15 Of The Oldest Jokes In Recorded History
As a species, we’ve been telling fart jokes, sex jokes and even “your mom” jokes for at least 4,000 years and counting.
The world’s oldest joke is a fart joke.
The world’s oldest recorded joke has been traced back to 1900 BC, and shows us all that toilet humor was as popular then as it is today.
A joke from the ancient Sumerians goes:
“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”
A saucy Egyptian Pharaoh joke.
A 1600 BC joke about a Pharaoh was found in the Ancient Egyptian story book known as the Westcar Papyrus.
“How do you entertain a bored pharaoh?
You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish.”
"A dog walks into a tavern…"
We’ve been doing “A… walks into a bar” jokes for thousands of years.
It's hard to translate, but much smarter people than us are working it out.
A joke from the oldest known joke book.
No, not “Captain Billy's Whiz Bang” from the 1920s, the Philogelos (meaning "Laughter Lover”) is a Greek anthology of more than 200 jokes from the 4th or 5th century.
“A student dunce went swimming and almost drowned. So now he swears he'll never get into water until he's really learned to swim.”
A classic bait and switch.
The oldest known British joke dates back to the 10th century:
“What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before?"
That dry British humor has been around for a while.
A joke about an old married couple from 1100 BC.
“A woman who was blind in one eye has been married to a man for 20 years. When he found another woman he said to her, 'I shall divorce you because you are said to be blind in one eye.’”
“Have you just discovered that after 20 years of marriage?’”
Look, every 3122 year old joke isn’t gonna be a banger.
A medieval Latin fart joke… of course.
The medieval Latin joke book, Facetiae was written by Poggio Bracciolini, published in 1470, and includes six tales about farting.
“The wife, observing a ram copulating with a sheep, asks how the ram chooses his mate, to which the husband answers that the ram chooses the sheep that farts. He confirms to her that humans work the same way, after which she farts, and they have sex; she farts again, with the same result. When she farts a third time, the husband says, "I'm not making love to you again, even if you shit out your soul.”
A classic rule of three.
A classic pun.
In Homer's "The Odyssey" (written 2,800 years ago), Odysseus gets a little silly.
“Odysseus tells the Cyclops that his real name is ‘Nobody’. When Odysseus tells his men to attack the Cyclops, the Cyclops shouts: ‘Help, nobody is attacking me!’
No one comes to help him.
Dark humor from the 4th Century.
“Consulting a hotheaded doctor, a fellow says, 'Professor, I'm unable to lie down or stand up; I can't even sit down.' The doctor responds, ‘I guess the only thing left is to hang yourself.’"
So much for bedside manner.
A “classical” fart joke.
In “the classical times” between 8th century BC and 6th century AD, Roman philosopher Seneca wrote this about the late Emperor:
“At once he bubbled up the ghost, and there was an end to that shadow of a life…The last words he was heard to speak in this world were these. When he had made a great noise with that end of him which talked easiest, he cried out, ‘Oh dear, oh dear! I think I have made a mess of myself.’”
This ancient "your mom" joke was a pretty sweet burn.
From ancient Rome, between 63 BC to 14 AD:
Emperor Augustus was touring the Empire, when he noticed a man in the crowd who bore a striking resemblance to himself. Curious, he asked, 'Was your mother at one time in service at the Palace?'”
The man responded, "No, your Highness, but my father was."
Oh snap! Was this hilarious dude executed minutes later?!
A sassy reply from a King.
From ancient Greece between 300-400 AD:
"Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the King replied, ‘In silence.’”
They didn’t like chatty barbers back then either!
An ancient Egyptian sex joke from 30 BC.
"Man is even more eager to copulate than a donkey. His purse is what restrains him.”
What about a rich man though?
An ancient Greek play on words.
"An intellectual came to check in on a friend who was seriously ill. When the man's wife said that he had 'departed,' the intellectual replied, 'When he arrives back, will you tell him that I stopped by?’"
No… She meant “departed” like Martin Scorsese meant it.
A Shakespearean fart joke.
Not an “ancient joke” but we like to point out that Shakespeare’s plays had several fart jokes. Here’s one from Othello in 1603.
CLOWN: Are these, I pray you, wind instruments?
MUSICIAN: Ay marry are they, sir.
CLOWN: O, thereby hangs a tail.
MUSICIAN: Whereby hangs a tail, sir?
CLOWN: Marry, sir, by many a wind instrument that I know
For exclusive ComedyNerd content, subscribe to our spiffy newsletter:
Top Image: Étienne-Jean Delécluze/Wikimedia Commons