Friday, August 01, 2008

That Joke Is So Old...How Old Is It?

Brothers, Sisters, and Transgendered Comedists Everywhere,

This week good brother Helmut and good brother 71 alerted me to this story.

The world's oldest recorded joke has been traced back to 1900 BC and suggests that toilet humor was as popular with the ancients as it is today.

It is a saying of the Sumerians, who lived in what is now southern Iraq and goes: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."
Yes, friends, a joke so old that John McCain hadn't reached puberty when it was first told.

It's a fart joke and a dirty joke all in one. The Sumerians were truly an advanced civilization, perhaps this is further evidence for Erich von Daniken's claims that the ancient world was visited by aliens because the odds of such primitive cultures having such advanced humorous technology strains credulity.

If that wasn't enough, good brother Bill sent me this review of Jim Holt's new book Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes.
In “Stop Me if You’ve Heard This,” his wispy inquiry into the history and philosophy of jokes, Jim Holt offers up a choice one from ancient times. Talkative barber to customer: “How shall I cut your hair?” Customer: “In silence.”
It is wonderful to see the history of humor receiving such play. For too long jokes have been degraded as not being fit for serious discussion because they are not serious. Clearly, an equivocation. Nothing is more human than jokes. Jokes are an anthropological gold mine. Almost nothing tells us more about our ancestors than what made them laugh -- it shows what they took seriously, how they used language, what were the social strata and how easily were they crossed.

Perhaps we are starting into a golden era in Comic Studies. What would be the titles of some scholarly tomes you'd like to see investigated?

"The Sound and the Fury: An Illustrated History of the Whoopie Cushion"
"Laughs in the Time of Cholera: Fake Vomit and its Historical Implications"


Live, laugh, and love,

Irreverend Steve