So, there's a man crawling through the desert
May 15, 2017 2:38 PM   Subscribe

World's longest joke: Nate The Snake
posted by growabrain (41 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mentioned 4 years ago in a comment, but the link had since died.
posted by growabrain at 2:40 PM on May 15


4 years is a long time, but better late than never.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:00 PM on May 15 [28 favorites]


Tl;bntl
posted by chavenet at 3:04 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


oh for goodness' sake
posted by aesop at 3:10 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Anybody who thinks this is the longest joke in the world hasn't been stuck at a meetup with me while I drunkenly elaborate on that Norm McDonald moth bit.
posted by cortex at 3:13 PM on May 15 [24 favorites]


oh for goodness' sake
posted by aesop


Eponysterical!
posted by The otter lady at 3:21 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


Oh, that was delightful. I liked the part with the 🐍.
posted by Floydd at 3:58 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Longest joke in American English ...
posted by carter at 4:04 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Well that certainly zagged at the end.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:29 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Doesn't work for the British, we say liː.və.
posted by unliteral at 4:30 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


It drifted a little at the end.
posted by nfalkner at 4:38 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


Ok who else scrolled to the end first to read the punchline?

Also, I used to tell a version of the "Monk's Treasure" joke in similar fashion while riding the bus that time I had hour-long bus rides one year, and often was not able to finish the joke before the bus ride ended.
posted by cubby at 4:48 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


There's no upper limit to a shaggy dog joke. My friend Matt used to tell the "Benny shaved is a Benny urned" joke at epic length, my dad can elaborate for an hour on "I don't know his name, but his face rings a bell," and my son has a whole repertoire (there's one about the social status of different flavors of Cheerios that is bewilderingly surreal all the way through and then maddening at the punch line, really a perfect work of art).
posted by rikschell at 5:18 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


As a kid, I came home from a scout camp and told my father "The white knight on the white horse" joke. It took almost an hour, and he sat through it all, till the terrible punchline. He was so angry! I don't think he ever trusted me again...

I think this Nate joke is possibly longer... and could also cause family rifts, if not careful.
posted by greenhornet at 5:19 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


It's like a dyslexic wrote a shaggy god story.
posted by jonp72 at 5:53 PM on May 15 [12 favorites]


Longest joke? If Andy Kaufman turns out to be still alive, that would be the Longest. Joke. Ever.
posted by jonp72 at 5:54 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


As a wee, precocious boy I was trotted out to tell "the Hills are alive" by adults. I would love to hear everyone's shaggy dog jokes!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:56 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Despite the fact that I knew it was going to be a shaggy dog joke, I found it a genuinely captivating story.
posted by treepour at 6:03 PM on May 15 [11 favorites]


Had to Ctrl + U, and wasn't surprised by the signature after "THE END"
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:08 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


This is why I like the "Golden Phillips-Head Screwdriver" joke that I've mentioned on this site before. It's a no-upper-limit shaggy dog story but the punch-line is both abruptly anti-climactic and also fairly funny on it's own.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:09 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


(there's one about the social status of different flavors of Cheerios that is bewilderingly surreal all the way through and then maddening at the punch line, really a perfect work of art).

Wait ... is that the 'serial (/cereal) joke'?
posted by Myca at 6:11 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


My grandfather used to tell a shaggy dog story about a man in pursuit of a mysterious sex act known as a Sleever. I've seen it elsewhere as a Sleevejob. It's a sad and infuriating tale.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:13 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Ahhh. The second best joke in the English language. Though it has been posted before, what follows is - in my estimation - the greatest joke ever written. As told by Ted Cohen:

Around the turn of the century a Polish nobleman cultivated his interest in theology. He heard of a certain Jesuit theologian reputed to be the best debating scholar in all of European Christendom, and by various inducements succeeded in bringing this learned man to his estates. Near the center of the nobleman's vast holdings was a small Jewish village. The prince sent word to the village that there was to be a debate, a learned quarrel concerning theological matters, whose contending participants were to be the newly arrived Jesuit and some Jew from the village. The village was instructed to choose a champion and send him to the castle at the appropriate time.
This instruction was something of a nuisance for the village, but, as always, they thought it best to placate their Polish landholder, and so they set about deciding whom to send. While they were making this decision, another message came from the prince explaining the format of the debate.
The debate would be held, said the prince through his messenger, the traditional manner, with each participant asking a question of the other until one debater was unable to answer. This would end the debate with the asker of the question declared winner and the one who was unable to answer declared loser. Furthermore, said the messenger, the loss would be emphasized, again in the traditional manner, by the prince's axman, who would decapitate the loser.

The villagers apprehended this new message with considerable alarm. Preferring not to risk the head of any villager, even with the possible reward of a decapitated Jesuit, they sent the prince a reply. They conceded the debate, they said: the Jesuit should be declared winner without even a contest.

Soon the prince's messenger reappeared in the village. The prince was determined that there should be a theological spectacular wherein was exhibited the superiority of Christianity to Judaism, and if there could be no civilized debate, then the prince would have to send various emissaries into the village with the purpose of carrying out a slight theological pogrom.

The village was in a hopeless quandary. The elders realized at once that unless someone was sent to debate the Jesuit, they would have more to fear than a single decapitation. But that single decapitation was a certainty: there were no men of learning in the village, no scholars, certainly no theological debaters. But someone would have to go—never to return. The elders set about casting lots among themselves to choose a martyr, but before they finished they were approached by Berl, a poor, ignorant villager who earned his small livelihood mostly through the charity of the village. "I will go," he said.

The elders were astonished, for, as one of them said, "You, Berl, who did not complete even two years of elementary Hebrew school? How could you possibly debate this Jesuit champion?"
"Yes, I know," replied the usually excessively humble but now surprisingly confident Berl, "I did not finish the second year of cheder, but I feel that I can do this."

The elders had a new quandary, another real moral problem. To accept Berl's self-nomination would be to send him to his death. But if not Berl, then who? No one from the village had a chance to prevail in any scholarly debate, and certainly not against such a fierce warrior-scholar as the priest promised to be. And if they sent no one, then the prince's minions would descend upon them all. Finally, after much discussion and even more weeping, they drew upon what little knowledge they had of Jewish law and the greater knowledge they took from fatalistic common sense and agreed that Berl would go. He assumed the task with modest pride.

On the appointed day the entire village went with Berl to the palace of the prince. There they discovered that the formal apparatus of the debate was already in place. At the head of the large hall stood a great wooden chair in which sat the prince. Ahead of him and to his right was a small table, and behind the table sat the Jesuit theologian. Ahead of the prince and to his left was another table with a chair behind it meant for Berl. Between the two debaters' tables stood a giant man, the prince's chief huntsman, and he leaned upon his immense ax.

The sight terrified the villagers and they set up a hushed wailing as they took their positions, standing, at the rear of the hall. Berl went to the chair behind his table.
The prince ordered the debate to begin. Customarily these debates begin with the flipping of a zloty coin, or some similar lot-casting, in order to decide who will ask the first question; but the priest saw at once that his opponent was a thoroughly unlearned man who could not possibly know any serious theology, and even so, the priest believed so firmly in the intellectual triumph of Christianity that he was sure he would prevail over any Jew who debated him, and so he said that he would give to the Jew the chance to ask the first question.

Berl looked into the steely eyes of his opponent and in a small, barely audible voice said, "What does this mean?- 'Ani lo yodea'?"

Perhaps you do not know what this means, but the Jesuit priest was a master of biblical languages and many other languages as well, and of course he knew that this Hebrew sentence means 'I do not know', and he said at once, "I do not know."

Alas for the priest, the axman knew no Hebrew, and when he heard "I do not know," he enforced the penalty for not knowing the answer to a question, and in a flash the head of the finest Christian theologian in all that part of Europe lay at the feet of the prince.

The prince was aghast. The assembled people, Jews and Christians, were stunned. When the Jews had recovered they ran to the front of the room, hoisted Berl to their shoulders, and made their way home to their village as fast as they could.

Once at home they went directly to the synagogue and offered countless prayers, including one improvised for the occasion, "Words of thanksgiving from those recently delivered from Jesuit theology." Afterward they repaired to the largest room in the village, in the study house, where they drank a little and sang and danced and congratulated Berl endlessly, always complimenting him on the immense subtlety of his question.

At last one of the villagers had celebrated long enough for his curiosity and courage to rise, and he approached Berl, saying, "Berl, you are a great man and your name will live forever; but I would like to ask you, master of the theological interrogation: how did you, a man who never passed through even the second year of cheder, how did you think of such a magnificent question?"

"It is true," said Berl, "that I completed but one year of cheder, but it was in cheder I learned that which saved us today. During that first year, one day the cheder was visited by a very famous man. It was Rabbi Weinstein, from Berlin, who was making a visit to our village to see an old aunt of his. The famous Rabbi Weinstein, the greatest scholar and teacher in Berlin, paid a brief visit to the cheder. When he stopped by me I was trying to read my Hebrew text. There was a sentence I could not translate, and so I said to the great scholar, "Rabbi Weinstein, please, what does this mean-'Ani lo yodea? And he said, "I do not know." Today I thought, if even Rabbi Weinstein didn't know, then surely this Jesuit priest does not know."

From: Cohen, T., 2008. Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters. University of Chicago Press. To this joke he adds the following footnote: "This masterpiece was told to me by a master teller, the late Manny Goldman, a man of great wit equaled by his wisdom and kindness."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:48 PM on May 15 [37 favorites]


I shared this with a co-worker whose name is Nate, and has somehow acquired the nickname "Snake". He hates me now.
posted by jferg at 6:51 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


The Aristocrats!
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:14 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Based on humanity's behavior lately, I'm not sure he made the right choice.
posted by TedW at 7:32 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I'm normally a big fan of lame puns and Shaggy Dog stories. But I was just so glad to have that smug-ass, annoying snake die that it completely overshadowed the punch line.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:37 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I don't get it.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:39 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


I learned this gag at scout camp probably round 1990. It was an old joke then. Less a joke really than a framework for wasting people's time around a camp fire.
posted by habeebtc at 8:05 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I read this to my kids at bedtime. They kind of love word reversal punchlines. So, fourty-five minutes later I went "BETTER NATE THAN LEVER 🎶bump da da da dump dump🎶". There was a pause while they digested it. "So," the sage elder (8) said. "He missed the lever...obviously." Obviously, because we're still here.

The six-year old, earnestly: "I don't get it."

So shorter-form from here out: "but he river only goes halfway up to my ducks!" They did think "butt" was funny because its Not Allowed In This House but strangely found no amusement in "buttocks".
posted by Ogre Lawless at 8:41 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Fuck you, clown.
posted by tzikeh at 8:48 PM on May 15 [9 favorites]


That was a really captivating story! Now I want to hear more tales of the adventures of Jack and Sammy Junior!
posted by Philby at 10:06 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I've been waiting an actual decade for the opportunity to tell my ultimate version of the monk joke. That's my favorite one of these because a.) you can throw all kinds of adventures in to stretch it out and b.) the punch line is just hanging there the whole time so that if you deliver it properly people in the audience might actually want to hit you.

In high school my friend was infamous for his rendition of the train conductor joke, which is also a good one.
posted by atoxyl at 1:28 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


I have a great fondness for the circus revenge/clown joke, particularly because the punchline is deeply unfair.
posted by Merus at 5:56 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I'm just gonna leave this here.
posted by davejay at 6:43 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


There were two from my childhood that stick with me to this day. One of them is simple enough, and if I tell you the gist you can flesh it out: an actor is so famous and in-demand that they clone him, but there's an error in the process and the resulting copy is a foul-mouthed jerk, and one day they're waiting for the elevator the doors open but there's no car inside, and the actor impulsively pushes him down the empty shaft and is later charged with making an obscene clone fall.

The other one, though ... you know how when you're a kid you sometimes tell jokes that you don't even understand? I still love this one even though to this day I remain unfamiliar with the source material / cultural knowledge required to make it funny. Again, the condensed version: There's a guy named Chan who manufactures tiki idols. Someone keeps breaking in and stealing them and all they leave are these tiny footprints. One night Chan stays up and sees that it's some gross abomination - there, stealing his handiwork, is something that looks like a bear but his feet are apparently human. He calls out, "Stop, boy-foot bear with tiks of Chan!"

... I understand that there's a song about a barefoot boy with cheeks of tan but I've never sought it out, preferring to remain ignorant. That didn't stop me from telling that joke to everyone in elementary school, all of whom were likely just as ignorant as I am, and come to think of it I don't think anyone ever laughed.
posted by komara at 9:26 AM on May 16


IIRC "Fuck You Clown" can go on literally forever, as just as you reach the climax of the story, Billy has a flashback and you get to start all over. If you can precisely remember all the shaggy dog details you told the first time, like the color of the fake hair on Billy's favorite clown poster, etc, all the better.
posted by muddgirl at 11:01 AM on May 16


To be all humor-prescriptivist about this: This is not (quite) a shaggy-dog story. The point of a shaggy-dog story is not that the punchline isn't funny enough to justify the length of the joke; the point of a shaggy-dog story is that the punchline is not even a punchline, to the point that the "joke" is the teller fooling the listener into wasting all that time for zero payoff.

To wit, the "punchline" of the original shaggy-dog story:
Isn't this the shaggiest dog you've ever seen?
No.
That's not a punchline. That's just the end of a pointless story.

To contrast, "Better Nate than lever" is absolutely a punchline. It's a bad pun, one more suited to a two-line setup than a story that's somewhere between the lengths of the Gospel of Mark and the Revelation, but it is a punchline. Part of the "joke" is that it's not enough of a punchline, but that's slightly different from the shaggy-dog "joke".
posted by Etrigan at 12:38 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I sort of am struggling with whether I hope I have or I haven't shared this one before. I hope I haven't because I hate repeating myself, but I hope I have so that some of you might accidentally read the whole thing again.

Anyhow, as I've mentioned on Metafilter before, I grew up in Newtown, Connecticut quite close to Sandy Hook.

What most people don't know is there used to be a newspaper in Sandy Hook with the unfortunate name The Sandy Hooker. This is where all of us in Boy Scout Troop 770 originally read about the story I'm about to tell you.

So, there used to be a psychiatric hospital in Newtown called Fairfield Hills Hospital. It looked like a college campus. These days its slowly being turned into town buildings and recreational centers, but many of the old buildings are there because they have asbestos and its going to cost millions to take them down.

But there used to be another psychiatric hospital - this is back in the 1950's - in Sandy Hook called The Sandy Hook Psychiatric Hospital and Rest Home. Fairfield Hills is sort of right in the middle of town. SHPHRH was located deep in the woods so that its patients were kept a little farther away from the rest of town.

There's all kind of horror stories about how patients were treated at SHPHRH and this news story in The Sandy Hooker is part of what ultimately led to it being shut down. It was published in 1957 and was the last report filed for that paper by (locally) famous reporter Martin Smithers, Sr.

The Sandy Hooker was a typical small town paper and Smithers typically covered stuff like farm reports and high school bake sales. He'd occasionally write about local town meetings and try to do investigative reporting, but there really wasn't anything much to report. He'd always wanted to be a big city-style reporter writing hard hitting investigative stories (ah, the good old days) but Sandy Hook didn't offer much in the way of scandal or crime. He just knew if he could break that one big story, he'd be able to parlay it into a career in a bigger newspaper - maybe the Danbury News Times even!

(And, after this story, he did get his dream job in Danbury)

He was having dinner at the Yankee Drover one day and talking to the owner - an old friend from Newtown High School, which later became the Middle School and is now a 5-6 Grade School - and his old friend told him about how his wife had just been fired from SHPHRH for complaining about the conditions some of the patients were being kept in - one in particular. That one guy was a huge behemoth of a man who'd been convicted of running amuck in Redding. He'd caused thousands of dollars of damage and sent several people to the hospital. At the trial, the judge determined the man (named Lane Johnson) wasn't competent to stand trial and sent him to SHPHRH for evaluation.

According to the Yankee Drover owner, Johnson was kept chained up in a sub-basement at SHPHRH. Smithers heard this and just new this was it - the story he'd been looking for. If he could expose the abuse at SHPHRH, he could break into the big time.

He knew he wouldn't be welcome so Smithers decided he'd sneak in. That night, he drove his red Bel Air down a dirt road that he thought got close to the facility (not the road that led directly to the facility). The road was wet from the previous day's rain and soon the Bel Air was stuck in the mud.

Undeterred, Smithers got out of the car and started walking towards the hospital. He didn't use his flashlight because he didn't want to draw attention to himself. The brush got pretty thick and he ended up with a few scratches on his hands and face from branches and pricker bushes. Also, he ran into a small stream - well, it was bigger than a stream, but not quite a river. He still didn't want to break out his flashlight, so he tried wading through the river or stream or whatever and was soon up to his hips in cold, running water. He held his camera and notebook over his head and hoped it wouldn't get any deeper and that he could keep his balance.

He was in luck and made it to the other side. He then climbed up a steep embankment and found himself at last at SHPHRH. The windows all had bars on them and he obviously didn't want to go through the front door. Searching around the building, he found what he assumed was some sort of service entrance. It was locked, of course, but nobody was around and it was fairly quiet. Smithers had been honing his lockpicking skills for the day where he'd need them to break a big case so he relished the chance to try them out.

It wasn't as easy as he hoped. After about thirty minutes he'd made no progress when suddenly he saw a light go on in the hallway leading to the door and he flattened himself against the wall right next to the door. A smoking orderly came out carrying a large garbage bag. He didn't notice Smithers and walked right by to load the garbage into a pick-up truck. He also left the door open. Smithers snuck in unnoticed immediately.

He knew he had to find the basement if he was going to find Johnson and get the evidence he needed to write his story. He started opening doors looking for a staircase down and he finally found one. The lights were dim and he was very careful to walk down quietly - which was challenging in his wet shoes. At the bottom of the stairs was a large locked iron door. There was a ring of old-fashioned keys hanging next to it. Smithers couldn't believe his luck. He opened the door and it opened into a large, dimly lit hallway.

In his article, Smithers wrote about some of the various criminally insane individuals kept in the locked rooms in this particular hallway - mostly school board members and town selectmen who had been driven mad by various things in town. We used to spend a lot of time in Troop 770 talking about all of them.

The important point for the story is that at the end of the hall there was another locked door and beyond that, another staircase down to another locked door and another hallway. This staircase was wooden and creaked as he walked down it. The hallways was lit even more dimly than the previous one and was cold, Smithers recognized the patients in the rooms as being dangerous criminals like gym and physics teachers. Smithers printed descriptions of their crimes and their cells was the sort of thing that kept all of us Scouts up at nights.

At the end of that hall, another locked door which led to a rickety staircase. Indeed, some of the wooden steps were missing and if one wasn't careful, one would fall to God knows where. It was so dark and dangerous, that Smithers finally decided to risk using his flashlight - which thank goodness hadn't been ruined by the river or stream.

He could see his breath at the bottom of the staircase. It looked like some kind of medieval dungeon. There was a door with a giant 4x4x8 wooden beam locking it shut.

"This is it. This is it." Smithers said allowed.

He moved the beam off the door and slowly pulled it open. On the other side, total darkness. He shined his light in and it looked less like a dungeon and more like some sort of futuristic (for 1957 definition of futuristic) scientific laboratory. He entered the room and, thanks to his flashlight, noticed a light switch on the wall, which he flipped.

Sure enough, the room looked nothing like the rest of the SHPHRH. It was clean, metallic and had an enormous operating table in its middle with a huge light right above it. No sign of Johnson though. There was, however, a big metal door at the other end of the room.

"That must it..."

Smithers didn't see any obvious way of opening the door. He looked around and saw that there was a control panel about ten feet away from the door and wondered if there might be a button or switch that opened it. Sure enough, after some fiddling, the door slid open with a "VOOOP and there was Lane Johnson.

He was even bigger than Smithers imagined - nearly seven and a half feet tall. 300 pounds at least and all muscle. He was bald and all he was wearing was a hospital gown. Both arms and both legs were clearly chained to the wall behind him. When the door opened, he looked up and made furious eye contact with Johnson.

"Who are you?" Johnson fumed.

"Martin Smithers, reporter from the Sandy Hooker."

He started taking pictures

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm looking for the biggest story of my career and you're it, my friend. You're it!"

Something about that must have infuriated Johnson because he immediately stood up with a roar and started pulling at his chains. Smithers jumped back, but he figured he was safe because of the chains. Then the chain on Johnson's right arm snapped. Crack!

"I'm it? I'M IT?"

Smithers released it he must have pissed him off by treating Johnson's life like it was just a story to him, but he still took one more picture. Just then, the chain on Johnson's left arm snapped. Crack! Johnson started going to work pulling on the chain to his left leg.

Smithers was no dummy. He decided he had all the photos he needed. He headed out of the room, closing the big door behind him. The 4x4x8 wooden beam was a little heavier than he remembered and before he could move it into place he heard a third "crack" and decided he'd best just get out.

As he reached the top of the rickety stairs, he heard an enraged scream followed by one last crack and then the sound of chains being quickly dragged across the ground. Smithers ran faster. He struggled with the keys to open the door to the gym teacher hall but managed to get the door open. He was locking it when he heard the sound of wood shattering a floor beneath him and another yell. He could hear Johnson clambering up the rickety stairs.

Smithers ran down the hall to the jeers of Physics and Gym Teachers and even a high school principal he'd not noticed before. He heard Johnson pounding on the door at the far end of the hallways and what sounded like wood beginning to splinter as he unlocked that door. He locked it as quickly as he could as the door on the other end of the hall exploded. All the gym teachers fell silent.

He ran up the next flight of stairs and unlocked that door. He didn't even bother to relock it - he just ran to the other end of the hallway and unlocked that door just in time to hear another locked door splinter.

Panicking now, Smithers dropped the keys and ran to the top of the stairs. He heard the chains moving quickly across the hallways and up the stairs. The orderly who had the garbage came out responding to all the noise. He grabbed Smithers stopping him.

"Who the hell are you?"

"It doesn't matter. Johnson is free."

"JOHNSON IS FREE? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? GET OUT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET OUT"

The orderly turned pale and ran towards the stairs down. Smithers kept running. Behind him he heard:

"Johnson, back to your room!"

Followed by a truncated scream and what sounded like the orderly being thrown down the stairs.

Smithers knew he didn't have a lot of time. He burst through the service door and ran towards the steep embankment down to the river. Johnson was close behind him. He heard him bellow "SMITHERS" as he exited SHPHRH. Smithers half ran/half tumbled down the embankment. he looked back and saw Johnson at the top of embankment and just then realized he hadn't turned off his flashlight. He hurled it away so Johnson would have a harder time finding him.

He dove into the river or stream or whatever and worked his way across, doing his best to protect his camera. As he reached the other side, he heard Johnson splashing his way across.

Smithers ran as fast as he could through the brush and trees, getting more scrapes and cuts before he finally made it to the muddy road. He couldn't tell where Johnson was, but he knew he must be close-by somewhere.

He finally got to his car, climbed in, locked the door and started the engine. The Bel Air wouldn't move! Smithers had forgotten it was stuck. The sound of the engines and the light from the headlights was all Johnson need to find him.

The huge man punched through the driver's window and grabbed Smithers by the jacket, yanking him out of the car. He held the terrified reporter up in the air.

"I'm it? I'm it?" he screamed.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," said Smithers.

Johnson raised his hand back and gently patted Smithers on the arm.

"Now you're it!"

He ran off into the woods.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:12 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]


To be all humor-prescriptivist about this: This is not (quite) a shaggy-dog story. The point of a shaggy-dog story is not that the punchline isn't funny enough to justify the length of the joke; the point of a shaggy-dog story is that the punchline is not even a punchline, to the point that the "joke" is the teller fooling the listener into wasting all that time for zero payoff.

I've seen people draw this line before but I think it's a pretty blurry line. A lot of the jokes of this type are about building up forever to a punchline that is deliberately underwhelming - because it's a bad pun, because it's supremely corny, because it's been left as conspicuously low-hanging fruit. And I don't know of another specific term for that kind of joke, so I think of it as a continuum with "eh, he ain't that shaggy" or "fuck you, clown" on one end and extended misdirection from a legitimately clever punchline like the moth joke on the other.
posted by atoxyl at 2:19 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


(If "fuck you, clown" is too much of a real punchline, substitute one of the stories where the guy dies before telling the secret.)

As I said I have a special affection for things like monk joke which manage to combine an obnoxious anticlimax and a legit punchline - and in that case it's an obnoxious punchline because they should have seen it coming. And I guess the kid who first told it to *me* did a pretty good job delivering that.
posted by atoxyl at 7:36 PM on May 16


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