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American Jokes

February 20, 2012 | 13 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,

I am a Minnesotan who has travelled to Georgia (the country) to teach English. The other day, I was told several Georgian jokes by my students, and when I tried my best to think of American jokes to tell them, all I could think of were Sven and Ole jokes. Do you have any good suggestions for American jokes to tell, that are not about Scandinavians?

Karly Sorensen


You're asking the wrong guy, Karly. The jokes I love are really stupid ones. Like ----- What do you call an Italian with a rubber toe? Roberto. ---- That one really cracks me up. And how about this one? My wife's gone to the West Indies. Jamaica? No, she went on her own.

This is my current favorite.
Why can't an engineer tell a joke timing.

Try that out on a couple Georgians. And how about some rhymed jokes for something really classy.

"Darling, you've always been with me.
On life's long bumpy ride.
Through sickness, hair loss, bankruptcy,
You've been here by my side.
My heart attack and the house burning down
That night the lightning struck.
And liver cancer ---- and now suddenly
I'm starting to think that you're bad luck."

The farmer had a champion bull
Who bred two hundred times a year.
The farmer's wife said, 'Two hundred times!
Isn't that wonderful, dear!
Maybe you ought to watch him,
Maybe he'd show you how."
The farmer said, 'He's a heck of a bull
But it wasn't all with one cow."

And one more, but it's about Scandinavians.

Ole lay on his deathbed,
He knew he was going to die.
And then he smelled a beautiful smell
Of Lena's rhubarb pie.
He crept downstairs to the kitchen,
There it was, he let out a moan.
Then Lena whacked him with a broom:
"That's for the funeral. Leave it alone."


Don't even get me started. By the way, I actually sent an edition of GK's Pretty Good Jokes books to a Chinese gentleman (father of neighbors of mine, immigrants) who teaches high school English in Xi'an in China. I'd start, in Georgia, with words whose etymology/meaning overlaps a bit with Russian. I think learning a language lends itself to humor because in this case as for little kids, things aren't always what they seem. There is the astonishing "can't-elope" that is offered up for consumption, for example, if a child happens to have heard the word elope. Or my 2-year-old niece complaining about an ear-whack (earwig?) but meaning ear wax. I had a young neighbor boy who at 5 complained to his mom he wasn't happy about being a human bean.

Jokes for learning English

The Prairie Home Companion website has a vast archive of jokes for you and your students to explore - this week's selected joke is perfect (they are near the bottom of the page):

"What did the vegetables say to the Vegan? "Please sir, just lettuce alone!"

This joke was submitted by Mitt Price from Garland, TX. Thanks!"

Also, Slate magazine has an online political cartoon page:
And I haven't visited there, because our editorial pages have had slam-dunk political cartoons like a daily dose of Super Medicine, which transcends language, but is oh so rich. Both in terms of economics and politics, the present batch of cartoonery is spectacular.
I am thinking of one where there is something like the World Trade Center with a net stretched out for catching the falling people. The net is "the safety net," and they are saying that Romney has patched the hole in the safety net. Clearly people from above cannot fall beneath it, and people below cannot get above it.

Here is an example. I don't know what would strike the Georgian funny bone, but foreign politics can sometimes seem funnier than those on the home front. Here Snow White and her "wicked stepmother is invoked," mirror, mirror, on the wall, etc.

What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.

Old joke:

What's the definition of bigamy? One wife too many.
What's the definition of monogamy? Same thing.

Here's a good one for the Georgians. In fact, they'll probably be able to laugh harder at it than we can.

What's an Ineptocracy? a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

I thought you'd like it.

A cross-linguistic joke, the kind that bites you in the butt and makes you split a gut: Some prowl the whole day long setting up such an event (it only works by total ambush). The grapevine brought me this, of which I recall only a bit, not knowing anything about Star Wars or Italian: You tell some unsuspecting teacher of Italian that your favorite passato remoto verb is conoscere (to understand), "because Obi-Wan Conobbi" (something like that. Don't ask me exactly; io conobbi is the historical of "I understand," and "I" in the historical sense is probably rarer than plutonium. And Georgians might or might not know about Obi Wan Kenobi even if there were a Russian pseudo pun. If a measly bit of Italian can jar loose jokes like that, Russian can too. My Russian is really limited.

A man on safari wanders away from camp alone and sees a tiger about to attack. He raises his gun, fires, and misses. The tiger leaps, goes over him, and disappears into the jungle.
"I never should have missed that shot," he says, and the next day he goes out to practice close-range shooting.
He's firing away at empty containers when he hears a rustling, approaches carefully, and sees . . . the tiger practicing short-range pouncing.

Two cows standing in a pasture:

Cow 1: Have you heard about all that mad cow disease going around lately?

Cow 2: I sure have, it makes me glad I'm a penguin!

I liked this joke when I was learning English.

-Do you think I should put more fire into my poetry?
-No, I was thinking the exact opposite.

Thank you for all of the great jokes!

How did the Republic of Georgia manage to get such beautiful land? Well, as the story goes, when God was giving land to all of the people back in the day, all of the Georgians were at a supra, eating their fill of khatchapuri (a form of cheese-bread here) and drinking many glasses of wine. They went to see God after the supra, but he said, "Sorry, there is no land left for you. Why did you come so late?" The Georgians replied, "You see God, we were at a supra, drinking a toast to you." God thought for a moment, and said, "Well, I have saved some land for myself, so I'll give you a piece of that for your people."

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