Will and Guy are convinced that humour, laughter and jokes have been
with us since the beginning of human life on earth, and we would like to
share some jokes with you that have an historical background.
It's easy to imagine that joke books are a modern phenomenon. Not so!
Philogelos, or 'The Laughter Lover', a book of wisecracks, was probably
compiled in the fourth or fifth century AD. Written in Greek, it contains
around 260 short jokes. Nobody knows who originally put it together or
why. A Roman stand-up's aide memoire? Or maybe a Roman Will and Guy?
Slaves! A wealthy man buys a slave, who dies
shortly afterwards, so he complains to the slave's former owner, "Hey!
That slave you sold me. He died." "Goodness me," he replies. "He never
did that when I owned him."
Credibility A man meets an acquaintance and says,
"It's funny. I was told you were dead." The acquaintance replies, "Well,
you can see I'm still alive." But the first man argues, "You must be dead
because the chap who told me you were dead is much more reliable than
Tell Your Fortune? A man who had just returned from
travelling abroad consulted an incompetent astrologer about his family.
"How are they?" he asked. "They're all fine," the astrologer replied,
"especially your father. "But he's been dead for 10 years!" exclaimed
the man. "You obviously don't know who your father is then," retorted
The Perfect Guest A boffin was invited to a dinner
party but wouldn't eat anything. "Why aren't you eating?" asked a
fellow guest. "I didn't want anyone thinking I'd only come for the
An intellectual, falling sick, had promised to pay the doctor if he
recovered. When his wife nagged at him for drinking wine while he had a
fever, he said, 'Do you want me to get healthy and be forced to pay the
An intellectual caught sight of a deep well on his country-estate, and
asked if the water was any good. The farmhands assured him that it was
good, and that his own parents used to drink from that well. The
intellectual expressed his amazement: 'How long were their necks, if they
could drink from something so deep!'
An intellectual came to check in on a friend who was seriously ill.
When the man's wife said that he had "departed", the intellectual replied:
'When he arrives back, will you tell him that I stopped by?'
A glutton betrothed his daughter to another glutton. Asked what he was
giving her as a dowry, he replied: 'A house whose windows face the
While a misogynist was paying his last respects to his wife, someone
asked him: 'Who has gone to rest? He replied: 'Me, now that I'm alone.'
A barber, an absent minded professor and a bald man go on a long
journey together and have to camp out overnight so they decide to take it
in turns to watch the luggage. The barber volunteers for the first watch
while the other two sleep but soon gets bored so he decides to pass the
time by shaving the professor's head. When his shift is up he wakes the
professor who pats his head and exclaims, 'God, that barber is a real
idiot, he's woken up baldy instead of me.'
See more barber
Ancient Humour Durability
Not all the Laughter-lover jokes stand the test of time, some involve
a scholastikos (absent-minded professor or boffin) who uses his great
intellect to reach the wrong conclusion, eg a boffin went for a dip and
almost drowned. He swore he'd never go near water again until he'd
learned to swim.
Others mock different nationalities, rather like 'Irish ' gags, eg, A
farmer from Kyme was in the market, selling honey. The customer, after
tasting it, complimented him on how good it was. "Damn right it's good,'
replied the farmer. 'I wouldn't be selling it if that mouse hadn't gone
and died in it!"
The Philgelos or "Laughter-lover" is probably the oldest
compilation of jokes in existence; it contains some 265 jokes. It is
said that the famous Monty Python Parrot sketch has its origins in a
joke told in the Philogelos.
Why were the early days of
history called the dark ages? Because there were so many knights.
It appears that shortest war on record was between Zanzibar and Britain
in 1896. Zanzibar [now part of Tanzania] surrendered after 38 minutes.
What kind of lighting did Noah use for the ark? Floodlights and Ark
Which English King invented the fireplace? Alfred the Grate.
How was the Roman Empire cut in half? With a pair of Caesars.
I'm desperately trying to establish why kamikaze pilots wore helmets.
Last words from a general in the American Civil War, 'Nonsense.
couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...............'
Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied,
'In silence.' [From the Philogelos]
What's the difference between Joan of Arc and a canoe? One is Maid of
Orleans and the other is made of wood. [The Victorians enjoyed jokes like
Wishing to teach his donkey not to eat, a pedant did not offer him any
food. When the donkey died of hunger, he said, 'I've had a great loss.
Just when he had learned not to eat, he died.' - Dated to the *Philogelos
4th Century CE]
One that almost got away: Why did Henry VIII have so many
wives? He liked to chop and change.