6 Comedy Legends Who Told Totally Lame Jokes — On Purpose

Sometimes bad jokes are hilariously good
6 Comedy Legends Who Told Totally Lame Jokes — On Purpose

Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld craft jokes in the way that Michelangelo chipped away at tiny bits of marble to arrive at his David statue. “Word choice is crucial,” he once told The New York Times. “If it’s just a split second too long, you will shave letters off words. You count syllables. It’s more like songwriting.” 

That’s one way to go if you’re trying to construct the perfect punchline, but other huge comedians know that intentionally terrible jokes can also get big laughs. Here are six times comics decided that being bad was hilariously good…

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Steve Martin

Why would a comedian intentionally tell a joke that the audience is guaranteed not to understand? Steve Martin did, pretending to be a comedian so dumb that only professionally licensed plumbers could appreciate his routines. (That said, were suckers for Findlay sprocket jokes.) 

Andy Kaufman

The genius of Kaufman comedy bits was that the more deadly serious he became, the more the audience would fall into hysterics. In this appearance on David Letterman’s morning show, Kaufman laments quitting Taxi without any other means of monetary support. He also appears to have contracted some sort of black lung disease. He pleads with the audience not to laugh as he panhandles its members for cash. 

Norm Macdonald and Super Dave

On Norm Macdonald Live, Macdonald would invite guests to read prewritten jokes off of index cards. Sometimes, the jokes were simply terrible. Other times, the gags were downright offensive. Super Dave Osbourne’s repulsion only adds to the laughs. “WHO WROTE THIS?”

Tom Green


Tom Green comedy segments were often completely devoid of Seinfeld-style punchlines, substituting acute cringe for scripted jokes. In this bit, he wanders a department store in search of phones that he can use to page his lost mom. 

David Letterman


No one loved stupidity as comedy more than Letterman. The whole point of Stupid Pet Tricks, for example, was laughing at the completely insane things people bothered to teach their animals. Unfortunately for Letterman, the anger-prone Mr. T didn’t share his appreciation for terrible jokes.

Neil Hamburger


A phlegmatic comedian telling offensive jokes about kids with cancer doesn’t sound like a laugh riot, but Hamburger’s act is built around such atrocities. What’s worse — Hamburger hacking up loogies or joking about Santa Claus raping Paris Hilton? The more terrible the gags, the funnier Hamburger becomes. 

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