris (Sebastian Marx’s show The New York Comedy Night to be exact) and Sarah was invited to be one of the other comedians on the show. It was quite a tricky decision for her. You’ll see that in the end we don’t talk about that in this episode, mainly because we ran out of time. But if you’d like to hear Sarah expressing her thoughts on that situation, then you can check out an episode of another podcast called The Europeans, which is a podcast about Europe and European life. Sarah was interviewed on that show and she talked about the whole situation very clearly. So, have a look. The name of the podcast is The Europeans, and she was in the episode from 20 November 2018. Her interview starts at about 23 minutes into the episode. There’s a link on the website as usual.

Listen to Sarah’s appearance on The Europeans podcast, talking about performing with Louis CK

Sarah’s appearance is at about 23:00


Videos & media mentioned in the conversation

The TED talk about body language


Big Mouth on Netflix

(Subtitles should be available for this trailer on YouTube)


More Vocabulary

Some more words that came up in the episode

a Nebula [noun] – a cloud of gas and dust in space

Nebulous [adjective] (this is the word I was looking for) – formless and vaguely defined

Puberty [noun] – the period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.
“the onset of puberty”

Shame [noun] = a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.

Self-esteem  [noun] = confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.


Previous episodes with Sarah

515. Becoming “Maman” with Amber & Sarah – Bringing Up Children The French Way

460 Catching Up With Amber & Paul #6 (feat. Sarah Donnelly)

461. 25 Deceptively Difficult Questions (with Amber, Paul & Sarah)

388. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 1

389. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 2

155. A Cup of Coffee with… Sarah Donnelly (Part 1)

157. A Cup of Coffee with… Sarah Donnelly (Part 2)

549. British Comedy: Alan Partridge (Part 2)

Building on the previous episode, this time we’re looking at how Alan Partridge interacts with people in his every day life and how this results in some classic moments of British TV comedy. All the material is explained with plenty of vocabulary to learn.

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Transcript, Notes & Videos

His chat show series ended in disaster when he accidentally shot a man to death during an interview.

3. Alan interviews Tony Hayers (Knowing Me, Knowing Yule – the Christmas special 1995)

There was a Christmas special of Knowing Me Knowing You, which was made as part of a contractual obligation in his BBC deal.

He featured Tony Hayers on the chat show. He was the chief commissioning editor of the BBC – the man who decides which programmes are on the telly. Inviting him is a terrible decision because Alan is hoping to get a 2nd series of his chat show from Hayers, but Hayers hasn’t made his decision yet and is probably not going to give it to him anyway because Alan’s TV show was a disaster.

Alan interviews Tony and it is very awkward. Alan is mainly concerned about whether he has got a second series of his chat show. He is assuming that he has got it – because of his inflated sense of self-worth, which might be him subconsciously compensating for some deep issues he has. Alan is incredibly unaware of himself, which is somehow a social crime in the UK. I think we’re very self-aware.

The interview comes off the rails as Alan gets caught up in attempting to work out if he’s going to get a second series of the chat show.

What to look out for:

  • The awkwardness of Alan having his boss on his chat show
  • How Tony talks about having to cut jobs at the BBC
  • How Alan’s metaphor about Tony “ringing the changes” doesn’t work
  • How Alan keeps pressing for confirmation of a second series
  • How he assumes he has one although it’s obvious to us that he hasn’t
  • How Alan ultimately ruins it for himself
  • How he attempts to appear politically correct but he’s very awkward about certain issues

Later, Alan sort of has a breakdown live on air and ends up punching his boss in the face accidentally, with a turkey stuck on his hand.

I’m Alan Partridge

A year or two later a new series about Partridge arrived. It was called “I’m Alan Partridge”.

For me, this is when Alan really became a brilliant character. In I’m Alan Partridge we follow Alan in his normal life.

Previously we saw his awkward encounters with guests and a lot of very cringe-worthy moments. It worked as a parody and satire of television chat shows and the general clichés of broadcasting.

Now we see Alan in his everyday life and he has similarly awkward encounters. We see behind the curtain. Alan struggles to be normal. He’s always in “TV chat” mode, and it’s awful. He has no social skills, even though he thinks he’s a great conversationalist. He tries to be charming and normal, it all goes wrong, but he doesn’t realise it. He’s completely unaware of himself. In fact, his life is nosediving. It’s all falling apart around him, but he blindly assumes that he’s destined to be a prime time BBC1 TV presenter.

This is really hard to explain. We just have to hear it and find out.

Alan’s career is on the rocks. He’s now hosting a show on local radio – in Norwich. It’s the pre-breakfast show – a very obscure slot, something like 4:30-6:30AM, local radio. He’s drifted into obscurity. Also, his personal life is in disarray. His wife has left him for her fitness instructor. We gradually learn more and more about this and essentially it’s largely his fault because he’s Alan Partridge!

He’s petty, domineering, arrogant, unromantic, selfish, careless, career oriented. Why is this character so fascinating for the viewer? I’m not sure.

Now he’s living in a travel tavern – a kind of roadside motel, but he’s convinced that things will get better because he’s certain that the BBC will give him a second series of his chat show. He’s even about to buy a 5 bedroom house. He’s utterly deluded about himself. It’s sad. There’s darkness lurking just under the surface. In fact, Alan later does have a nervous breakdown and ends up bingeing on Toblerone chocolate bars and driving to Dundee in Scotland in bare feet (with no shoes on) but that’s later on.

I’m Alan Partridge – Series 1 Episode 1 1997

4. Alan meets Michael the Geordie and talks about his accent
Michael works as a caretaker at the travel tavern. He’s from Newcastle and he used to be in the army.

Alan strikes up a sort of friendship with him, but at first Michael is hard to understand because of his accent.

What to look out for:

  • The way the girl Sophie on reception is subtly insulting Alan while remaining professional
  • Alan’s prejudice against people from the north
  • How Alan is fascinated by Michael’s horrible experiences in the army

5. Alan’s pretend meeting with Tony Hayers

Alan’s Personal Assistant, Lynn helps Alan prepare for his meeting with Tony Hayers. Alan grossly overestimates his chances of a second series, and even the pretend meeting goes wrong, with Alan demanding to have a second series from Lynn, and putting Lynn down at the same time. This is how Alan imagines his negotiating style to be, and even in his fantasised versions, he fails.

What to watch out for:

  • How Alan imagines his meeting with Tony Hayers will go, including the locker room banter he expects to have with Tony about smoking cuban cigars
  • How even the fantasy goes completely wrong

I’m Alan Partridge Series 1 Episode 1 09:25

6. Alan’s real meeting with Tony Hayers
Alan is meeting Tony Hayers at the BBC and expects to be told he’s getting a 2nd series. We all suspect that he won’t get it, even though he’s certain he will and has just bought a 5 bedroom house.

Alan is clearly out of his depth in this BBC restaurant where everyone is an executive in a suit.

Alan attempts to appear sophisticated but gets everything wrong.
It becomes clear that Alan doesn’t have a second series and he loses it.
He then attempts to pitch a number of other shows he has in mind, but they’re all terrible.
You see something kind of click and he ends up punching Tony Hayers with a piece of cheese.

“Smell my cheese you mother!”

What to watch out for

  • How Alan attempts to appear classy with talk of wine and other things, and how he reveals that he has no class
    Alan’s ridiculous ideas for TV shows, very similar to stupid TV shows that exist in the real world

I’m Alan Partridge Series 1 Episode 1 16:36

7. Alan and Lynn in the car

“That was a negative and right now I need two positives.”

“Come on I’ll drop you at a cab rank.”

Alan fantasises about calling Chris Rea, the pop star who lives in the area. In his imagined conversation he invites Chris to a barbecue but the invitation ends in an argument. Again, even his imaginary exchanges go all wrong.

What to watch out for:

  • How Alan somehow imagines his life like a hollywood thriller (that was a negative…)
  • The imagined conversation with Chris Rea that goes wrong
  • “Come on, I’ll drop you at a cab rank”

I’m Alan Partridge Series 1 Episode 1 25:00

Thanks for listening!

Alan Partridge TV shows are available on iTunes and other platforms. Also, check out the Alan Partridge audiobooks on Audible.

There should be a part 3 coming soon. Tell me what you think in the comment section!

547. Best Jokes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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.

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Introduction Transcript

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

110 of the best ever jokes and one-liners from the Edinburgh Fringe

“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”.

Vocabulary

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

316. British Comedy: Tim Vine (Part 2)

Listen to Luke explain the rest of Tim Vine’s stand up routine from the video “One Night Stand”. Learn some natural phrases and bridge the linguistic and cultural gap between you and native speakers of English. Click here to listen to part 1 of this episode. Watch the video below.

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British Comedy: Tim Vine (part 2)
In episode 313 I played you part of a ten minute stand up routine by Tim Vine, who is a much loved British stand up comedian who specialises in telling one liners – those are very short jokes which usually involve some kind of word-play.
I played you 3 minutes of Tim’s routine.
I expect you didn’t get all the jokes.
I explained them all for you.
I expect you still didn’t find them all funny because explaining a joke often kills the humour of the joke.
BUT at least you learned a lot of language in the process.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s difficult to understand jokes in another language. You might go to a comedy show or watch it on TV and everyone else laughs but you’re the only one who has no clue what’s going on. This is because there’s a linguistic and cultural gap between you and everyone else who gets the jokes. Maybe it’s hard for you to hear exactly what’s been said as the lines of a joke are usually delivered quickly and with naturalistic speech patterns. Also, there’s the general cultural difference, which includes certain reference points but also the general mindset of British humour, like the fact that we enjoy laughing at ourselves, and we also enjoy the ironic fun of self-consciously bad jokes. I’m interested in closing that linguistic and cultural gap. The result, I hope, will be that you’ll learn some key bits of language and culture, and you’ll be a few steps closer to understanding natural British English like a native speaker.

In episode 313 I promised that I’d play you all of Tim Vine’s routine and explain it all. In fact, I only managed to get through 3 minutes in that episode. You might be wondering – what about the rest of Tim Vine’s routine? I want to understand that too! Well, that’s what I’m going to do now. In fact, I had one Japanese listener in particular who was very keen to hear me explain the rest of the routine. I’m sorry – I can’t remember your name or how you got in contact with me – it could have been an email, a FB message, a comment on the website, a tweet or some other way. I can’t keep up with the different ways people contact me sometimes – so if you don’t get a reply, I’m very sorry. My email address and other inboxes are often completely swamped by different notifications and messages. I do read everything, but then I don’t always get the chance to immediately respond, and then the message just gets forgotten about. So, I’m sorry if you have contacted me and I haven’t replied.

Anyway, this particular listener was quite desperate to understand the rest of Tim Vine’s routine, so here we go.

Bear in mind that there are some visual jokes in the routine and you’ll have to watch the video to really get them. I’ll explain it all for you step by step in just a moment. This routine is about 10 minutes in total. We’ll start by listening to the first 3 minutes again, which should work as a reminder of what you heard before. Then I’ll let you listen to the next 3 minutes, then I’ll pause it and explain everything before letting you hear the rest of the routine with my explanations.

OK? Got it? OK, let’s go. And remember, if you don’t understand anything at all – just hang in there because all will be explained in the fullness of time.

Let’s go. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome onto the stage again, the one and only, Mr Tim Vine – let’s hear it for Tim Vine everybody! Take it away Tim!!!

Full video: Tim Vine – One Night Stand

313. British Comedy: Tim Vine

In this episode we’re going to listen to some stand-up comedy by a popular British comedian called Tim Vine, which should be pretty challenging because he tells lots of puns and fast jokes.

But before that, I just want to tell you about a new competition that I’m launching today for listeners to this podcast. This is the Luke’s English Podcast photo competition. See below for all the details, to download this episode and to watch a video of Tim Vine.

[DOWNLOAD] [LISTEN TO PART 2]
The LEP Photo Competition
It’s been a great year for Luke’s English Podcast with loads of new episodes. All kinds of things have happened this year and I’ve talked about a lot of them on the podcast. I’ve had lots of responses from you my listeners and the podcast is still going from strength to strength in terms of audience numbers.

One of the things that’s made it great for me is that I have such awesome listeners all over the planet. It’s great for me to imagine people listening to my podcast in different situations, in different places all over the world. But I’d like to do more than imagine those situations, I’d love to actually see them. I think it would be really cool if you, the listeners of this podcast, could all share photos of your surroundings while listening to LEP.

Maybe you’re on a bus or train, maybe in your car, maybe just walking around, maybe you’re at home with your pets or a cup of tea, maybe you’re climbing a mountain, maybe you’re on the international space station orbiting the earth or something.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing – send me your photos. I want you to take a photo that shows the situation you’re in while you listen. Now, you might think “Nah, you don’t want to see a picture of my surroundings…” Yes, I do! Even if you think it’s boring – I want to see it. If you’re on the bus, take a pic of the bus or your view from the window. If you’re walking along a street, take a pic of the street so we can see what it looks like. If you’re on an alien spaceship listening to this from outside the earth’s atmosphere, send me a photo of the spaceship or your view of earth from a distance. Just take a picture of what you can see while you’re listening.

There’s just one rule – the photo has to contain something that shows you’re listening – so include in the photo the LEP logo or some headphones or a screen with the logo on it or some other indication that you’re listening. You don’t have to include a picture of yourself, but you can if you want to. It’s up to you. The main thing is – I want you to show us something that you can see in your surroundings while you listen to LEP and your photo should contain something that proves you’re listening. So if you’re taking a photo of the street, or the view from your hike in the mountains, make sure there’s a headphone in the photo or the LEP logo or even you listening. Yes, just a headphone in the photo is enough for me.

Send your photos by email to podcastcomp@gmail.com. Closing date for photos is Friday 15 January at midnight London time.

When I’ve collected all the photos, I’ll put them all up on the website and you all the LEPsters can vote for their favourite. Then I’ll pick 3 winners. The top winner will get an LEP mug plus another gift of their choice (another mug, a t-shirt or a bag). The two runners up will get LEP mugs. 

OK, so start taking some photos to show us what it’s like where you are while you’re listening to the podcast. Feel free to get creative! Just make sure you insert something in the photo to show that you’re listening. I want it to be a real picture, not a faked one. OK!

Mailing list
From messages I receive it seems that some of my listeners just can’t wait for me to upload new  episodes and they keep going to my page to see if there’s new content there. You should join the mailing list and then you’ll get an email whenever I post a new episode on the website. On my website near the top on the right there’s a field that says “Subscribe by email” just enter your email address there and click confirm.

Top 10 countries this week (number of ‘plays’ in the last 7 days)

Russia 12254
Japan 10443
China 10428
Spain 7434
United Kingdom 6175
Germany 5588
Poland 4740
United States 4570
Italy 4068
South Korea 3038

Do you want your country to go up in the list? Tell your friends!

British Comedy: Tim Vine
Tim Vine is a British stand up comedian who is famous for doing lots of one-liners. He’s one of the UK’s favourite stand-up comedians. His jokes are all clean and family friendly with no rude language or explicit content. He’s a self-deprecating cheeky chappie who makes everyone laugh. The thing that makes Tim Vine different to other comedians is that he always does a succession of one line jokes in his performances. It’s just joke after joke after joke and often they don’t relate to each other at all, it’s just a relentless and rapid stream of unrelated gags and puns.  British audiences love him, but I wonder what you’ll think of his comedy.

I think to an extent, his comedy is quite challenging for non-native speakers of English. By that I mean that he’s the sort of guy that, if you’re a learner of English, you’ll be watching TV with a group of native English speakers, and Tim Vine will come on TV, and all the native speakers (let’s say youre with an English family or some English friends) all of them will suddenly say, “Oh, I love Tim Vine, he’s soooo funny, you’ve got to check this out, you’ll love this, all his jokes are so clever – they’re all based on double meanings and word play, you’ll love it.” You then watch his set, and he tells joke after joke after joke, the audience on TV is loving it, the other people in the room are all laughing, but to you he’s just saying lots of really quick little sentences without pronouncing the words properly, and he’s acting like a total amateur, and he looks all shy and apologetic on stage, and you think – I can’t believe these English people find this guy so funny, what’s wrong with everyone. Or, what’s wrong with me?

There’s nothing wrong with anyone of course, it’s just a language and culture gap that might stop you from enjoying his jokes, and it’s a big pity because there is a lot of joy and pleasure to be gained from watching Tim Vine do comedy.

So, in this episode I’m going to do something a bit ambitious – I’m going to try to help you understand and enjoy one of Tim Vine’s comedy performances. We’re going to listen to about 10 minutes of Tim Vine’s act, and then I’ll break it down and help you understand exactly what he’s saying and why the audience is laughing. If you laugh at his jokes too – fantastic, that’s wonderful. If laughter happens, then success has been achieved. If laughter doesn’t happen – no problem, we’ll still have success because I will explain the language and you’ll learn some really natural English.

I expect that while we listen to Tim Vine some of you will start thinking – this just isn’t funny. Well, let me just say – Tim Vine definitely is funny and many many people agree with that. In fact, I think that  The only reason someone won’t find him funny is because they just don’t get the jokes. He’s not offensive, he’s not rude, he’s a lovely man who just wants to make people laugh. There’s no other reason for not liking him other than the fact that you don’t understand his jokes.

A few facts to prove my point: Tim Vine is the holder of the Guiness World Record for most jokes told in an hour. He told 499 jokes. The criteria for the record is that the jokes received a laugh from the audience. So, 499 jokes got laughs in one hour. That’s over 8 jokes a minute.

He has won the “Joke of the Year” award twice. That’s the prize for the best joke at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

My Mum and Dad are both huge fans of Tim. They went to see one of his live shows, and absolutely loved it. And, you should know that my parents have exceptional taste in most things.

Now, if those three things don’t convince you that Tim Vine is funny, then I don’t know what will.

Alright, so now we have agreed that Tim Vine is definitely funny, and that if you don’t find him funny then it’s almost certainly because of the language and cultural gap – let’s listen to Tim telling some jokes and then we’ll work on closing that linguistic and cultural gap. Hopefully the result will be that your understanding of English will be significantly raised in the process, even if it requires a bit of work. In fact, this could be the perfect test – teach – test model for learning English.

I’m not saying that you’re not going to understand any of this – I’m sure many of you will get a lot of the jokes without any problem, but honestly I think that if you’re not proficient at English you’ll struggle to get them. And watch out – don’t assume you’ve understood the joke because you understand the words. There’s always a double meaning.

So, let’s go.

Let’s now listen to the first 3 minutes of Tim Vine’s stand up routine from a show called One Night Stand, which is a popular stand-up comedy show on a British TV channel called Dave.

Stop listening after Tim’s song called “It’s easy”.

Then go back through the jokes one by one. If you already got these jokes, then sorry if I’m telling things you already know.

Cultural point: Tim knows, and the audience knows, that the jokes are pretty stupid and crap. On their own they have pretty much no value. But when the jokes come one by one, relentlessly, so fast they build into a rhythm. You don’t get a chance to think about how silly they are, you just laugh at the pun and the next one comes along immediately. That  part of the enjoyment – and if you don’t understand them, or if you think about the individual jokes too much, that can kill the fun. So, analysing the jokes like this is probably the best way to KILL the humour, but anyway…

Now, you should watch the whole video on the page for this episode. You should do that so you can actually see Tim performing the jokes, including the expressions on his face and everything.

That’s it! Remember – don’t give up even if it’s difficult.

And, remember, the force will be with you, always…

Tim Vine – One Night Stand

The video is no longer available – it was removed from YouTube. :(

Tim Vine’s jokes – explained

A listener called Viviane sent me a list of all the jokes in this episode, with explanations. Here they are.

1. Let’s hear it for my internal organs,
let’s hear it for = invite the audience to applaud
Tim plays his body as you hear the sound of an organ. “organ” has two meanings – something in your body (e.g. your liver or kidneys) and a musical instrument.

2. This bloke said to me: “I’m gonna dress up as a small island off the coast of Italy.”
I said: “Don’t be so silly. (Don’t be Sicilly.)”

3. I think a parachute jump is the scariest thing that I have ever, ever… refused to do.
(You expect him to say “that I’ve ever, ever done.”)
Actually I once did the parachute jump. They got you attached to the instructor, and you jumped out of it together. So in this airplane, they attached me to this bloke, and we jumped out, and it was really frightening, because half way down, he asked me “how long have you been an instructor?”

4. But we’ve all heard the theory that people look like their pets. Well tonight I’m going to test this theory out. You, sir, have you got a llama(秘鲁 骆马)?
The suggestion is that the person looks like a llama.
Just so you know, whoever sitting there I always say “have you got a llama?”, I just got lucky tonight.

5. I went to Sooty’s barbecue, and had a Sweep steak.
hand puppet bear, Sweep is Sooty’s best friend. He’s a dog.
a sweepstake = a sort of bet in which you can win all the money
The suggestion is that Tim ate Sooty’s best friend. This joke isn’t very good because the situation doesn’t make sense. Why would he have a sweepsteak at a barbecue?

6. I met the man who invented the window sills, what a ledge! (what a ledge/legend)
A window sill is a type of ledge.
“What a ledge!” is a way to say that you think someone is brilliant, or a legend.

7. This antique dealer came up to me. He said, What do you think of the Chinese Dynasty? I said, it was very badly dubbed.(配音)
Dynasty: a famous American TV show during the 1980s.
This is because most of the Chinesr movies, for example, kungfu movies from the 80s were always very badly dubbed, so the movement of the person’s mouth and the voice you’ll hear would be completely out of synchronization.

8. I said, I would open a shop in Saudi Arabia. He said, Dubai? (Do you buy?) I said, yeah, and sell!

9. My grandfather was a very controversial artist, he designed the lion in Trafalgar Square. It doesn’t sound very cutting edge, but at the time, it really put the cat amongst the pigeons.
Cutting edge: innovative
Put the cat amongst the pigeons: totally upset the situation.
Trafalgar Square is famous for having lots of pigeons.

10. Someone said to this New Zealand bloke, I’m going to a Swidish furniture shop. He said, Does it look like I care?(IKEA)
“I care” and “IKEA” sound quite similar in a Kiwi accent.

11. I’m going to buy some furniture polish (comes in an aerosal can).
He said, “Pledge?”
I said, “I will give you my word.”
pledge: a brand name. It also means  = to promise

12. You probably think this was all very well, but when do we get to sing with you Tim? The answer is now.
I might be totally deaf, I never thought I’d hear myself say that! (“I never thought I’d hear myself say that” means “I’m surprised that I’m saying that” but it also means that he’s surprised to actually hear himself saying it because he might be deaf.

~It’s easy.~ (It sounds like the introduction to the song, but then you realize that that’s the song. Songs typically will lay down a theme, the introduction will probably be about 4 bars long)

13. This song is called Subtraction, take it away! (What you say in a performance before a song, Let’s start the song!) Hit the music please!
“subtraction” is also the act of subtracting numbers in maths, or ‘taking things away’.

14. ~It’s easy~
Blimey that was hard work, wasn’t it? (so, it wasn’t actually easy)

15. Bnag! That’s bang out of order.
“That’s bang out of order” is what you say when someone is behaving in an unacceptable way.
He’s also talking about the word “BNAG” which is the word “BANG” but with the letters in the wrong order.

16. I don’t know why I put myself through this. (Tim has taken a piece of cardboard, and put his head through the hole.)
To put yourself through something = force yourself to have a difficult experience
He is also literally putting himself through a piece of cardboard.

17. Hello, My name is Bruce Willis, and I was in a diehard film, I shoot people and people shoot back at me. Yes, I am BruceWillis, I was in The Sixth Sense, I am a film star. I’m Bruce Willis. Sorry, I think I might give you the wrong impression.
To give someone the wrong impression = to make someone think the wrong thing about you.
Also “to do an impression” means to copy the voice of someone.
In this joke he has copied Bruce Willis, but with the wrong voice. He’s given us the wrong impression.

18. So I went to the binocular shop. I’ll tell you what, they saw me coming.(“They saw him coming” = They gave him a bad price, they ripped him off – but they literally saw him coming because of the binoculars)

19. Of course, binoculars is plural, and the singular is — telescope!

20. But I love language.
Does every sentence have to contain a vegetable?
I said, “Not nece-celery.”
“Necessarily” can sound like it contains the word “celery”, which is a vegetable.

21. And then there is the word “mortar” 石灰/迫击炮. Mortar has two different meanings, as I discovered when the house I bought exploded.
Mortar = the stuff that attaches the bricks to each other. “bricks and mortar”
Mortar also means a kind of weapon which launches a grenade into the air.

22. So I went down to the local pub.
“Do you like the local jokes?”
“Yeah, me too. They are right up my street.”

affirmative: It’s right up my street. = It’s my kind of thing.
Negative: It’s not my cup of tea.

23. I walked in, there was a very drunk man slumped in a chair. He looked at me and said what do you do for a living? I said, comedian. He said, “I admire anyone who can stand up…”(leave it hanging)

We expect him to say that he admires anyone who can stand up and try and make people laugh, but this man is drunk and he just admires anyone who can just stand up.

24.I said, “I bet you can’t name a single subject I don’t have a joke about.”
You said, “Beavers.”
I said, “Damn” (Dam = a house made by a beaver on a river)

25. I did a gig the other day, and it went very badly. Yeah cheers. And I walked out of stage, and all I could hear was one person clapping. And then I remembered, I was wearing flip-flops 人字拖.

26. I did a gig the night before to a whole bunch of reindeers, and I slayed them!

In comedy, when you make the audience laugh, you can say you kill/slay/smash the audience.
A slay is also a kind of large sled or vehicle that a reindeer would pull, like the kind of thing that Santa uses. So “slay” has two meanings.

27. But you know, the first job I’ve ever had was playing the back part of a pantomime Wasp, and I thought I was the bee’s knees.
the bee’s knees = fantastic
He also thought he was literally the bee’s knees (because he was wearing the back part of a wasp costume, and wasps look like bees)

28. Do you know the other day I got lost in the jungle. Luckily I had a compass 罗盘/圆规 with me, so I was able to draw a perfect circle with a pencil.
“compass” has two meanings – a device for navigation, and a device for drawing perfect circles.

29. A small blue garden bird made of mahogony! It’d be great if I had a related joke, wouldn’t it? (wooden tit)
Tit is the most common kind of garden bird in the UK. (Look at the tits!)

30. ~Waiting can sometimes be lots of fun~ (Every time you expect him to sing, he doesn’t.)
~But not always~

31. Do you know I have a friend who always takes the mickey out of me for having a “pay as you go” phone, who’s always go like “~You’ve got a pay as you go phone~” So eventually I took out a contract, and had him killed.

In the UK, you’ve got two kinds of phone contract: pay as you go (lower status people who don’t have much money), and monthly contract (don’t need to top up your credit)
take out a contract: to ask an assassin to kill sb.

32. So I said to this bloke: “Me and some friends were just talking about you.”
He said, “You disgust (discussed) me.”
I said, “Yes we did.”

33. He said, “Next time you are asleep I’m going to wake you up!”
I said, “That’s disturbing.”
disturbing his sleep, but also disturbing in an emotional way meaning worrying.

34. (visual joke) I’ve nearly finished filling in my CV, it’s got a little bit there.
fill in a CV = complete your CV
fill in = fill something with colour

35. I think my worst invention was this rubber band wind chime 风铃. All right, pipe down.

36. Ladies and gentlemen, I will leave you with this. (meaning “I will say this and then I will leave”. But as he said that, he had his hand on the microphone stand) Because I’ll be honest with you, it doesn’t belong to me, I don’t bring it with me.

37. I was standing on the beach, I walked into the wave holding a tub of Taramasalata ( a kind of dip), and a man said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m taking a dip in the sea.”
take a dip: take a short swim
a dip also means a sort of sauce

38. I was steering a yacht with my stomach muscles — ab sailing!
abseiling means climbing down a mountain backwards via a rope

39. This farmer came up to me and said, “I got 68 sheep, can you round them up for me?” I said, “Sure, 70.”
to round up some sheep = to collect all the sheep together into a group
to round up a number = to raise or lower the number to the nearest round number. E.g. 4.9 – round it up to 5

40. But I’m going to be honest with you, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think I’m going to do this job for much longer. (the audience goes “aahhhh” in sympathy and disappointment) Not enough of you and too long a pause. But what concerns me is that one day, I’ll wind up an old man… and he’ll attack me.

I’ll wind up an old man = I’ll end up being an old man
I’ll wind up an old man = I’ll make an old man angry

 

266. Telling Jokes in English (Part 3)

This is the third and final episode in this series on jokes. In this one we’re going to consider the psychology of puns, hear an old tape recording of my brother and me telling jokes when we were children, and you’ll also get lots more gags and their explanations.

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[DOWNLOAD] [PART 1] [PART 2]
The Psychology of Puns
Why do we tell jokes? Is it all just fun, or is there something deeper and more psychological going on here? Let’s listen to a clip.
This is a clip from Tim Vine’s DVD ‘So I Said To This Bloke’ about the psychology of puns. Tim Vine (winner of the joke of the year) talks to a psychologist called Ingrid Collins about why we like puns.
Three questions:
1. Why do we tell puns? (two reasons)
2. What’s the condition she mentioned?
3. Why did the audience laugh a couple of times?

Answers
1. For two reasons. One is for the sheer joy of surprise, silliness and the joy of showing up our language in all its light and shade. Secondly, people use puns because they want to avoid talking about more serious things – emotional issues, fear of intimacy etc.
2. The condition is called paronomasia and a person who suffers from this is a paronomasiac.
3. The audience laughs a couple of times because, of course, Tim Vine makes a couple of jokes. The first one is a joke about the word paronomasiac. Para (like parachute) mosaic (a pattern) – he says; “A paronomsiac – as opposed to someone who like parachutes and strange patterns, a paranomosaic.” This is a made up word, and a pun which he came up with on the spot. The psychologist is not impressed, and just says “yes” – in fact we sense that the psychologist is probably judging him and maybe considers him to have paronomasia. Also: “Black beauty – he’s a dark horse”

Round 2 – yet more bad jokes!
11. What do you call a Saudi Arabian dairy farmer?
A milk sheik

12. Why can’t ants go to church?
Because they’re in sects.

13. Man walks into a bar with a piece of tarmac under one arm and says…
I’ll have a drink please and another one for the road.

14. Two fish in a tank, and one of them said…
How do you drive this thing?

15. Why did the scarecrow win the nobel prize?
He was outstanding in his field.

16. A policeman was standing by the side of a road watching traffic. He saw a bus drive past full of penguins, so he stopped it.
“Why is your bus full of penguins?” he asked the driver. “I found them all by the side of the road, they must have escaped” said the driver. “Well take them to the zoo!” said the policeman. “All right” said the driver, and drove off.
A couple of hours later the policeman saw the bus again, it was still full of penguins and now they were all eating ice-creams. He stopped the bus again and said to the driver – “I thought I told you to take them to the zoo?”
The driver said “I did take them to the zoo, and now we’re going to the swimming pool”.

17. Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?
Because they taste funny.

18. A man walking down the streets sees another man with a very big dog. One man says to the other, “Does your dog bite”, the man replies “No my dog doesn’t” The man pats the dog on the head and it bites his hand off. The man says “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite” and the other man says “Yes. Thats not my dog”.

19. Why do Marxists like to drink fruit infusions?
Because all proper tea is theft!

20. What’s ET short for?
Because he’s got little legs.

My Brother and me telling jokes when we were kids
Here’s an old recording from when I was about 6 years old of my bro and me telling jokes. The jokes are listed below. I was a bit young to be able to tell the jokes properly, and I found it hilarious to get the jokes wrong. Nothing has changed really…


Here are the jokes from the recording
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Doctor
Doctor Who?
That’s right!

Why did the fly fly?
Because the spider spider (because the spider spied her)

Doctor doctor I feel like a pack of cards
Sit down and I’ll deal with you later

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Cows go
Cows go who?
Cows go moo not who!

What did the cat do when it got to the motorway?
Meeeeooow!

– get your (py)jamas on

Louis CK talks about a joke written by his daughter
The point is that he loves his daughter’s joke because it is unexpected, and because he can imagine the situation. It’s a funny situation with no explanatory punchline. Normally this kind of joke has a contrived opening because it is leading to a punchline with a double meaning. His daughter’s joke just has a contrived setup, but no punchline, which is actually more surprising and therefore more satisfying! I’ll let Louis explain it.

Who didn’t let the gorilla into the ballet?
Just the people who were in charge of that decision.
(this is a sort of anti-joke made up by a child who doesn’t really understand the rules of jokes, which makes it funny to Louis)
For more jokes written by kids, click here.

Round 3
21. Did you hear about the ice-cream man? He was found dead in his ice-cream van, covered in chocolate sauce and pieces of hazelnut.
The police said that he had topped himself.

22. What lies on the bottom of the ocean and shakes?
A nervous wreck.

23. Q – what did the grape say when the elephant trod on it?
A – Nothing, it just gave a little wine.

24. A man walks into a bar and is about to order a drink when he notices Van Gogh in the corner. He calls over, “Hey, Van Gogh! Want a drink?” and Van Gogh replies, “No thanks. I’ve got one ‘ere.”

25. There were two cows in a field. One said “moo”, the other one said “I was going to say that!”

26. Patient : “Doctor I keep hearing “The green, green grass of home” in my head. Doctor : “That’s called the Tom Jones Syndrome”
Patient : “Is it common ?”
Doctor : “It’s not unusual”

27. Two aerials met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony was rubbish but the reception was brilliant.

28. A horse walks in to a bar. The bartender says: “Why the long face?”

29. A bear walks into bar. He goes up to the barman and says “Can I have a pint of beer and … … … and a packet of crisps?”.
The barman says, “yes… but why the big paws?

30. A Buddhist monk walks up to a hot dog vendor and says “Make me one with everything.”
Jokes3PODPIC

265. Telling Jokes in English (Part 2)

This is part 2 in a short series on jokes. In the last one we considered some of the social codes around joke telling, including when, why and how we should tell jokes and respond to jokes. I suggest that you listen to that if you haven’t already done so. [CLICK HERE FOR PART 1]

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Introduction
In this episode we’re going to look at some typical joke structures, consider what makes a joke funny, and then I’m going to tell you lots of jokes. So, more entertaining and useful listening practice, with some jokes you can learn and share, and plenty of vocabulary teaching too. Again, there might be a part 3 to this episode, depending how long it is.

Just a reminder: This episode is all about jokes, but even if you don’t laugh at any of these jokes (many of which are, admittedly, quite bad jokes!) that is fine – because you’re learning lots of vocabulary. Perhaps, if you don’t get the jokes the first time, after you’ve understand the vocabulary, you can listen to these episodes again, come back to the jokes and see if any of them strike you as funny on a second listen. Also, I don’t expect you to remember all of these jokes, but you could pick a couple of jokes that you like, learn how to say them, and then share them with a couple of English-speaking friends. But be prepared to explain the jokes if nobody understands!

What are some typical joke structures?
Usually it’s this:
Question (setup)
“I don’t know” (response)
Answer (punchline)

e.g.
Why didn’t the ghost go to the dance?
– I don’t know
Because he had no body to go with.
Ha ha.

There are plenty of other joke types
Here’s a short list of examples

Knock Knock Jokes
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Luke
Luke who?
Luke through the window and you’ll see.

Doctor Doctor Jokes
Doctor doctor I feel like a bell
Well, take these pills and if they don’t work just give me a ring.

‘What do you call a…?’ jokes
What do you call a deer with no eyes?
No idea.

What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?
Still no idea.

‘What’s the difference between…?’ jokes
Q. What’s the difference between a tennis ball and the Prince of Wales?
A. One is thrown to the air and the other is heir to the throne.

Shaggy dog stories
E.g. the pink gorilla story

Light bulb jokes
How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
None – the light bulb will change when it’s ready.

‘A man walks in to a bar’ jokes
A man walks into a bar…
and bangs his head.
It was an iron bar.

A man walks into a bar, sits down and orders a pint.
There’s a pianist in the corner, playing a song. The pianist has a monkey dancing on top of the piano.
As soon as the man’s drink arrives, the monkey jumps up, runs along the bar, pulls out its willy and pees into the man’s pint of beer.
Furious, the man walks over to the pianist and says “Do you know your monkey’s just pissed in my beer?”
The pianist says, “No I don’t, but if you sing the melody I’m sure I can pick it up”.

‘An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman’ jokes (pretty old-fashioned and a bit racist)
An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman are lost in the desert and their jeep breaks down. They’re going to have to walk. The Englishman takes the bottle of water, so if he gets thirsty he can drink it. The Scotsman brings a hat, so if the sun shines he can protect himself. The Irishman takes the car door and says “If it gets too hot I can wind down the window.”
– yes, the premise is that Irish people are stupid. It’s old-fashioned and a bit racist, as I said.

What makes a joke good?
It’s all a matter of taste. It’s completely subjective. There is no universal ‘best joke’ because different people with different tastes will laugh at different things at different times. In fact, the jokes which are totally safe and inoffensive will often be quite crap and boring. They lack any real punch, admittedly like a lot of the dad jokes in this episode. But there are certain things that will make a joke better – clever word play with double meanings of words being exploited, a bizarre or curious situation, the way the joke is told with correct timing, intonation, naturalness etc. There are also themes or subjects which will appeal to a wide audience, helping your joke get a better response from more people. These all help, but ultimately it’s a question of subjective personal taste.

The LaughLab Experiment
A study was done by a British scientist called Professor Richard Wiseman to discover the funniest joke in the world. The experiment, the results of which have been published on a website called laughlab.co.uk, went like this: People were invited to enter their favourite jokes into the website. Then other people from different countries around the world were asked to sign in, read the jokes and then rate the one they found the funniest. 40,000 jokes and 1.5 million ratings were received by the study. Do you want to know the joke? Here we go: (text reproduced from Prof Richard Wiseman’s website. Listen carefully. Do you get it?

The winning joke

After much careful scrutiny, we finally found the joke that received higher ratings than any other gag. Here it is:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses and falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy gets out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?”. The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”
There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?” 

This joke was submitted by Gurpal Gosall, a 31 year old psychiatrist from Manchester in the UK. He told LaughLab:

“I like the joke as it makes people feel better, because it reminds them that there is always someone out there who is doing something more stupid than themselves.”

The joke is interesting because it works across many different countries, appeals to men and women, and young and old alike. Many of the jokes submitted received higher ratings from certain groups of people, but this one had real universal appeal.

Also, we find jokes funny for lots of different reasons – they sometimes make us feel superior to others, reduce the emotional impact of anxiety-provoking events, or surprise us because of some kind of incongruity. The hunters joke contains all three elements – we feel superior to the stupid hunter, realise the incongruity of him misunderstanding the operator and the joke helps us to laugh about our concerns about our own mortality.

What do you think? Did you get it?

Let’s hear a short extract from a documentary about jokes produced by the History Channel. It’s presented by an American comedian called Louis Black. In this extract he meets Professor Wiseman and they talk about the LaughLab study and the joke that won. As you listen, just consider this question: What does Louis think of the joke? What’s his opinion?

What did Louis Black think?
He thought it was a bad joke, and that there is no such thing as “the funniest joke in the world” because all humour is subjective. What’s funny to one person will not be funny to the next guy, and so on. It’s your humour, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The only way to find out what is funny, is to actually go out and tell jokes and see what makes people laugh.

So, with that thought in mind, let me now tell you some jokes. If you don’t understand them, don’t worry – I will explain them all afterwards.

JOKE LIST 
I’ll read all these jokes to you, then explain them afterwards. I think I’ll read out 10, and then explain those, and then do the next 10 and so on…

How Many Jokes Can You Understand?
If you like, you can count how many of the jokes you get. If you get a joke, you get one point.
So, count how many jokes you get.
9/10 or 10/10 = You will probably laugh at anything, and you’re probably on drugs.
6-8/10 = well done! Either your English is brilliant or you just have a natural sense of humour.
4-6/10 = not bad! Jokes are difficult to understand, and if you got 50% that’s actually a very good score.
2-4/10 = Don’t worry too much if you didn’t understand many of the jokes – don’t feel bad, but I think you should watch more comedy in English.
1/10 = Never mind! Listen to this episode again to build up your vocabulary, and I expect you’ll understand more of the jokes. Don’t forget, I’m going to explain them afterwards.
0/10 = hello? Are you alive? – Just kidding. It’s quite normal if you didn’t find any of these jokes funny. Remember, understanding jokes and laughing at them is very hard in another language.

So, just laughing at a couple of these jokes is enough. I don’t expect you to laugh at them all. Just focus on understanding the meaning. If you laugh, that’s a bonus.

You Should Practise Saying the Jokes Too
Also – remember that the delivery is important. I suggest you practise telling these jokes yourself. Listen to the way I say them (I hope I’ll say them correctly) and try and copy the rhythm, intonation and sentence stress. Notice which words are emphasised and how. That’s important. You can read all these jokes on the page for this episode.

Round 1 (and yes, I know these jokes are really cheesy!)
1. Why was 6 afraid of 7?

Because 7 8 9.

2. What’s brown and sticky?
A stick.

3. A man walked into a bar and said “Do you have any helicopter crisps?”
The barman said, sorry we only have plane crisps.

4. What do you call a fly with no wings?
a walk

5. What do you call a fly with no wings and no legs?
a crash

6. What do you call a man with a car on his head?
Jack

7. How much fun do monks have?
Nun.

8. What do you call a blind dinosaur?
Doyouthinkhesaurus.

9. What’s black and white and red all over?
A newspaper in the bin.

10. A: My dog’s got no nose.
B: How does it smell?
Awful
Jokes2PODPIC
PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW AND SHARE YOUR JOKES!

264. Telling Jokes in English (Part 1)

This episode is all about telling jokes, not as a comedian on stage, just in your normal life. Telling jokes is something that everybody does, in countries and cultures all around the world. We all love to make jokes, hear jokes and have a bit of a laugh. For me, jokes are fun and fascinating but I know that for non-native speakers of English they are also notoriously difficult things to manage. If English isn’t your first language, it can be difficult to understand jokes, find them funny, and also to be able to tell them effectively.

[DOWNLOAD] [PART 2] [PART 3]
Contents of this Episode
So, in this episode I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about jokes in English, and that includes these things:
What is a joke? (as if you didn’t know)
When/why do we tell jokes?
How do we tell jokes? What are the golden rules for telling a joke properly?
What’s the normal way to respond to a joke?
What are some the typical joke structures? (so you know how to identify a joke)
What are some jokes that you can remember and share with your friends?

So this is not just going to be a guide to jokes and the way they are told,  you’re also going to hear lots of jokes too – I’m going to read out loads of jokes, and explain them to you. So that means that you’re also going to learn a lot of vocabulary during the episode – because often jokes are based on the specific meanings or double meanings of words.

Most of what I’m saying to you here is written on the page for this episode – that’s right, there’s a transcript for most of this, so if you want to read what I’m saying – you can. Just find the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.

Small Donate ButtonNot all of it is scripted because I expect I will go off script and say some spontaneous stuff too, but most of it is. That’s nice isn’t it? Yes it is. Mmm, very nice. I went to quite a lot of effort to prepare this episode in advance and I hope that’s obvious. It should be full of genuine insights. If you find it useful, you could consider making a donation by just clicking one of the yellow ‘donate’ buttons on teacherluke.co.uk. That is entirely optional and completely up to you of course! No pressure!

I expect this will be more than just one episode because it’s quite a big subject, and it’s a subject which is close to my heart so, naturally I have loads of things to say about this!

It might be the case that I do this first episode as an introduction to the subject of jokes, and then in subsequent episodes I’ll go through my list of jokes, and then explain them. That’s right, I’ve prepared a list of jokes. It’s quite a random list and hasn’t been fully tested for quality. It’s just a selection of jokes which I’ve managed to write down, or poach from other lists on the internet. I’ll tell you all those jokes either in this episode, or in separate episodes, depending on how long this all takes.

So this could be another series of episodes of the podcast. There’s so much to talk about and to share.

I’d also like to do an episode about telling jokes on stage and how to do stand up comedy, because stand-up is also a fascinating topic and one that more and more people are getting interested in. Telling jokes on stage is quite a different topic, so that’s another episode for another time.

I love jokes
I really do. I love hearing them and I love telling them. I love the way jokes exploit double meanings in language. Often a joke is based on a word that means two things at the same time, or two phrases that sound exactly the same. Or a joke might be a little story with a surprise which is revealed at the end. So jokes allow us to have fun with the little holes and coincidences that exist in languages. They’re like little language glitches – moments when your brain has to deal with a sudden change in meaning or something that has two meanings at the same time.
I love the surreal world of jokes – the way the normal rules can be broken – rules of language, but also the rules of physics, and behaviour too. Jokes often bend the rules of reality in order to make the punchline work. They lead you in one direction, and then suddenly surprise you with something completely different, and the only link is that the words sound the same.

What am I talking about? Here’s an example of a joke in which the punchline has two meanings.
A hole has been found in a nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
To get this joke you need to know that the phrase ‘to look into something’ can mean “to investigate” and also to literally “look inside”. So, someone found a hole in the wall of a nudist camp. A nudist camp is a place where people can enjoy spending time with no clothes on, in the nude. Someone found a hole in the wall and the police are investigating it, but they’re also just looking into the hole.

OK.

A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – explaining a joke kills the magic.

“Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.”

― E.B. White

 

So, explaining a joke may allow you to understand it, but the joke dies in the process – you probably won’t laugh after it’s been explained. Jokes work best when they are instantly understood. It has to be instant. This is why jokes are often lost on non-native speakers, which is a pity.

However, here at Luke’s English Podcast I have a mission – and that is to try and make you laugh while you learn, and if I can’t make you laugh I’ll certainly aim to teach you something. So even if you don’t find all of the jokes I’m going to tell you (later) funny, then that doesn’t matter, because in the end you’ll learn some double meanings and you’ll be more ready to laugh in the future, because I’m going to explain lots of jokes for you. I expect that many frogs will die during the recording of these episodes…

What was I saying? That’s it – I love jokes!

Jokes can be stupid, brilliant, pointless, dangerous, harmless, disappointing, unexpected, light-hearted, dark, bizarre, rude, intellectual or even illegal.
Jokes can be just a bit of fun, or they can be used to make serious and critical points. They can be very complex things when you examine them but ultimately, jokes are about fun and laughter – and what is wrong with that?

There are all sorts of social rules that surround the telling of jokes.
They’re little bits of language, wrapped up in culture, presented via small social rituals.
Jokes, and humour in general, are often the most difficult aspect of a language to appreciate. The ability to appreciate humour is one of the last things you gain as a language learner.
To get a joke you need to be able to hear the individual words spoken, identify them, understand them, spot the punchline, grasp the pun or word-play and then know how to react appropriately, and this all has to happen instantly. Perhaps most importantly – you need to have identified that it was a joke in the first place, and not just another couple of sentences that you didn’t really understand. It can be even harder to deliver a joke – remembering the specific words, getting the timing right, emphasising the relevant words correctly using sentence stress and intonation. Oh my god! It’s complicated.

Imagine this situation – I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. You’re in a group of people. They’re all native speakers and you’re not. One of them is speaking rather quickly but you can basically follow what’s being said – even the complex words and bits of grammar. You feel quite proud of yourself “I’m understanding all of this!”. Then the guy says something and everyone bursts out laughing, but to you it just sounded like another sentence. What’s wrong with everyone? Then it becomes clear that he just told a joke, and apparently it was a good one. “Was that supposed to be funny?” You think to yourself. Someone explains the joke to you – you think about it, you get it, but it’s just not that funny! It’s not even clever! Why did everyone laugh so much? Is everyone else weird, or is it you?

The fact is, jokes can be hard to get, and after it’s been explained to you the magic has probably gone. You’ve got to understand it 100%, and instantly. That’s why non-native speakers of English are often not very impressed by humour in English. Jokes don’t usually translate into other languages because they are based on specific sounds or similarities between words. Also the delay in understanding a joke can kill the enjoyment.

I’m not saying that non-native speakers don’t get humour in English. I know they do. Sometimes I make my students laugh a lot, although this is matched by the number of times my student don’t even identify that I’ve told a joke – is that their lack of English, or my bad jokes? A combination of the two I expect. So, even though non-native speakers clearly do laugh at a lot of things in English, I’m well aware that a lot of things are completely lost on them too.

I think that you (as learners of English) need to understand jokes – because it can help you socially, but also because you’re missing out on a lot of fun. That’s why I’ve decided to do this episode.

But don’t expect this to be a particularly funny episode! There’s nothing worse than high-expectations for a joke. If your expectations are too high, you won’t laugh. It’s like when someone says, “I’ve got a really great joke, you’re going to love this!” then the joke is never that funny. So, don’t get your hopes up. Despite the fact that this episode is all about jokes, it’s probably best if you realise at this point that there will be no laughs and no fun in this episode at all. OK?

DO NOT EXPECT LAUGHTER!

What is a joke?
It’s just anything said that is intended to produce laughter. It could be a traditional joke structure, or a comeback, a sarcastic comment or a small story or whatever. If it is intended to produce laughter, it’s a joke.

Vocabulary
There are a few words that you should know. They’re all different types of joke, or just related to jokes in some way. Here they are:
*a pun = a word joke – a short joke that is based specifically on two words/phrases that have the same meaning or sound the same. For example, “Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.”
[‘All right’ = okay, but also, ‘all right’ means ‘only the right’ – in this case, he only has a right side now because his whole left side was cut off. Yes it’s ridiculous. Yes, I like it.]
*a gag = just another word for a joke
*a shaggy dog story = a longer joke with a stupid punchline at the end (e.g. The Pink Gorilla Story or The Prawn Story)
*a one liner = a simple one line joke. E.g. “Conjunctivitis.com – now that’s a sight for sore eyes.” [Don’t get it? Don’t feel bad. Conjunctivitis = a health condition in which your eyes are infected and painful, or ‘sore’. The expression “a sight for sore eyes” = something which you are really glad to see, because you need it. e.g. “You’re a sight for sore eyes” = I’m really glad to see you (maybe because you’re attractive and nice, and I’m bored and surrounded by uninteresting people). Also “site” and “sight” sound the same. Here, ‘conjunctivitis.com is a website for people who have sore eyes. It’s literally a website for sore eyes, and I suppose it’s something you’re glad to see if you have conjunctivitis.] And if you’re in any doubt about the funniness of that joke, it won the “Joke of the Year” award in 2012. That’s an award which is given to the comedian who makes the best joke of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which is one of the world’s biggest comedy festivals. It was written by Tim Vine, one of the UK’s top comedians. Click here to read more on this story.
*a wisecrack = a clever and funny response
*a comeback = a quick response to a criticism. Winston Churchill was famous for his comebacks. “Mr Churchill, you’re drunk!” “Yes, I am. And you’re ugly. But in the morning I shall be sober. But you will still be ugly.”
or “Mr Churchill, if I was your wife I would put poison in your tea!” “And if I was your husband, I’d drink it!” etc.
*witty (adj) = to describe someone who is funny and able to make quick and spontaneous jokes.
*the setup = the first part of a joke which sets the situation and linguistic context
*the punchline = the funny part of the joke, which is delivered last. E.g. “I couldn’t quite remember how to throw a boomerang” = the setup, “but eventually it came back to me.” = the punchline. [‘come back to me’ literally means ‘return to me’ – like a boomerang does, but it also means ‘remember’]
*a dad joke = a stupid, safe and rather bad joke. The kind of thing your dad would tell you. To be honest, most of the jokes in this series on jokes are dad jokes. They’re not very dangerous or cool. They’re pretty disposable, but they’re fun, and sweet.

Where do jokes come from?
Most jokes just seem to exist in people’s consciousness and nobody knows who wrote them. They get shared orally (or maybe written in emails) and get passed around, but nobody really owns them. When I was a kid, my friends and I used to own joke books. They were compilations of jokes. You could buy these huge books filled with hundreds or thousands of ‘knock knock’ jokes. We used to go around telling them to each other. There were so many. Sometimes I heard some pretty rude jokes too – jokes that involved sexual things that as a child I just didn’t understand. That was a weird way to be introduced to some aspects of sexual depravity – within the context of a joke told by a naughty kid at school. Only later would I understand what they actually meant.
Then there are jokes which have been made up by someone, like a professional comedian – like the conjunctivitis joke. Those ones are actually owned by those comedians and used in their stage performances, and when you tell one of those jokes it’s customary to say whose joke it is – “That’s a Peter Kay joke” or “That’s a Tim Vine joke” for example. It’s a surprisingly difficult skill to be able to write really good jokes. If you can do it well, it can make you quite rich. Some of the best comedians, writers and directors started out by writing jokes for other people. For example, Woody Allen, Steve Martin and David Letterman.
Then there are original jokes made up by people on the spot. If you’re a clever you might be able to come up with jokes spontaneously – and people might consider you to be ‘really witty’ (positive) or perhaps just a ‘smart aleck’ (negative) depending on how well received your jokes or funny comments are.

Mainly in this episode we’re talking about the first category of joke – ones that lots of people know, have no ‘owner’ and which get passed around by word of mouth. As I said, I’ll be sharing loads of them with you later in this episode or perhaps in the next one.
A lot of these jokes which are shared by friends have typical structures, which most people know. Like “Knock knock” or “Doctor Doctor” jokes.
There are also social conventions around joke telling that you need to know, for example – how to tell a joke, how to react when someone tells you a joke, how to identify when someone is joking and how to respond to a joke.
For example, if someone says to you,
“What’s the difference between a photocopier and the flu?”
You shouldn’t try to guess the answer. “Err, well, one is a kind of machine and the other one is a virus. They’re really different actually. Why?”
No – this is the wrong response. The person is clearly telling you a joke. You’re supposed to say “I don’t know” and then wait expectantly for the hilarious punchline.
“What’s the difference between a photocopier and the flu?”
– “I don’t know”
One makes facsimiles; the other makes sick families.
“Haha, good one!” you say, even if it wasn’t that good.

Telling and hearing a joke is like a little social interaction with its own specific rules and conventions that you have to know. We’ll look at this more later.

What’s the point of telling jokes? Why do we tell jokes?
It’s all about laughter and how it makes us feel good. According to Helpguide.org – a trusted non-profit online service giving advice about mental and physical health, Laughter is good for your health. “Laughter is the best medicine”.
According to them:
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system.
Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. It improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

The link between laughter and mental health
Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Social Benefits
Strengthens relationships
Attracts others to us
Enhances teamwork
Helps defuse conflict
Promotes group bonding

Jokes are crap, aren’t they?
You might be thinking: “But jokes aren’t funny. I sort of hate jokes. They’re usually awful and I don’t laugh.”
Yes, true. They’re often terrible – like the bad puns that your Dad tells you, or the awful jokes you get on lollipop sticks or inside christmas crackers, but that’s part of the charm really. It’s just a bit of fun – stop taking life too seriously! Kids like them of course, because kids don’t like to take life too seriously, and because most jokes are brand new to children. Also, when you’re a kid is when you are learning about the language and discovering any double meanings can be quite exciting. For me, it’s all about having the right attitude and being ready to laugh and find things funny. If you want to laugh at jokes, you will.

When to tell jokes
I suppose the best jokes are the ones that are spontaneous (made up on the spot).
They are usually received best when they are shared in light-hearted joke telling sessions, when everyone is telling jokes. Sometimes that happens – someone tells a joke and then everyone chips in with a joke they know. Like, “I’ve got one” or “Have you heard this one?” That way you’re not forcing your joke on someone who then feels pressure to laugh at a joke they might not find funny or understand.
Be careful of using them to impress people, break the ice or to charm people, like in a business meeting or on a date. They might have the opposite effect. You have to know when to tell jokes. Normally it’s in a moment where there’s no pressure.
The best results come from comments, or responses that happen spontaneously. If people feel that a joke is too planned or contrived – like you’ve planned it for days or weeks in advance, you’ll look like a prat. So, the best jokes are just unplanned comments that happen in that moment.
So, because the funniest things are spontaneous, it’s all about having the right attitude – being open, looking for the funny side of things, being self-deprecating (laughing at yourself), being sarcastic, joking about things that everybody experiences, not picking on anyone in particular, and wanting everyone to be happy and to enjoy themselves.

Jokes are often best told privately. For example, not announcing a joke to the whole room, but sneaking up on someone and sharing it just between you both, quietly.

Jokes can be risky
You might embarrass yourself or others if the joke is not funny or if you ‘fluff it’ – say it wrong.
Watch out for the content of jokes. A lot of them are pretty rude – and I don’t just mean sexually. They often have victims, or could be very politically incorrect. You could offend people and get yourself into serious trouble, depending on the context and the joke of course.
Watch out for these things: jokes about nationalities, jokes about disability, jokes about blondes, jokes about race, sexist jokes or jokes with rude images. I realise that I’ve just deleted most of the best jokes – but the point is, don’t underestimate how offensive a joke can be. Some people might laugh, some might not understand it, and some will take it seriously and be offended. Also, in some places, jokes are outlawed, especially if they are political in nature. So – be careful when joking.
The right joke at the right time makes everything ok.
The wrong joke, told at the wrong time in front of the wrong people could land you in serious trouble.

So:
be spontaneous
don’t pick on anyone in particular – don’t victimise anyone
be prepared to make jokes about yourself
make jokes about things that everyone is experiencing/sharing

How do you tell jokes?
Perhaps the most common structure for a joke is the Question-Answer format. That means that a joke often begins with a question. It’s quite normal to just ask someone that question, and if they’re familiar with the culture of telling jokes, they will respond with “I don’t know” and then you deliver the punchline.
E.g.
“Hey, how does Bob Marley like his donuts?”
“I don’t know”
“Wi’ jam in”.
“Do you get it? ‘With jam in’ – ‘we’re jamming”
“Ha ha oh yeah, I get it! Nice one!” etc.

So, at the right moment you can just tell your joke by asking the question like that.

Sometimes you can say “I’ve got a joke for you” or “Do you want to hear a joke?” or “Have you heard the Bob Marley joke?”

Try not to say “I’ve got an absolutely hilarious joke – you’re going to absolutely love this!” – because the person will expect too much and it’s bound to be an anticlimax.

Timing is important. It also has to be really clear. It has to be comfortably and easily told.
Make sure you learn it properly! The set-up has to be exactly right, and the punchline too!
Make sure the set up is not too long. It has to give only the most crucial information for the punchline to work.
Make sure you know your joke well, because there’s nothing worse than telling a joke wrong, or forgetting the punchline. It’s the equivalent of a magic trick going wrong – you look like a fool.
Don’t expect much of a response, and don’t expect your joke to make you popular or anything. The chances are, people won’t get it, and if they do laugh, they’ll probably just forget about it, unless the person is a joke fan like you. In the right moment though, jokes can be a lot of fun. So, jokes are not worth a lot, unless you find other people who love them, and then you can share your favourite jokes together.

When telling a joke – remember it! Run the joke through your head before saying it. Don’t get halfway through the joke and then start again because you forgot it.
Make it clear and be confident. People have to be able to hear and understand what you’re saying.
Sentence stress is very important. Usually certain words must be stressed for emphasis.
Make it look quite casual. Don’t be too desperate for a response or laughter.
The best jokes are completely improvised comments made in the moment. Sometimes there is nothing better than a very carefully worded quick response to a situation. It can make everyone burst out laughing quite magically. But again – watch out because jokes can backfire. People may find it offensive, inappropriate or just pathetic.
There are risks in joke telling. You risk losing respect from people, or offending people, but the rewards are high. If you make people laugh, they will like you, and ultimately everyone can enjoy a good laugh – and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, sometimes it’s the best, most honest feeling in the world – just letting yourself go and laughing uncontrollably. It’s joyful and infections, and being able to create it is a bit like being a good wizard (not an evil one).
Choose to tell good jokes which have a proven track record. Don’t tell jokes that don’t make people laugh, even if you find them funny yourself.
Don’t tell inappropriate jokes – ones that are sexual, racist or which have a victim. Instead try to tell jokes that are universal. Rude jokes can be very funny, but be aware that they are only appropriate in certain situations, and only funny for certain people.
Don’t get all angry, upset and defensive if people didn’t enjoy your joke. You can’t bully people into enjoying themselves. Just shrug it off.
You need to make it clear when the joke has ended and when people are expected to laugh, although don’t expect it to happen.
If you’re going to make a joke, try to connect it to what’s going on at that moment.
Often the best jokes are just one line responses to things happening around you.
Jokes are often best delivered with a straight face, with an understated style. Don’t make a big song and dance out of it. In the UK we normally tell a joke quite straight. We don’t laugh at our own jokes or slap our thigh when we tell the punchline. Laughing at your own joke too much is considered a bit unattractive.
Be prepared to carry on if the joke fails to make people laugh – people might not notice! Otherwise, it’s probably worth admitting that you told a joke and nobody found it funny. Then people will feel less awkward. Sometimes when I tell jokes, nobody laughs. Then I say “that was a joke, by the way, just in case you are wondering” and that sometimes makes people laugh a little bit – maybe out of sympathy if nothing else!
I realise I’m sounding a bit modest here – it may look like I spend all my time embarrassing myself with dodgy jokes. Well, it does happen sometimes, but not all the time.

English people love humour and it’s used a lot, for a lot of different purposes – including breaking the ice, as well as establishing power structures or social hierarchies, or breaking down social hierarchies.
I’m sure it’s similar in your countries too. Kate Fox says that for the English there is no right or wrong time for humour. I know what she means, but I don’t think it’s strictly true. We love joking in many situations, and we’re always ready for a joke or a funny/sarcastic comment, but of course there is a right or wrong place for it. If you just go around making crap jokes all the time, in every situation, you’ll soon become unpopular. I suppose what Kate Fox means is that humour, rather than jokes, pervades all aspects of British life and I agree with that.
The main thing is the intention you have behind your jokes – are you doing it to make people feel happy, to bond your team, to put people at ease, or are you doing it just to draw attention to yourself at the expense of other people’s comfort? If it’s the latter reason, then it’s probably better to curb your enthusiasm a bit.
Really, being funny is more about having the right attitude – being ready, prepared and confident enough to find the funniness in anything.
It’s also about being generous – just wanting to make people laugh without spoiling the situation.
It’s not about cruelty – bullying or targeting people with humour. It’s not picking on other people too much. It is about being willing to take a joke yourself. That’s the first step.
Some people just don’t want to be a person who jokes – they’d rather be serious and expect people to take them seriously too. That’s fine of course. Personally, I think that many of us take life too seriously – and a good sense of humour and the ability to take a joke are admirable, positive qualities. It’s hard to be a genuinely arrogant person while taking a joke about yourself. It’s a good leveler. It makes people equal in status.
Really, it’s just about having an attitude for laughter and jokes. For me it’s best when it’s sort of selfless.
There’s also a love of language involved. Sometimes jokes come out of picking the right words, or playing with language.
One advantage of a good joke is that people’s guard goes down when you make them laugh. You can say some outrageous things and get away with it. Also, people will warm to you if you make them laugh. It’s charming. Good jokes are harmless (and should be).
Also, there are all the benefits of laughter.

How do you react to a joke?
The worst thing you can do is not recognise it is a joke.
It’s also bad if you don’t acknowledge that a joke has been told. You have to show that you identified it as a joke, at the very least.
Some acknowledgement is good.
Ideally you’ll laugh naturally. You could fake a chuckle but don’t go over the top. You could say “good one”, or even “that’s a good joke!” (without laughing)
If you don’t understand it you say: “I don’t get it.”
If you’ve heard it before: “I’ve heard it before.”
If you understand the joke, but don’t find it funny: You can make a noise, like you’re suffering. “Ooohhh!” or even something like “Oh my god what are you like?”
If you understand it and find it funny: laughter!
It may be appropriate then to share a joke that you have too.

End of part 1

What’s the culture of jokes in your country? 
jokes1PODPIC

My interview on the All Ears English Podcast

Hi everyone,

Today I am featured as a guest on the All Ears English podcast. In the episode you can hear me talking about comedy, humour and telling jokes in English. Click the picture to listen to the episode on the All Ears English website or use this embedded player.

Luke Episode 122-2

You might already know All Ears English. It’s a podcast produced by two American girls called Gabby & Lindsay. They’re both English teachers with lots of experience who also do a podcast for learners of English.

Recently I got a tweet from Lindsay asking if I would like to be interviewed for one of their episodes, and I was glad to accept. It’s fun to be featured on someone else’s podcast for a change. Also, it’s good to establish contact with other podcasters. It was pretty exciting to talk to the girls on Skype and find out how we have a lot of things in common even though we are from completely different countries. Because I am a comedian (as well as a teacher) they were interested in hearing my perspective on differences between British & American humour, and some of my tips on telling jokes in English. Of course, there’s a lot to say on that topic so it is something I plan to revisit fully on LEP.

Here’s a summary of my tips on how to tell jokes in English. As I said, I plan to revisit this subject fully on LEP as there is so much to say!

Luke’s advice on how to tell jokes in English:

  • Be careful about telling jokes in social situations
  • Know when it’s appropriate to tell a joke. Sometimes there might be an informal joke-telling situation with your friends. That’s a great time to try your joke.
  • Be careful about the subject of the joke. Don’t make jokes about race, age, weight, gender or sexual orientation (especially in the United States)
  • Try to tell a spontaneous joke rather than a preplanned joke. The joke is more of an attitude than a specific joke. Instead, develop an attitude that is funny and lighthearted.
  • Make sure that you know the joke well when you are telling the joke so that you don’t forget the punchline.
  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • It should sound natural.
  • Don’t laugh too much at your own joke.
  • Be prepared if your joke doesn’t work, but don’t worry about it too much.
  • Look out for more episodes on humour in social situations in the future!