Failing that, it should have such a recognizable lead-in that the remainder of the joke plays — or, better yet, attempts to play — itself out in their heads.
You know your joke has rooted itself in their DNA when they ask you to coach them in the joke, or call you and ask you to tell the joke to someone with them, or you hear them telling the joke to someone else.
Here are my top five:
- There were two peanuts walking down the road and one was assaulted. (a salted)
- A toothless termite walked into a saloon and asked, “Where’s the bar tender?” (bartender)
- A three-legged dog walked into a bar and said, “I’m a-lookin’ fer the man who shot my paw.”
- How many legs would a dog have if you called his tail a leg? Four: calling his tail a leg doesn’t make it one. (This one is also good for making a point about rationalization.)
- As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives. Each wife had seven sacks. Each sack had seven cats. Each cat had seven kits. Kits, cats, sacks, and wives, how many were going to St. Ives? One. As I was going to St. Ives….
#4, of course, is successful if the child chimes in with you on the second half of the set-up. Then you don’t even have to bother telling the rest.
#5 has taken root when you get stopped as soon as you say, “As I was going to St. Ives,” then, after the briefest pause, a child sighs and says, “Well, go on and finish it,” and you can tell they’re trying to memorize it without your catching on.
Being a parental unit can be so rewarding, and in so many incorrect ways.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: An adult remembers a joke specific to an adult from their childhood.