An Idiot’s Guide to the Reddit Thread, “What’s the Most Intellectual Joke You Know?”

Future Tense
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June 28 2013 9:03 AM

An Idiot’s Guide to the Reddit Thread, “What’s the Most Intellectual Joke You Know?”

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You don't have to be Jean-Paul Sartre to get these intellectual jokes.

Photo by AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Some jokes make you feel dumb for laughing at them. (What do you call somebody else’s cheese? Nacho cheese. What do you call a deer with no eyes? I have no idear.) Not so with the ones on a recent Reddit thread sparked by the question, “What’s the most intellectual joke you know?” If anything, the risk with these kinds of jokes is that you’ll feel dumb for not laughing at them. With that in mind, we’ve taken the liberty of annotating a few of our favorites—with the caveat that some of the references are a little hard to explain if you don’t already Noam.  

From user guitartard: “Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?”

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Why it’s funny: Because if it’s solipsistic in here, it really is just you. Or rather, just me.

From user phattmatt: “Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, "I'd like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream." The waitress replies, "I'm sorry, Monsieur, but we're out of cream. How about with no milk?”

Why it’s funny: Because Sartre believes that an absence of something is still something. Plus, coffee with no milk tastes a lot worse than coffee with no cream.

From user shannman: “Who does Polyphemus hate more than Odysseus? Nobody!”

Why it’s funny: Because Polyphemus doesn’t realize that Odysseus is Nobody.

From user doomwaxer: “Did you hear about the jurisprudence fetishist? He got off on technicality.”

Why it’s funny: It forms a wry commentary on the brokenness of the justice system.

From user android47: “A programmer's wife tells him: ‘Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.’ The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.”

Why it’s funny: Because the programmer accurately evaluated his wife’s Boolean condition.

From user Arcadian 5656: “A biologist, a chemist, and a statistician are out hunting. The biologist shoots at a deer and misses 5ft to the left, the chemist takes a shot and misses 5ft to the right, and the statistician yells, ‘We got ‘im!’ ”

Why it’s funny: Because it’s mean.

From user suid: “So this classics professor goes to a tailor to get his pants mended. The tailor asks, ‘Euripedes?’ The professor replies, ‘Yes. Eumenides?’ ”

Why it’s funny: Because the two men are not named Euripedes and Eumenides.

From user DrColdReality: “Two women walk into a bar and talk about the Bechdel test.”

Why it’s funny: Because “Bechdel test” is actually the name of a guy the first woman is dating.

From user Saboot: “Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, and Noam Chomsky walk into a bar. Heisenberg turns to the other two and says, ‘Clearly this is a joke, but how can we figure out if it's funny or not?’ Gödel replies, ‘We can't know that because we're inside the joke.’ Chomsky says, ‘Of course it's funny. You're just telling it wrong.’ ”

Why it’s funny: Because Heisenberg is uncertain, Godel sees that the joke is logically incomplete, and Chomsky is an asshole. I mean, because Chomsky distinguishes between the joke itself and the linguistic performance.

From user disposableaccountass: “Pavlov is sitting at a pub enjoying a pint, the phone rings and he jumps up shouting, ‘Oh shit, I forgot to feed the dog!’ ”

Why it's funny: It’s not. This joke makes light of animal cruelty. For shame. (Or: Because Pavlov’s dog has him well-trained.)

From user Watch_Closely: “It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.”

Why it’s funny: Because kleptomaniacs always take things, literally. As another Reddit user put it: “I don’t get it, but I’m stealing this one.”

See the original Reddit thread for more, and the comments to Tyler Cowen’s post for still more. And feel free to add your own in the comments below.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Katy Waldman is Slate’s words correspondent. 

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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