The Funniest Joke in China – Part 1
Posted by MyLaowai on Monday, May 7, 2007
I still remember my early days here in Hell China. Back then I had this odd belief that people were all basically the same, that all parents wanted a better life for their kids than they had themselves, that education was the key to progress, that when you smiled at people, the vast majority would smile back, that love really was the most basic human emotion. Oh, how naive I was.
Now, I’m a guy that likes to have a laugh: I like to hear jokes, and I like to tell them. So it was rather a shock to me when I arrived in the sewer China, to discover that irony was something they made rice bowls out of. Oh, the revelation didn’t come all at once, and Ye Gods! I tried hard to find a funny bone in these peeps, but no joy was to be had. Initially, I put this down to cultural differences. It seemed a reasonable assumption to make, and foolish young grasshopper wot I was, I figured it was something I would come to understand in time. Of course, I was wrong.
One day I was hit by inspiration: I would gather together at a restaurant all my Chinese leeches bloodsuckers ‘friends’ (my apologies to those few who genuinely are friends), and I would tell them all the jokes that I knew. By observing their reactions to said jokes, I would be in a better position to determine the orientation of their sense of humour. I ended up with around a dozen peeps, male and female, urban and rural, aged from twenty to thirty – a good spread. Well, I don’t mind saying that I was on fire that night. It was a night in which every joke I’d ever heard came back to me as easily as if I’d only just heard it. I covered it all, from wit to satire to irony to sarcasm to slapstick to farce. I did plays on words, body gestures, and cringe. I even asked why the chicken crossed the road. I reckon I nailed it all. And not so much as a smile from the audience, not a fucking twitch.
Oh yeah, you may say, they didn’t understand. Perhaps, which was why I had Mrs MyLaowai translate everything, and why I explained the various cultural references. It went on for hours.
No reaction at all. Nothing.
After I’d run out of ideas, I sat back, exhausted. And inspiration hit again: “All right”, I said. “I’m going to eat something myself now. While I do that, I have a mission for you: Since you don’t find my jokes funny, I’d like you all to get together and decide on the funniest joke you collectively know, then tell it to me. Perhaps I can work out Chinese Humour that way!”
Well, they all thought that was a fine idea, so off they went into a struggle session group discussion. After some minutes they all started to fall about the place laughing, so I knew they had it. I present that Joke for you now…
A Man and his Son go to the zoo. They are at the Tiger cage, when Son asks his Father “Father, is Tiger married?”
“No Son, Tiger is not married”
They then get to the Giraffe cage. “Father, is Giraffe married?”
“No Son, Giraffe is not married”
They move on to the Elephant cage. “Father, is Elephant married?”
“No Son, Elephant is not married”
[at this point my humorous friends are starting to crack up, so I know the Punchline is near]
They arrive at the Donkey cage. “Father, is Donkey married?”, asks Son.
“Yes, Donkey is the only animal that gets married”, replies Father.
And they were falling about the place in hysterics. Why? I know not. I tried to understand, I really did. Was there something cultural about donkeys? Was it a play on words that was lost in translation? No. It was simply the idea of a donkey being the only animal to get married. Would it have been funny if, instead of ‘Donkey’, it had been ‘Aardvark’? No, of course not, Aardvarks don’t get married, I was informed.
Chinese ‘humour’? Don’t make me laugh.
In an unexpected sequel, I told this story to some local colleagues here last year, and they informed me that there was, in fact, an even more hilarious joke. Stay tuned for The Funniest Joke in China – Part 2.
P.S. for what it’s worth here’s a joke for you: Chinese Culture.