What makes people laugh? What do native English speakers find funny?
Here are seven different types of funny English jokes. Don’t forget to read to the end, where you’ll find the joke that was voted the funniest in a survey of 36,000 people.
There are also explanations to help you understand the joke!
1. Jokes with puns
A pun is a “play on words”, so this type of joke plays with different meanings of a word, or is based on words which sound the same – but which have a different meaning.
Here’s an example of words that sound the same.
“I went to the zoo the other day. There was only a dog in it – it was a shihtzu.”
Explanation: A shihtzu is a type of dog. But when you say “shihtzu” it sounds like “sh*t zoo”, meaning “a terrible zoo”.
(By the way, this joke is also an example of a “one-liner” – a joke in just one sentence.)
Here’s another example of different meanings of a word.
“Two aerials get married. The ceremony was rubbish – but the reception was brilliant.”
Explanation: Reception can mean the party after the wedding, OR the signal on your TV or phone
2. “A man walks into a bar” joke
A lot of jokes start with this sentence. Then the joke continues with a little story about a man in a bar. But, a bar is also a hard piece of wood or metal, so you also get jokes like this:
A man walks into a bar.
Explanation: “Ouch” is what we say when we hurt ourselves.
A dyslexic man walks into a bra.
Explanation: If you are dyslexic, you have difficulty with letters. Instead of b-a-r, the word is b-r-a (which means women’s underwear.)
3. Mother-in-law jokes
Men often tell these jokes, and they’re also considered a little sexist and old-fashioned. Here’s an example:
“My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well. I was amazed – I never knew they worked.”
Explanation: A wishing well is a well (place where you can lower a bucket to bring up water) where you can make a wish – and it happens.
4. Cultural jokes
These are based on shared cultural knowledge, which makes them hard to understand. Here’s an example:
Doctor, I can’t stop singing The Green Green Grass of Home.
He says “That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome.”
“Is it common?” I asked.
“It’s not unusual” he replied.
Explanation: “It’s not unusual” is a famous song by Tom Jones.
5. Doctor jokes
A “doctor” joke is a joke based on an imaginary situation when a patient explains a problem to the doctor. Here’s an example:
Patient: Doctor, I have a pain in my eye whenever I drink tea.
Doctor: Take the spoon out of the mug before you drink.
6. Lightbulb jokes
These always start “How many (type of person) does it take to change a lightbulb?” Here’s my all-time favourite:
“How many members of the Socialist Workers’ Party does it take to change a lightbulb?”
“About a million. One out, all out.”
Explanation: “One out, all out” was a slogan used by the Socialist Workers’ Party to get everyone to “come out” on strike / take industrial action.
When we say a lightbulb is out, we mean it no longer works.
7. Three… jokes
Jokes are often told as little stories, where there are three types of people. A typical example is “An Englishman, A Scottish man and a Welshman …” Often it’s an Irishman instead of Welshman. These jokes are often negative about the stereotypes of these three countries. But here’s an alternative:
A Doberman, a Golden Retriever and a cat died and met God. God said to them, “Tell me why I should let you into heaven.”
The Doberman said, “I’ll protect you with my life.”
God said, “You can sit at my right side.”
The Golden Retriever said, “I will fetch your slippers and anything else you ask me to.”
God said, “Then you can sit at my left side.”
Finally, God looked at the cat and said, “And what will you do?”
The cat said, “Excuse me. I think you’re sitting in my seat.”
Explanation: If you’re a cat owner, you don’t need an explanation for this joke!
The people’s funniest joke
This is the joke that was voted the funniest in a survey of 36,000 people.
A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The driver says “Ugh – that’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen!”
The woman walks to the back of the bus and sits down.
She says to the man next to her: “The driver just insulted me!”
The man says: “You go up there and tell him off. Go on. I’ll hold your monkey for you.”