15 Moments in Movies Where Everything Stops So Someone Can Tell A Joke
Every so often, in a movie, one character will tell another a joke. Not just a witty bit of dialogue, a proper old-fashioned joke joke.
Sometimes they’re a way of getting insight into a character by the way they choose to entertain, while sometimes they just seem like a way of passing a few moments — the screenwriter slapping an old-ass public-domain joke in there to get the page count up, guarantee one laugh and give an actor a chance to show off a bit. Occasionally they’re both, working simultaneously as a joke you’ll text your friends after the movie and an authentic piece of character-building. And sometimes, like in Zootopia, they’re a waste of everyone’s time.
Tim from ‘Jurassic Park’s Blind Dinosaur Gag
There is no way Dr. Alan Grant hadn’t heard the “doyouthinkhesaurus” joke before — it’s as old as the hills — but they’re in a very tense situation so a bit of light relief presumably goes a long way. And the Rex variant? Glorious.
Mia from ‘Pulp Fiction’s Tomato Tale
Mia’s joke, with the punchline “Ketchup,” isn’t good, but coming at the end of an evening that involved enormous unresolved sexual tension and an accidental heroin overdose, it’s an intimate character moment. Genuinely garbage joke though.
Saul’s Shaggy-Dog Soup from ‘Coming to America’
Coming to America shows Eddie Murphy’s growing fascination with playing multiple roles and interacting with himself. When Saul’s shaggy dog story is directed at Clarence the barber, that’s Murphy on Murphy.
It’s the Way Marge Gunderson from ‘Fargo’ Tells ‘Em
Frances McDormand won an Oscar for her performance in Fargo. Her matter-of-fact delivery of a joke her partner Lou has heard a thousand times isn’t showboaty in the slightest, but gets across their unremarkable day-to-day life perfectly.
Nick the ‘Zootopia’ Fox’s Crappy Camel Stinker
“What do you call a three-humped camel? Pregnant!” is a pretty woeful joke. Camels’ pregnancies don’t show on their backs. Absolute shit. Fuck you, Nick from Zootopia.
‘Bicentennial Man’: Great Dude, Great Joke, Awful Film
Cannibals finding the taste of a clown funny: classic. That joke, like the rest of the torrent of golden oldies in this scene, is better than the rest of Bicentennial Man, which despite hard work from Robin Williams, sucks ass.
‘Short Circuit’s Questionable Turing Test
Short Circuit also uses “can enjoy a shitty joke” as a measure of artificial intelligence transcending its, uh, artificiality. However, in this case, it also comes with a tiny but extremely concerning sprinkle of anti-Semitism.
‘28 Days Later’ Pauses the Mayhem for a Quick Joke
Conversely, “You can’t leave that lyin’ there!” “It’s not a lion, it’s a giraffe!” is not offensive to any group, and is a fantastic gag in every way.
‘Mary Poppins’ Is Full of ‘Em
The jokes in Mary Poppins are fun, but the real zinger is the Statler/Waldorf-esque postscript to a stinker. “I always say there’s nothing like a good joke… and that’s nothing like a good joke!” is word-perfect.
‘What About Bob?’ Proves It’s All in the Telling
The joke Bill Murray tells in this Frank Oz comedy isn’t amazing (and is also commonly told in a version involving Rorschach tests), but the enthusiasm and charisma Murray brings to it makes you want to be there, ideally drunk.
‘Training Day’s Intimidating Anecdote
Denzel Washington also got an Oscar for his Training Day performance, which includes the telling of a shitty old joke about a snail, repurposed as a fairly terrifying way of intimidating the new guy (who is on PCP).
‘Chinatown’s Jake Shows the Importance of Reading the Room
Jack Nicholson’s shitty old racist gag fully sucks, but he really commits to the delivery. A shame, then, that he’s not paid a bit more attention to who the audience for it is.
‘Watchmen’s Rorschach Butchers a Classic
Sure, Rorscach’s not going for a big thigh-slapping laugh when he dusts off the age-old Pagliacci joke, but still, woof dude, put some effort into the delivery.
‘Predator’s Billy Shows Persistence Pays Off
Sure, his first “my girlfriend’s large vagina” joke gets nowhere, but Billy (Shane Black) is adamant his misogyny is a rich comedy seam. Returning with a casually delivered echo-based gag, he gets one of the best laughs in movie history.
Lefty’s Joke in ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ Is as Good as It Gets
Not every joke cowboy duo Dusty and Lefty (Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly) deliver in Robert Altman’s final film is great, but “Did you know diarrhea is hereditary?” ... “It runs in your genes” is flawless.