Posts Tagged ‘place holders’

You know how sometimes you find yourself with five minutes to yourself and, instead of using it wisely, you decide to think about something that was probably only worth, say, four-and-a-half minutes of your time?

Well, the other day, I found myself thinking about the following “classic” joke:

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. To get to the other side.

The more I thought about the joke, the less I became sure of where the humour actually was in it. Perhaps the joke was written with a different meaning of the verb “to cross” in mind, such as “to mark with a cross” or “to openly oppose or thwart somebody”? That would sort of make it funny… but only sort of. 

So I turned my hand to writing my own Chicken/Road jokes to see if I couldn’t actually inject some Real Bona Fide Humour into it.  Here’s what I came up with:

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. Because it was his turn in tic-tac-toe. Which he was playing. With chalk. On the road.

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. Because he decided it was better to be the curb’s bitch than the road’s arse-clown. And so he snitched on the road to the razzers and started running drugs for the curb. But the road found out and had the chicken shot down in broad daylight outside a notorious curb-side cafe and the chicken, somewhat ironically, ended up dying in the middle of the road having tried unsuccessfully to get across to the hospital on the other side.

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. Bucket.

Okay, admittedly, all of these jokes are completely lame-arse. But let’s be honest here: at least they are not as lame as the original answer.

I asked my husband where he thought the humour was in the Chicken/Road Joke. He turned the question back on me and asked where *I* thought the humour was in cockney rhyming slang. I said I’d already blogged about that. And then he said it was important to reiterate things and reminded me (not for the first time) that he would cover all this in his upcoming book “The Art of Reiteration: Part Two”. Whatever.

(For the record: during our recent Christmas road trip, my husband *did* end up coming up with a cockney-rhyming slang term for ‘bahumbug’ and that was ‘bra-tum-tug’. You know, when your bra has fallen down ’round your midriff and you have to pull it up. He imagined that a cheeky cockney chappy, when faced with a real-life Ebenezer Scrooge, might say “Pull yer bra up, gran’ma!”. And yes, it was a very long road trip.)

Anyway, my husband then said that he thought the Chicken/Road Joke was the original question and answer joke upon which all question and answer jokes have subsequently been based. And that someone somewhere would have written a PhD thesis on it.

“Why, it’s a Template Joke!” I exclaimed. “It was never meant to be funny in itself, just a set of guidelines to show generations of future joke-tellers how to structure their jokes! But somehow, people forgot the words ‘chicken’, ‘road’ and ‘get to the other side’ were merely placeholders and started telling it as an actual joke. Stupid people.”

Then I sat and thought about the guy who’d actually come up with the Chicken/Road format (and yes, I’m assuming he was a he – after all, it is most likely to be the world’s first Dad Joke, as well) probably felt all proud of himself because he’d spurned a trillion-billion other jokes. He probably went around saying “You know that ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ joke? Well, that’s one of mine…” and claiming that the horse crossing the road because he was stapled to the chicken was only funny because of his ground-breaking work with the original Template Joke. Which was the chicken crossing the road to get to the other side. Ha-ha-ha-ha.

And people would have humoured him until one day, someone called him on it and said “Listen, you road’s arse-clown, your joke is Just Not Funny.”

At which point, the Chicken/Road Guy would have definitely replied “Aw, pull yer bra up, gran’ma!”.

Yes, all that probably definitely might have happened. For sure. 


I just let my husband read this post and he would like me to conclude it with this Official Statement: “With two of our three children now at school, I thoroughly expected my wife to take to eating chocolates on the couch in front of Oprah all day long. I am relieved that instead she is dedicating her spare hours to pursuits as noble and worthwhile as this post.”

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