Ajar Thread: A Joke You Didn’t Get

Introducing the Ajar Thread. It’s like an open thread but not 100% open. Get it? Don’t forget to not be boring.

The first time I heard of The Aristocrats joke, it was right after 9-11. Through some source or the other, I found out that the guy who played Iago in Aladdin had told one such joke (NSFW audio) after having told a joke about the aforementioned tragedy. This was back when Too Soon was An Actual Thing rather than an ironic reference.

I laughed at the crudeness of the joke, but I didn’t understand the punchline. At all. I did not get why was it funny or clever. It took reading about it on Wikipedia to understand that the (weak) punchline is that aristocrats are supposed to behave properly (or a subversion of that).

My problem was my promiscuous reading habits. At the ripe old age of 11, I’d read enough about the French Revolution and The British Empire and so on to think that everyone knew aristocrats behaved badly.

What’s a joke that you never “got”? Do you still not get it? What did it take for you to get it? Do you know why you didn’t/still don’t get it?


Ajar Thread: A Joke You Didn’t Get

26 thoughts on “Ajar Thread: A Joke You Didn’t Get

  1. 1

    The first one that comes to mind is “That’s what she said!” Maybe it’s not that I don’t get the joke, but I certainly don’t get why people think that it’s funny after the 1,624,951st time.

    1. 1.1

      It’s hilarious when you can gender-swap it!

      I was smoking a bowl with a couple of guys, and my piece, my chilam was slightly clogged, and one person made a comment about it. The other suggested to “suck harder”, to which I responded, “Yeah, that’s what he said.”

      That’s What SHE Said is essentially an Orphaned Punchline that relies heavily on Innocent Innuendo being turned into a Double Entendre.

      There’s a pretty good explanation of the use and origin of this particular trope on this page.

      1. Yeah, this is one of those things where I get the theory of why, but in practice, it just annoys the ever-loving fuck out of me, partly because it’s the same joke told over and over and over again, and partly because there’s almost always an undercurrent of sneering misogyny to the joke.

        That being said, your genderfuck of it is a pretty good one. And actually funny.

  2. 2

    In Monty Python and the Holy Grail the French Knights call the English something that sounds like “Cuh Nigguts”. I first saw Holy Grail when I was really young and the word just was part of the background radiation of several jokes I didn’t get yet and just didn’t think about later. It wasn’t until I saw the movie in Spanish with English Subtitles when I was in Costa Rica that I got the joke.

    1. 2.1

      Fun fact: a linguist will tell you that “cuh niggut” is pretty close to the original pronunciation of “knight” (i.e. the “k” didn’t used to be silent). This is – as with a bajilion other things – the Monty Python guys showing their work.

  3. 3

    I still don’t find the Aristocrats funny, but I can kind of understand what they’re going for.

    It took me years to understand “to get to the other side”. I’m guessing most kids don’t get that at first.

    The joke where I really missed out, though, was from a Barenaked Ladies song, “If I Had $1,000,000”.

    “I’ll buy you some art, a Picasso or a Garfunkel”. I’d heard of Garfunkel, vaguely, as a musician famous mostly for having a short and inglorious solo career. So I figured, that’s the joke, the contrast between the legendary talent of Picasso and the faded dreams of Garfunkel.

    I first heard that song in 1993. I first heard Art Garfunkel’s full name probably a decade later, the lyrics long forgotten. And it wasn’t until 2013, in November, stuck in a waiting room with the oldies playing, that I finally understood the joke.

    Is that unboring enough?

      1. The only time I saw a clip of his on youtube it seemed to be an argument from incredulity about homosexuality in nature, which was offensive, homophobic, and anti-intellectual in equal measure. At least for as long as I was willing to watch it, so maybe he had somewhere non-horrible that his fucking ass was going with it. I wouldn’t know.

  4. 5

    I saw the documentary about The Aristocrats and remember thinking Gregg Rogell did the best one in it, but I don’t recall his version at all or much of anything else in the movie (some films just slip right thru my brain). I certainly don’t remember the explanation of the punchline.

    I got the idea that the punchline was a non-sequitur, almost like, “After all this transgression and psychic abuse, I’m giving you nothing to laugh at.” Of course, I could be wrong and usually am.

  5. 6

    My understanding is that the “humor” in The Aristocrats is not in the punchline but in how outrageous the acts are and how much the teller can drag it out.

    So the problem wasn’t your 11 year old reading habits, but not knowing that it’s not really a joke for regular folks. It’s an in-joke, a shibboleth, for comedians.

  6. 7

    Yes, but I think it still works either way. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s that funny to anyway. On the gripping hand, I’m not it’s intended audience.

  7. 8

    This isn’t so much a joke I didn’t get, as a mondegreen that led my brain in odd directions.

    There was this song that, for years, I had been mishearing the lyrics of to say, in the chorus, “The Devil Ain’t Freeze-Dried”. That is what my brain seriously heard. It was some kind of upbeat, up-tempo jazzy-rock tune, with a guy singing incoherently, and the only bits of the lyrics that I could really make out sounded, for all the world, like they were proclaiming that Satan has not been preserved by freeze-drying.

    Well, I had questions. Why was this a song? Was there ever any question about whether or not the Devil was freeze-dried? I was raised Jewish, and while I’d studied some Christian theology, I had no idea that the question of freeze-drying Satan was a part of that religious tradition’s metaphysics.

    Was this perhaps one of those obscure points of theology akin to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Or was freeze-dried Satan a major part of the eschatology? Perhaps the Seventh Seal to be opened was the freshness seal on a box of frozen, dehydrated Lucifer! So, perhaps this joyful song was all about telling people “Don’t worry, the end can’t be near yet! The Devil ain’t freeze-dried!” Kind of an obscure message of hope, I suppose, but meaningful if you knew the religio-cultural context, right?

    Fast forward to a couple of months ago, and I find out that the song is actually “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, by Bruce Springsteen*. I was so disappointed: not a thing to do with the Devil being freeze-dried, or not. Nothing to do with Satan at all. My entire hypothesis about a previously unknown area of Christian eschatology involving a cryodessicated Beelzebub was shot down, dashed to pieces on the floor of a silly mondegreen. And what do I have in its place? NO idea. I read the actual lyrics to the song, and they make no sense to me, but in a much less interesting fashion. So disappointing.

    * This explained why I had so badly misunderstood the lyrics: Bruce Springsteen has two modes of singing, slurred mumbling or incoherent shouting, and both are nigh-incomprehensible to me. I once misheard “Baby, We Were Born To Run” as “Gravy-fever corn with lumps”. Yeah, I don’t know either.

      1. Ya damn right and it’s a fun subject. I think they’re often influenced by the lyrics around them. For example, the source song: “He slew the Earl of Monterrey and laid him on the green” turned into a double homicide with “Lady Mondegreen” in part because you just gave the name of one fancy person, so if you don’t understand the next lyrics, it’s easy to turn them into another fancy person.

        A few of mine have the same principle, my misunderstanding (then original lyric):

        “Will and 23rd, we saw the thin-butt thugs
        The girlies was too skinny from smoking all those drugs”
        (Will and 23rd, we saw nothin’ but thugs
        The girlies was too skinny from smoking all those drugs)
        -Sir Mixalot, Posse on Broadway

        “Dead kids all over the ground, get some heavy rest
        Never have to worry about what is worst and what is best”
        (In that case I’ll go underground, get some heavy rest
        Never have to worry about what is worst and what is best)
        -Van Morrison, Domino

  8. 10

    In an episode of Bullwinkle that I watched as a young child, the characters find a toy boat studded with red gems, with a name written on the stern, and realize that it must be the “Ruby yacht of Omar Khayyam!”

    Then in high school I encountered the Rubaiyyat and suddenly got the joke from years earlier.

  9. 11

    It’s exceedingly rare for me to comment on blogs, but the joke I didn’t get was actually kind of a big deal for me once I figured it out.

    I grew up in a neighbourhood that was pretty much exclusively immigrants and their Canadian born children. We moved when I was twelve, and went to a school with different demographics. Pretty soon after our arrival, someone told this joke (about his friend): “Why is Anton so fast? Because he’s always running from the cops.”

    My grade seven brain nearly exploded: a) Holy shit, Anton got arrested! I wonder what for? He’s so quiet and polite! b) Anton’s fast? He’s pretty chubby and he seems to hate phys ed. Maybe he’s only good at running? That’s weird. c) It’s kind of mean that his friends tease him about getting arrested. I bet he doesn’t think it’s funny.

    Years later I heard a different racist joke, finally understood what they were saying about Anton (the only black boy in that circle of friends) and my almost grown up brain exploded.

    1. 11.1

      I’m honored you’d choose a post of mine into which to drop one of your rare comments. It’s rather endearing that you didn’t get that joke and were concerned for the subject of it.

  10. 12

    This wasn’t me, but a friend of mine. I was waiting at his place for the two of us to go out, and his little cousin, who was in French immersion, was in the room. I decided to tell her a joke, which my kindergarten teacher told me when I was a wee Indigo in immersion myself. It goes like this:
    The snail and the fox go out to buy cars together. The snail says, “I’m going to buy that car over there, and paint an S on it. Then when I drive really fast, everyone will know it’s me.”
    The fox says, “Don’t be silly. The S could stand for snake, or for squirrel, not just for snail. And anyway, snails aren’t known for going fast!”
    The snail smiles and says, “Ah yes, but when I drive fast, everyone will start cheering, ‘Little S car go!'”

    The small cousin thought this was hilarious and literally ROFLed. My friend sort of smiled vaguely. A few months later I made some mention of escargot tasting sort of like rubbery chicken, and he looked at me and went, “Oooooh! I get it now.”

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