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What’s the worst joke you’ve ever heard?

When I say worst, I mean worst. A joke with no redeeming qualities.

Here’s my contender, from the book “1000 Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids”:

– Knock Knock.
– Who’s there?
– Ann
– Ann who?
– An apple fell on my head.

There’s something beautiful about this one. It’s the clerihew of jokes. Zero cleverness. It lacks any sense of inevitability, in that any sentence whatsoever could work here, as long as it begins with the word “An.”

88 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Possibly not the worst ever, but it has stayed with me since I heard it from my instructor during an undergraduate class in the 1990s: “Statistics is boring, but it does have its moments”

    • Sudip Bose says:

      That reminds me of:

      Q: What question does (Augustin) Cauchy hate to be asked?
      A: “Got a moment?”

      The colleague who told the joke, and I, both found it amusing,
      so to me it’s not really a candidate for “worst ever.”
      Others might disagree!

  2. Radford Neal says:

    In declaring the “worst X”, you have to limit consideration to those X that somebody seems to think are good. Otherwise, the worst joke is “pigs green overboard”. Makes no sense at all…

    By that standard, I think by far the worst joke is “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”.

    You hear people repeating this line from Monty Python all the time. They seem to think it’s funny and clever. I don’t get it. I think lots of people in Spain DID expect the Spanish Inquisition. I mean, after a few public executions, their presence must have been pretty generally known. And of course, the “joke” is deeply offensive, about like “jokes” about the Holocaust. But not offensive in a FUNNY way…

    • Andrew says:

      Radford:

      Interesting point in your first paragraph. I’m reminded of the old math joke about how there are no uninteresting numbers.

    • Kyle C says:

      Sounds like you just don’t like absurdist humor. This is not a bad joke. It’s a burlesque of a phrase that seems to have been common in the 1970s.

      From Wiki:
      This is a recurring sketch always predicated on an unrelated sketch in which one character mentions that they “didn’t expect a Spanish Inquisition!”, often in irritation at being questioned by another. At this point, the Inquisition …. burst into the room to the sound of a jarring musical sting. Ximénez shouts, … “NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

      A hotel-booking website is trying a similar thing in ads with the phrase “Thanks, Captain Obvious,” but they’ve bungled what could have been a clever schtick IMHO.

      • Phil says:

        Kyle gave a succinct explanation of the Spanish Inquisition joke, but perhaps it is too succinct.

        AFAIK the origin of the joke is a Monty Python sketch, or (as the Wikipedia article says) a recurring series of sketches. Here is an example, though I’m not sure it’s the first of them.

        I think it’s funny.

  3. zbicyclist says:

    The surgeon comes out to talk to the wife.

    “Your husband survived and his heart and lungs are fine, but he lost both legs and both arms and his face is paralyzed. You’ll have to do everything for him for the rest of his life.”

    The wife is understandably distraught.

    The surgeon then says, “Nah, just kidding. He died.”

  4. Kyle C says:

    I think my dad knew all the worst jokes. I nominate, “What’s that shirt made of?” [Reaches out and feels it.] “Oh, it’s felt.”

  5. BobW says:

    Q: What’s got four legs and chases cats?
    A: Mrs. Katz and her lawyer.

  6. Adam says:

    I had a friend who was a master of the bad jokes.
    Q: What’s brown and sticky?
    A: A stick

    Q: What’s blue and smells like paint?
    A: Blue paint

  7. Seth says:

    Thanks for introducing the concept of a Clerihew. I particularly enjoyed:
    Sir James Dewar
    Is a better man than you are
    None of you asses
    Can liquify gases.

  8. Karl Broman says:

    I think the “an apple fell on my head” joke is _not_ the worst joke. I can see a 6-yr-old laughing her head off at it, and wanting me to repeat it, repeatedly. I think you need to spend more time reading that 1000 jokes book.

    My kids have a similar such book, which contains, “Q: What do trees eat for breakfast? A: Oakmeal.” And that’s not the worst.

  9. jonathan says:

    Worst is also favorite: two penguins sitting on the ice, one turns to the other and says, “Are you wearing a tuxedo?” and the penguin replies, “How do you know I’m not?”

  10. No collection of funniest or unfunniest jokes would be complete without this classic:

    Q: Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer?
    A: Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!

    and its corollary:

    There were two peanuts walking down the street. One was assaulted.

  11. Adam says:

    In England, “didn’t expect the Spanish inquisition” is a jokey shorthand for being asked more questions than you expected. That’s why it is supposed to be amusing when the actual Spanish inquisition show up. They are pretty silly characters on top of that. They are making the whole thing ridiculous.

    Anyway, here is a really bad joke. Why are penguins so good on the Internet? Because they behave.

    This was actually on the back of a Penguin biscuit, so somebody was paid for that.

    • zbicyclist says:

      When we parents would question our daughters when they were teens, an eventual response was “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition”, to which I would respond “NO ONE expects the Spanish Inquisition” followed by “Our weapons are …”, which served to defuse the situation for a bit (all of us being Monty Python fans).

      Of course, the Inquisition eventually continued after we all had a laugh.

  12. Laura says:

    Knock knock
    whos there
    a cow
    a cow who
    a cow jumping over a tree

    This wasn’t funny until my TWO year old son repeated it, straightfaced, to people he’d meet.

  13. Tom says:

    Surely the worst joke of all time has to be the entirety of the British tv series ‘Allo ‘Allo. It lacks cleverness, it has no redeeming features and i was originally intended as comedy. I think that meets Andrew’s criteria.

  14. Njnnja says:

    Q: What’s purple and commutes?
    A: An Abelian grape

    It’s a pun, a math joke, and it usually has to be explained after you tell it. A perfect trifecta for the worst joke ever.

  15. Mark says:

    Pete and Ree Pete were sitting on a bridge. Pete jumped off, who was left?

  16. Ethan Bolker says:

    “No soap radio” from my early adolescence.

  17. jrc says:

    Two strawberries are taking a shower. One strawberry says “Can you pass the soap?” The second strawberry says “Holy S#%@! A talking strawberry!”

    • Rob says:

      The version I heard bordered on funny.
      Two apples are in a microwave which has been turned on. One apple cries, “Oh no! We are going to die!” The second apple says, “Holy S#%@! A talking apple!”
      (No I don’t know why the joke used apples rather than, say, potatoes.)

      None of these jokes sound as lame as a joke my dad told for years when we were growing up:
      What’s green and has wheels?
      Grass. I lied about the wheels.

      • Adam says:

        The “green and has wheels” joke reminded me of this one which I’m rather fond of.
        According to wikipedia, it’s in “The Joys of Yiddish”

        “The first riddle I ever heard, one familiar to almost every Jewish child, was propounded to me by my father:
        “What is it that hangs on the wall, is green, wet — and whistles?” I knit my brow and thought and thought, and in final perplexity gave up. “A herring,” said my father. “A herring,” I echoed. “A herring doesn’t hang on the wall!” “So hang it there.” “But a herring isn’t green!” I protested. “Paint it.” “But a herring isn’t wet.” “If it’s just painted it’s still wet.” “But — ” I sputtered, summoning all my outrage, “– a herring doesn’t whistle!!”
        “Right, ” smiled my father. “I just put that in to make it hard.”

        The alternate ending I prefer is that the father says, in an exasperated tone, “OK, so it doesn’t whistle”

      • Robin Morris says:

        Or you live in California. Where you’re also lying about the grass.

  18. Jonathan (another one) says:

    I don’t remember the joke, but I’m quite sure it was in Dane Cook’s act.

  19. Vlad Malik says:

    This reminds me of anti-jokes, eg:

    “A horse walks into a bar. Several people get up and leave as they spot the potential danger of the situation.”

    Ironically anti-jokes can be quite amusing. Or not:

    “A man walks into a bar. His alcohol dependency is tearing his family apart.”

  20. Chip Lynch says:

    What do an elephant and a grape have in common?
    They’re both purple. Except the elephant.

    (I once maintained the canonical list of elephant jokes on the internet… I’m actually quite fond of them. This is one of a series that separately aren’t quite as funny, although this is still better than “An Apple…”)

  21. Robin Morris says:

    Q. What’s the difference between a duck?
    A. One of its legs is both the same.

    My kids never did find that one funny.

  22. Chris G says:

    What’s the difference between a dressmaker and an amateur flautist?

    A dressmaker tucks up frills.

    • It took me a few seconds to get that one. I have one for you:

      A kangaroo walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender serves him, and then steps away to watch the spectacle of a kangaroo drinking beer. Then the kangaroo asks for another one. The bartender gives him the second one, and then screws up courage to say to the kangaroo: you know, we don’t get many kangaroos at this bar. The kangaroo replies, at 2 pounds a beer, I’m not surprised.

  23. Chris G says:

    What do you call an occupied lavatory on a trans-Atlantic flight?

    A high-pot-in-use.

  24. Chris G says:

    Two strings walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, but you’re going to have to leave. We don’t serve strings here.” The strings, offended, step outside for a moment. After a brief discussion they tie themselves together, unravel their ends, and walk back into the bar. The bartender looks at them and says, “Hey… Don’t I know you? Aren’t you the strings I told to leave a few minutes ago?” To which the strings reply, “Nope, frayed knot.”

  25. Dean says:

    Maybe a misprint- supposed to be Anna? Slightly less terrible.

  26. Chris G says:

    A dog walks into a bar, hops up on a stool and says, “Hey, look over here. I’m a talking dog. Bet you’ve never met a talking dog before. I was captain of the debate team when I was in college and now I teach rhetoric at the university. Say, bartender, how about a drink on the house for the talking dog?” The bartender replies, “Sure. The toilet’s down the hall. Second door on your left.”

  27. joe says:

    I only submit this because I thought it was the most brilliant joke I ever came up with, and to date no one I’ve told it to has found it even marginally funny:

    Q: What do sad cows do?
    A: Ruminate

  28. Mayo says:

    Really bad joke frequently repeated (with guffaws) by an elderly family member:

    Can you use “Rotterdam” in a sentence?
    “My sister stole my candy and I hope it’ll rot her damn teeth out!”

  29. Ali says:

    Who was that racing driver from the seventies? Niki…Niki…

    Lauda

    WHO WAS THAT RACING DRIVER FROM THE ……

  30. Josh says:

    Distraught man goes to see a psychiatrist.

    Man: Doctor, you have to help me.

    Doctor: What seems to be the problem?

    Man: I’m a Teepee, I’m a Wigwam! I’m a Teepee! I’m a Wigwam! A Teepee! A Wigwam!
    You have to help me. What’s wrong with me?

    Doctor: That’s easy. You’re two tents. (too tense)

  31. Thomas says:

    What’s the difference between a tavern and an elephant fart?

    One’s a bar room and the other’s a barroomm!

  32. D.O. says:

    The worst joke ever is “Das Kapital”. Luckily, i didn’t hear it.

  33. Anonympus says:

    What’s 5Q + 5Q?

    10Q

    Your welcome

  34. Leon says:

    A joke that I think is good, but which others seem to think is terrible:

    What did it say on the blues player’s tombstone?

    “I didn’t wake up this morning.”

  35. Jose says:

    A neutron walks into a bar, orders a whisky, and then tries to pay. The bartender waves it away- “For you, no charge.”

  36. Steve Sailer says:

    The apple joke is great.

    Actually, these are all pretty funny.

    Except for the ruminating cow joke. Which, now that I mentioned it, is cracking me up.

  37. hjk says:

    Most of the book ‘I Think, Therefore I Laugh’ by John Allen Paulos

  38. Krzysztof Sakrejda says:

    My son suggests:

    “What do you get when you vaporize a king?”

    “A noble gas.”

  39. Dave says:

    This is awful:

    What’s Hitler’s favorite number of Jews?

    Nine (nein).

  40. Chris G says:

    How does Darth Vader like his toast?

    On the Dark Side.

  41. Martha says:

    Just remembered this one today from many years ago. No, it wasn’t from a little kid — it was from a math grad student.

    “Did you know that two is the first odd prime?”

    “But two is even.”

    “That’s what’s so odd about it.”

  42. Eric L says:

    I have 5 year old and 2 year old twins. The two year olds are just starting to understand the idea of a joke and they only have one:
    “knock knock”
    “who’s there”
    “apple”
    “apple who”
    “apple in a tree”

    Anyhow, I was reading to the five year old a few nights ago and we talked about jokes. I ran the twins’ joke past her and the response was “boring”. Next I tried Andrew’s joke and she laughed. A lot.

    Context is everything.

  43. Corvin says:

    If you ever fart in public, just yell, “Turbo power!” and walk faster.

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