Analysis of a Joke Essay Summary


Analysis of a Joke

Laughter has no boundaries, Each and every person regardless of age, sex, race, religion, social class or rank has to laugh at one point or the other. People laugh for various reasons, but no matter what the reason is, something funny must have taken place. One reason for laughter that is acclaimed all over the world is jokes.


Jokes have been used for a very long time to entertain people, but the questions that most people who tell the jokes or hear the jokes being told to them do not know the origin of jokes or why they are told. It is said that jokes were invented by a man known as Palamedes he is regarded as a hero in Greece. It is said that he outwitted Odysseus a day to the Trojan War, he is also known for a number of inventions such as the alphabet, taking of meals at regular intervals, dice, and the lighthouse.

A comedians club by the name of a group of sixty used to meet at a temple known as the temple of Heracles in the Demosthenes Athens. The group often met so as to be to exchange jokes or wisecracks after a long day at work. It is said also that the group were paid a lot of money to have their jokes written down, but the written down jokes if ever they existed can not be accounted for. In Rome however, an actor by the name of Plautus mentions jest books in a number of his plays. Even though Suetonius argues that Melissus who was the most favourite professor to Emperor Augustus compiled about 150 jokes, it cannot be found.

The only collection of jokes that can be ascertained for from ancient Greece is the Philogelos or as known in English “Laughter-Lover.”The book was possibly brought together in the 4th or 5th century, it contains about 264 jokes. Several jokes appear twice although slightly different, which suggest that the joke book was not actually one but two.  The collection of poems is attributed to two authors namely Hierocles and Philagrius. The irony is that not much is known about either of the authors, some scholars, however, have tried to reveal the true identity of the two authors. The scholars speculate that the Hierocles in question is a man who at one time was flogged in public for paganism in the town of Constantinople.


The jokes that are found in the Philogelos are very spare and pointed an example is “‘How shall I cut your hair?’ a talkative barber asked a wag.’ In silence!’ “The jokes were mainly on different characters such as a man with bad breath, miser, a sexually starved woman, and a braggart.


There was another type of joke which was referred to as the scholastikos. An example of such jokes is (“An egghead was on a sea voyage when a big storm blew up, causing his slaves to weep in terror.’ Don’t cry,’ he consoled them, ‘I have freed you all in my will.’ If one was to tell such a joke in the contemporary world it would not be considered as a joke but an insult. Some of the jokes have lost their undertones and are not considered hilarious anymore. In ancient Rome, a joke about lettuce was funny as they believed that it either enhanced or reduced sexual function.

An example of such a joke is “An egghead asked his father how much a five-litre flask holds” The joke cannot be seen as funny anymore but it was to the ancient people. The reason why the ancient people from Greece saw the joke as funny is that they believed that the Greek word lekythos translated to the flask in English was slang for penis. The joke may seem absurd to some people and many may wonder why people laughed, but back then it was considered funny. There are some jokes that were a bit out of place such as “‘I had your wife for nothing,’ someone sneered at a wag. ‘More fool you. I’m her husband; I have to have the ugly b—–. You don’t.’ ”

During the dark ages, Philogelos lost its place, but the Arab world continues to keep jokes alive. During the Arab conquest, many Arab jokes managed to find their way into Europe. A huge chunk of the jokes that were mainly satirical or at times erotic found their way into Spain and Italy.

One of the tales that found its way into Europe was the tale of An Arab man who watches fro the top of a tree as his wife is pleasured by a lover. The joke later found its way in the Decameron. The invention of printing and the growth of literacy brought about some changes on the jokes, they became much shorter. Jokes were to become famous again during the Renaissance period.


In the contemporary world, jokes are being used to reduce stress from workplaces, or even home. Many comedians have emerged with each trying to tell jokes that might turn out to be the most hilarious. In every country, there are various television stations that broadcast programs that are jokes related. In his book   “titled Stop Me if You’ve Heard This” Jim Holt tries to explain the different theories of jokes and the reasons why certain jokes belong to a particular group and not the other. Most people cannot, however, tell which class or type a joke is, the book by Jim Holt gives a guideline on how to identify the various types of jokes. The following is a joke that I was able to find from the internet.



“A store that sells husbands has just opened where a woman may go to choose a husband from among many men. The store is composed of 6 floors, and the men increase in positive attributes as the shopper ascends the flights.

There is, however, a catch. As you open the door to any floor you may choose a man from that floor, but if you go up a floor, you cannot go back down except to exit the building.

So a woman goes to the shopping centre to find a husband.

On the first floor the sign on the door reads:

Floor 1 – These men have jobs.

The woman reads the sign and says to herself, “Well, that’s better than my last boyfriend, but I wonder what’s further up?” So up she goes.

The second-floor sign reads:

Floor 2 – These men have jobs and love kids.

The woman remarks to herself, “That’s great, but I wonder what’s further up?” And up she goes again.

The third-floor sign reads:

Floor 3 – These men have jobs, love kids and are extremely good looking.

“Hmmm, better,” she says. “But I wonder what’s upstairs?”

The fourth-floor sign reads:

Floor 4 – These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking and help with the housework.

“Wow!” exclaims the woman, “very tempting. BUT, there must be further up!” And again she heads up another flight.

The fifth-floor sign reads:

Floor 5 – These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking, help with the housework and have a strong romantic streak.

“Oh, mercy me! But just think… what must be awaiting me further on?” Soup to the sixth floor she goes.

The sixth-floor sign reads:

Floor 6 – You are a visitor to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please”


The joke above can be placed under the category of satirical jokes; the reason for such a conclusion is that the joke is about the behaviour of some women. The woman in the joke is very desperate for a woman and that is why she went to the shop that “sells” men. Normally when a person goes into a mall one must know what they want at the back of their minds. In this case, however, the woman is not even sure of the type of man she wants and thus undecided. And that is why she goes all the way to the 6th floor where she realizes that she has passed all the men on sale and is back to where she started. The joke also serves as an awake up call to women who do not find any man appropriate yet they are looking for men.

According to Jim Holt, the poem can be as a result of the superiority theory, whoever thought and wrote the poem was definitely trying to put the point across that men were much superior to women and no matter what or how choosy women are about men they still need them.


Jokes have been in existence for a very long time over the years however it has undergone tremendous changes. The way people tell the jokes is very different from how it was told in the early 19th century. The type of jokes have also changed, what was considered funny in the past might not be considered hilarious at the present, and what might seem funny currently might not be in the future. The length of the jokes has also undergone tremendous change, in the past most jokes were tales, but in the contemporary world, most of the jokes are short.

The reasons for telling jokes is also very vast, there are people who tell jokes to make fun of others. There are some jokes that are told so as to put a point across either positive or negative. Even though jokes were invented in Greece it has spread to all corners of the world, and different people have their own unique jokes. All jokes can be associated to a particular theory, but the most significant reason for the jokes is to make people laugh, as long as they continue doing that they will never die away.

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