“What’s the difference between Mick Jagger and a Scottish farmer?”

Thus begins the last really good joke I heard, several years ago now; answer at the bottom!

I recently realised that I never hear new jokes any more.

I had an actual joke book as a small kid, and my family would share cheesy jokes around the dinner table. My Dad’s thing was always to mix up the punch lines to some of his favourite terrible puns, leading to the following gems:

“My wife’s gone to the Caribbean”


“No, it’s terrible!”


“My dog’s got no nose”

“How does he smell?”

“He does it of his own accord!”

etc. We’re used to this behaviour, but outsiders find it most confusing.

Jokes (mostly the immature kind) were ten a penny during high school. Going to university in a different town resulted in the merging of everyone’s local jokes into one big shared melting pot of guffaws and groans. The same thing happened to a lesser extent when I moved again for a PhD, and any major event in those days seemed to spawn a crop of excellent new jokes seemingly overnight; I heard several very dark (but funny) jokes about Princess Diana within days of her death, for instance. And then of course I acquired a whole set of jokes-in-law from Mr E Man and his family.

But now? It just doesn’t seem to happen.

There does seem to have been an explosion of visual jokes recently – Facebook has gone crazy for them in the last few months for some reason, and of course there’s always Chemistry Cat. (This one’s my favourite, but I’ve literally LOLed at a few of them):

funny science news experiments memes - Which Are You?
see more Dropping The Science

But the actual telling of jokes in person seems to be a lost art.

Is it due to the competition from Facebook et al.? (Is it just easier to hit “share” on a funny captioned photo than to come up with, memorise, and pass on a more traditional joke?)

Is it my age or career stage? (The people with whom I interact the most at work are the PIs, who do have a sense of humour (my main boss has quoted several bits of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe at me over the years, for example) but are highly, highly unlikely to tell me a good joke).

Is it just that I’ve been in the same place for ten years and have heard all my friends’ jokes already? (I don’t think so, because my main core group of friends is always in flux, with some people moving on to a new job in a new town, and others arriving to take their place).

Is a UK / Canada cultural difference to blame? (The timing of my move does correlate with the reduced joke frequency, and my Dad is still the most likely person to tell me a new joke he’s heard, usually from his golf buddies. Unfortunately, most of his jokes are about golf).

Or has Stephen Harper just sucked all the joy, fun and laughter out of Canadians?

I asked Mr E Man what he thought, and he replied that I must just work with boring people; he hears lots of jokes. Why doesn’t he share them when he gets home? Well, they’re mostly filthy and often sexist – two examples (admittedly funny, but definitely unbloggable) sufficed to prove his point (NB there are an increasing number of women in his industry, but none in his particular crew, which explains rather than excuses this behaviour). There was one exception to the rule: a joke about a hippy volunteering to clear the troublesome flock of seagulls from an airport runway using his stash of drugs, seemingly successfully – only for the first plane to take off that day to be brought down by the only bird that was still able to fly. Punch line? (all together now, say it with me): leave no tern unstoned.

What’s your experience? Do you still hear new jokes, in person? If not, why not?

Please preface all comments with your favourite joke.


So. What is the difference between Mick Jagger and a Scottish farmer?

Mick Jagger says “Hey, you, get offa my cloud”, but the Scottish farmer says “Hey, McLeod, get offa my ewe!”

(Mr E Man told me this joke. He got it from his uncle, who played rugby for Scotland, so please don’t hate me, Scottish friends!)

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
This entry was posted in Canada, communication, family, fun with language, furry friends, personal, silliness, UK. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to “What’s the difference between Mick Jagger and a Scottish farmer?”

  1. Nina says:

    How many Belgians do you need to change a light bulb?
    One to hold the bulb while standing on a table and, and three to turn the table.

    Which brings me nicely to the point that I know this joke in several languages and each country substitutes “Belgians” for the stupid nation of choice. So the above example is valid in both the Netherlands and France (which I also found very funny), In Belgium it is about Luxemburgers, in Germany about Ost-Friesians (some backwards state in Germany, apparently), in Canada you would use Americans and NZ obviously takes down the Aussies. Seems like a simple joke, but it immediately gives you so much information about a nation’s beliefs!

    I think the olde you get, the more you and your friends run out of jokes, unless they are of immediate political relevance. Or you realize that real life is funnier than jokes, haha…

  2. How many people from Toronto does it take to change a light bulb?
    One to change the bulb, and one to go to New York and see how they do it there.

    Which illustrates nicely (a) why I should never tell jokes, and (b) that you are correct, I never hear new ones.

    Even worse, some old chestnuts I remember from grade school are now re-surfacing courtesy of my own children. What’s old is new again, blah blah blah.

  3. Its not jokes so much round here (although eldest has some beauties) but puns! Now the kids are doing it too. AAAARGH!

    Most of my friends tend towards silly stories rather than outright jokes. Must be who I’m associating with 🙂

    viv in nz

    (and you’re right about us wanting to take down the Aussies – thats what elder siblings are for isn’t it?)

  4. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Nina: “in Canada you would use Americans”

    Don’t forget the Newfies!

    “Or you realize that real life is funnier than jokes”

    Yes. Yes it is. Good point.

    Richard, I hadn’t heard that one before!

    KK, puns make the best (and the worst) jokes! And yes, there is no shortage of silly stories, especially not on this blog!

  5. Robyn says:

    Speaking of newfies, Cath, if you want to hear some new jokes, have a beer or two with a newfie. The jokes are likely not much cleaner that Mr E Man’s, but you likely haven’t heard them before and they’re pretty funny.

    How many newfies does it take to change a light bulb? Five – one to hold the light bulb, and four to go outside and turn the house.

    • Ah the Newfies. One has to like the people who came up with the phrase “That stinks so bad it’d gag a maggot on a gutwagon”. 😀

      Not a joke, I know, but one of my favourite sayings ever. It just rolls off the tongue.

      • P.S. Hi Robyn, assuming you’re the Robyn I know.

        • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

          I only know a few Newfies, none of whom have the accent at all (which is a shame), and none of whom have ever said ““That stinks so bad it’d gag a maggot on a gutwagon” (which I can live with, maggots being my Room 101). One of them in particular – someone Robyn also knows – does indeed get very, very entertaining after a beer or two though!

  6. cromercrox says:

    Isaac Asimov once wondered why no joke he heard was ever original. People who told jokes had always heard them from elsewhere. He therefore came up with a story in which someone realised this – and all humour immediately vanished from life. Jokes had been introduced to the human race by aliens, you see, as a psychological experiment, but once humans had understood this, the experiment was spoiled.

    I think you have found part of the answer yourself – as many jokes depend on sexual and racial stereotypes, they have been expunged by PC. As you mix in a PC crowd, they are liable to tell fewer jokes for fear of offending anyone.

    Q: How many militant feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: One, and it’s not funny.

    I close with my favourite Jewish joke which I can get away with because (1) I am Jewish (2) only other Jews will understand it. Apologies if you’ve heard it before – but you did ask for jokes.

    The scene is New York during the Great Depression. Moishe, a Jewish actor, is desperate for work. Eventually his agent calls with a job but says little about it, only – teasingly – that he should turn up at the Bronx Zoo first thing next day. Our Moishe does so, and learns to his alarm that the acting job involves dressing up in a gorilla suit and living in the ape enclosure. The Zoo’s gorilla – a popular draw – had just died, and the Zoo couldn’t immediately afford a new one. Well, thinks Moishe, a job’s a job, and this one came with free board and lodging and all the bananas he could want.

    At first Moishe feels like a fraud. Visitors to the zoo spent their hard-earned nickels at the turnstiles to see a real gorilla, not a man in a suit. But nobody seems to notice – a testament perhaps to Moishe’s acting skills, or so he likes to think – and after a while he starts to get into the part. He rears up, beats his chest and bellows most convincingly, scratches his arse, swings from branch to branch and so on – and continues to attract loads of visitors. In fact, he draws more visitors than the real ape did, so much so that the Zoo starts to think about keeping him on permanently.

    Well, one day, Moishe is swinging from tree to tree and doing all sorts of aerobatics to impress a crowd of school kids when – the horror! – his hand slips and instead of reaching the next branch he sails over the wall of the adjacent enclosure … which is the lion’s den.

    So there’s our Moishe, dizzy and bruised and in a crumpled heap on the ground, wondering if he’s broken anything, when this enormous lion approaches. Moishe is rooted to the spot as the lion comes up to him, closer and closer, until all Moishe can see are its teeth and the insides of its slavering jaws. Moishe, thinking his last moment has come, puts his hands over his eyes and yells

    Shema Yisroel! Adonai Eloheinu! Adonai Echad!

    … at which point the lion stops in its tracks and intones the response,

    Baruch Shem K’Vod Malchuto L’Olam Va’Ed

    … when the Panda in the enclosure opposite yells: ‘shaddup you schmucks! You’ll get us all fired!’

    Ba boom. and furthermore, tish.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      “I think you have found part of the answer yourself – as many jokes depend on sexual and racial stereotypes, they have been expunged by PC. As you mix in a PC crowd, they are liable to tell fewer jokes for fear of offending anyone.”

      I dunno – I think I mix in a much less PC crowd here than I ever did in the UK, outside of work at least. And I never did hear many racist jokes, unless you count Irish / French / German / Scottish vs. English jokes as racist rather than xenophobic.

      You’ve told me the zoo joke before, but it’s definitely worth repeating!

  7. Mermaid says:

    In the spirit of the post, I immediately told that joke to everyone I saw for the rest of the day (when appropriate). I startled a few people. I think you are correct – people don’t tell jokes much anymore.

  8. Amusingly, Nina, I only know that light bulb joke as told by biologists – in which the light bulb changers are engineers.

  9. My favourite light bulb one is as follows. This is a joke that works told in person, but only if you do it (very) deadpan.

    Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?

    A: One. [ pause ] ….But it takes a long time, and the lightbulb really has to want to change.

  10. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Hooray for fieldist jokes!

  11. ecogeofemme says:

    I think it was the electricity company here that did a series of commercials with “how many X does it take to change a lightbulb” jokes. The only one I remember was “how many body builders does it take?” A: 5. One to change the bulb and four more to tell him he’s huuuuuuuuuge.

    I seriously LOLd for an inordinately long time at Cromercrox’s feminist joke. So well timed in the thread.

    The only jokes I sometimes tell are a series of man with no arms and no legs puns. I really apologize if readers have no arms or legs (I really think there is something to the PC-constraint hypothesis).

    OK, here we go:

    Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs on hanging on the wall?
    A. Art
    Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs laying on the floor?
    A. Matt
    Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs floating in the water?
    A. Bob
    Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs baked in a pie?
    A. Barry
    Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a hole?
    A. Phil
    Q. what do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a pile of leaves?
    A. Russel
    Q. what do you call two men with no arms and no legs on the window?
    A. Kurt and Rod
    Q. what do you call a woman with one leg?
    A. Eileen
    Q. what do you call a dog with no hind legs and steel balls?
    A. Sparky

    I think I have replaced joke telling with funny stories, usually repeated from tv shows. We get SO much mileage out of Family Guy. Also “your mom” and “that’s what she said”. We are not very sophisticated.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Excellent! I knew some of these – Bob and Eileen are two of my go-to jokes – but not all of them. Giggled very immaturely at Sparky in particular.

      Some more for your list, from memory:

      Q: what do you call a man with a spade stuck in his head?
      A: Doug

      Q: what do you call a man without a spade stuck in his head?
      A: Douglas

      Q: what do you call a man (with or without arms and legs) with a rabbit up his bum?
      A: Warren

      (rude one)
      Q: what do you call a man with a one inch penis?
      A: Justin

      Bonus joke:
      Q: what’s brown and sticky?
      A: a stick

      Sophistication is vastly over-rated, in my opinion.

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  13. Bob O'H says:

    Mu favourite joke from childhood (I must have been 6 or 7 when I read it in a joke book):

    Q: What’s big, red and eats rocks?
    A: A big red rock eater

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      That reminds me of the Red Rock cider advert with Leslie Nielsen: “It’s not red, and there are no rocks in it”.

      Q: What’s black and white and red all over?
      A: A newspaper

  14. Not the best jokes ever, but in the spirit of things…

    What do you call a blind antelope?
    No idea.

    What do you call a blind antelope with no legs?
    Still no idea.

    Now we’re humming…

    Why did the grape take off its sunglasses?
    Because it remembered it didn’t have eyes…



    • Bob O'H says:

      Ah, I’m reminded of a joke told by a friend from Oz:

      Q: how do you know a plane from England has landed?
      A: the whining continues after the engines have stopped.

      I also have several one-liners about Scunthorpe (“so bad even the football team moved out”).

    • Pika says:

      Here are a couple of similar ones we used to tell as kids (note the car, which was popular back then):

      How do you put a giraffe into a Fiat 500?
      Open the door, put giraffe in, close the door.

      How do you put an elephant into a Fiat 500?
      You can’t, there’s a giraffe inside already.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Excellent! But I already gnu the first two 🙂

      • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

        The first two of Mick’s, btw. Reply threading FAIL there.

        I’m sure any Aussie readers can add to Bob’s joke!

        Pika: nice! I hadn’t heard those ones. But I do know how to get a pope into a Mini (take off his hat)

  15. John the Plumber says:

    PC has definitely got a lot do with sparcity of jokes, for instance it’s not right to tell jokes like – How many womwn with PMT does it take to change a light bulb? – What the hells it got to with you. – which are in such bad taste. However, jokes like – The man who went to the doctor and said, “Doctor I think I am going deaf.” – The doctor said, “Oh – what are the symptoms?” – “A yellow family from America,” said the patient.- don’t really offend anyone, well – apart from deaf peolple – but theyr’e not going to hear you tell the joke are they. But as sheep came into the picture soemwhere in this post – did you hear about the Welsh farmer who bought a new sheep dog. The following morning when he let it out of the barn to round up the sheep, the dog started humping his leg, as naughty dogs do. The farmer looked down at the dog and said, “Stop it.” The dog looked up at the farmer and went grrrrr, – “Alright.” said the farmer – “Be quick then.” – Now that’s not really non PC – but I suupose I’d better change it too did you hear about the English farmer – as sheep are mentioned somewhere. It’s not good though. – If you remove all non PC jokes, all you are left with are jokes like, Did you hear about the white horse that went into a pub and ordered a beer. The barman said, “There’s a whiskey named after you.” – The horse said, “What – Arnold.” – or the one about the Giraffe that went into the pub, drank three pints and fell over flat. A man walked into the bar and said “What’s that lying there?” – “No it’s a giraffe,” said the barman. Read it again if you didn’t get it the first time. Are Mother in Law jokes PC or not – like – My Mother-in-Law applied for a job as a test pilot in a broomstick factory. That’s not really offensive it it? – Anyway she didn’t get the job – they said she was overqualified.

  16. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    I also like the non-joke genre of jokes. e.g. “A man walked into a bar. Ouch”, or “Two elephants fell out the window. Boom boom”.

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  18. Grant says:

    Via twitter (H/T @davidkroll):

    RT @DanceGeekRob: @scifri did you hear about the biologist who had twins? She baptized one and kept the other as a control.

    There’s more but they don’t appeal as much to me (not as fresh *to me* I guess):

    RT @AbyssalCeph: @scifri : I used to tell calculus jokes, but people found them too derivative. *groan*

    RT @gocjgo: @scifri A baby seal walks into a club.

    RT @jlou75: RT @deeshoo: @scifri What do you do with a dead chemist? Barium.

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