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We tend to think of the past as a classier time when people amused themselves with nothing but clever witticisms, ingenious wordplay and racism. The truth is that your grandfather laughed at fart and dick jokes at some point -- and history shows that so did your grandfather's grandfather and his grandfather's grandfather, and so on until the beginning of time (probably).

Here are five types of jokes that you'd expect to see in an American Pie movie that are actually much, much older than that.

Shakespeare Wrote "Yo' Mama" Jokes


It doesn't matter who we are or where we're from -- we've all been on the receiving end of a disparaging crack about our mothers at some point, usually focusing on her weight, intelligence and/or insatiable sexual appetite. We see mama jokes on TV and in movies all the time, most commonly in lighthearted comedies like Saturday Night Live, Community and The Exorcist.

Here's an example from 30 Rock that demonstrates why Tina Fey is one of the most respected comedy writers of our time:

The Old-Timey Version:

Believe it or not, the first English use of maternal insult is attributed to Titus Andronicus -- not the person or the indie rock band, but the play written by William Shakespeare between 1588 and 1593. We've told you before about all the surprising words and phrases that Shakespeare invented; apparently, we can add "mom jokes" to that list.

"Thy mama is so stupid, she did think a Hamlet was something served at Denny's."

In Act IV, Scene II of Titus Andronicus, the brothers Demetrius and Chiron confront another character called Aaron, who is a Moor and a literal motherfucker. The conversation goes like this:

"DEMETRIUS: Villain, what hast thou done?
AARON: That which thou canst not undo.
CHIRON: Thou hast undone our mother.
AARON: Villain, I have done thy mother."

Via Blackpresence.co.uk
He then dropped the microphone and left.

Yeah, to be fair, they walked right into that one. A more unexpected version comes in Act I, Scene I of Shakespeare's far more obscure play Timon of Athens, where a painter accuses the philosopher Apemantus of being a dog (completely missing the fact that the word "ape" is in his name), to which he replies with the following zinger: "Thy mother's of my generation. What's she, if I be a dog?"

Via Wikipedia
"Permit me to extend to you this medicinal rag, as thy skin is rife with the blisters of my prose."

Chaucer Invented the Weaponized Fart Gag (and Ancient Japan Perfected It)

Via Tofugu.com

A weaponized fart gag is the evolution of the standard fart joke ("Someone farted"). In this case, the flatulence is so rancid that it doesn't just stink up the room, but can be used as a weapon or even cause the entire place to explode. Here is Damon Wayans, at the very apex of his Wayanistic powers, using it to render a kid unconscious in Major Payne:

Some would see this as evidence that society is going downhill, but it's not like this type of joke was even possible before. It's only been since the advent of modern popular cinema that we've finally had an outlet relaxed enough to actually make aerosoling a turd into someone's lungs at point-blank range acceptable for the mass market. Right?

The Old-Timey Version:

Actually, the father of the English language is also the father of using farts as weapons. Geoffrey Chaucer, the 15th century poet and author who pretty much invented English writing as we know it, beat the likes of Mel Brooks and National Lampoon to the punch by six or seven centuries.

Via Wikipedia
And Jerry Lewis by a couple of decades.

In "Miller's Tale," included in The Canterbury Tales, horny student Absolom is peeping through a window at Alison, the wife of a rich carpenter who's away on business. Absolom asks Alison for a kiss, and she responds with a literal "kiss my ass" moment -- she sticks her butt out the window and, Chaucer writes, "with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers."

The guy, stunned, runs away, then decides to enact revenge by burning her butt with a hot poker (this is quickly turning into a Ren & Stimpy episode). When Absolom gets back and calls her again, Alison's lover, Nicholas, wanting to get in on the butt-joke action, imitates her voice to draw him in for another ass-smooch. Then this happens:

"This Nicholas then let fly a fart as great as a thunder-clap, so much so that with the stroke Absalom was almost blinded."

Via Betterlivingthroughbeowulf.com
"Verily, it blew the rosary beads out of his hand."

That's right: Chaucer, not content to just write a simple ass-busting joke centuries ahead of his time, wrote about a fart so powerful that it imitates thunder and nearly removes the power of sight from its target. For the next great moment in fart warfare, you have to go to Edo period Japan between the 17th and 19th centuries. Behold:

Via Tofugu.com

Via Tofugu.com
Is he farting a cat, or some sort of giant gerbil? This is important.

Those are the more safe-for-work ones we could find. They are from the appropriately named "He-Gassen," an entire scroll created by an anonymous Japanese artist that consists of nothing but people farting on each other. They're just flying around like Dragon Ball Z characters, attacking one another with power farts.

Via Tofugu.com
Goddammit, Japan.

What are they even doing in this one? Are they supposed to be farting in those sacks? What could they possibly-

Via Tofugu.com

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Dick Jokes Are as Old as the English Language


Dick jokes are a perpetual favorite of gross-out movies and lowbrow comedy websites. Among the many variations, the "bait and snatch" is a very simple type of dick joke where the interlocutor makes you think that he's talking about dicks, and then the punchline is: "It's not dicks." This works with female genitalia, too, as brilliantly exemplified by this clip from The Naked Gun:

In case you grew up without cable and haven't seen that movie 20 times, Leslie Nielsen appears to be looking up a woman's skirt and says "Nice beaver," to which she replies "Thanks, I've just had it stuffed." We then see that she is literally holding a stuffed beaver, and Nielsen's comment was actually an innocent compliment on her decorative taste. Because he's classy like that.

The Old-Timey Version:

A group of academics at England's Wolverhampton University set out to find the oldest joke written in the English language, and it turns out that it's all about dick. The joke is over 1,000 years old, and it goes like this: "What hangs at a man's thigh and wants to poke the hole that it's often poked before? Answer: A key."

"And what do you hand to the valet when he offers to park your car? Answer: Your penis."

It's the exact same structure as the old "bait and snatch" gag you see in every Austin Powers film: They make you think that they're describing a dong, but then it's actually just an oddly shaped key casting a dong-like shadow. The joke was found in the Codex Exoniensis, a collection of some of the earliest known texts written in Old English dating from 960 to 990. That's right: When writing shit down in English was first invented, people's first instinct was to write jokes about boners.

Via Snarkmarket.com
"7 Things That Look Like Penises, by Brother Jeremiah. Number 7: My hat."

To put that into perspective, this joke was written 100 years before some estimates of Beowulf and a full 300 years before the Magna Carta, the document that established constitutional law in the English-speaking world. So basically, for over 300 years everyone in England was running around shouting dick jokes without any semblance of rules or laws. In other words, it was the Cracked offices with less mead and more sheepskin condoms.

And speaking of dirty jokes your ancestors might have told ...

"That's What She Said" Jokes Are Older Than Television


Admit it: You probably laughed at a "That's what she said" joke at some point, but it's getting old now. The setup consists of waiting for someone else to say something that could be interpreted as a double entendre (i.e., "You have a lovely wiener") and then adding "That's what she said" as a punchline, the joke being that "she" sure does enjoy intercourse.

If you've somehow made it through life without hearing this type of joke before, you can find an example in practically every episode of The Office with Steve Carrell in it:

The Old-Timey Version:

"That's what she said" jokes aren't just getting old, they're getting really old. The original version dates back to at least the early part of the 20th century in England, and it came in the form of the way classier "As the actress said to the bishop" -- as in "My dear sir, may I commend you on having an exquisite banger." "As the actress said to the bishop." If you're confused, you have to understand that actors in general were seen as an indecent lot, and the word "actress" was sometimes used as a euphemism for "prostitute," whereas important religious posts have always been known to attract major pervs.

"Oh, I see what you did there."

The first written use of the joke is apparently in the 1928 book Meet the Tiger featuring the Saint (so you can imagine Val Kilmer saying it), but amazingly, it didn't take too long after that for a modified version of the same quip to be recorded on camera, and by none other than a young Alfred Hitchcock.

During a sound test for Hitchcock's Blackmail, one of the earliest British movies to feature sound back in 1929, the director teases an understandably embarrassed actress by saying "Stand in your place, otherwise it will not come out right ... as the girl said to the soldier." Here's the clip:

This was a historic moment in international cinema, with this revolutionary new technology being put in the hands of one of the undisputed masters of the medium for the very first time ... and he chose to use it to harass an actress with the 1920s equivalent of "That's what she said." Considering what we know about how Hitchcock treated his actresses, perhaps this isn't so surprising.

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A Roman Emperor Invented the Whoopee Cushion

Via Grombo

Honestly, we could write an entire article about the history of fart jokes, which are as old as human civilization itself: According to the English study we mentioned before, the oldest surviving joke in the world is a 3,000-year-old Babylonian fart gag. Whoopee cushions, however, are a relatively recent development -- it took nothing short of the industrial revolution and a world war for this clever invention (a rubber bag that makes a farting noise when you sit on it) to appear on the shelves.

Here's an unlikely example of a whoopee cushion in use from an otherwise serious scene in the show Supernatural, of all places:

That's when whoopee cushions work best: When you totally don't expect them. And what could be more unexpected than finding them 1,800 years ago?

The Old-Timey Version:

Apparently the arrival of the modern whoopee cushion was more of a renaissance than a revolution in flatulence humor. As with so many of the great inventions in history, the whoopee cushion has been around since ancient Rome -- and its creator was none other than Elagabalus, the Emperor of the Roman Empire between the years 218 and 222.

Via Ancienthistory.about.com
Emperor Elagabalus, minus his usual Groucho glasses and exploding cigar.

According to Rome in East by archaeologist Warwick Ball, during Elagabalus' brief and turbulent reign, the emperor did occasionally show a "more likeable side." Specifically, he had a reputation as a practical joker, such as "his practice of seating his more pompous dinner guests on 'whoopee cushions' that let out a farting noise." The prototype novelty item was described as an "air pillow" that would gradually let out the air inside as the guests had dinner, eventually leaving them red-faced and sitting under the table.

So, yeah, for a while the mighty Roman Empire was ruled by a third-century Carrot Top. This makes more sense when you consider that Elagabalus was only 14 when he took over as emperor, and 18 when he was assassinated by his own Praetorian Guard for being an annoying little shit.

Thanks to Jesse Clark for the idea for this article. Follow Jacopo della Quercia on Twitter! Visit Elijah Torp's blog or email him at ElijahTorp@Gmail.com.

For more things way older than us, check out 11 Modern Technologies That Are Way Older Than You Think and 5 Internet Annoyances That Are Way Older Than the Internet.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 4 Weirdest Anime DVD Extras (Are Weirder Than You Think).

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