Comedy has been around in one form or another for a long time. The ancient Greeks did it, and so did the Romans. Shakespeare wrote his Elizabethan comedies and was particularly fond of innuendos, puns, and put-downs — for example, “I do desire we may be better strangers,” or, “Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat.”
The oldest known joke, perhaps unsurprisingly, involves flatulence. It dates back to the Sumerians of 1900 BCE, and goes as follows: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.” If you’re not rolling around on the floor laughing at that one, you’re probably not alone. It would seem that even fart jokes — thankfully — have evolved over the centuries.
Today’s comedians continue to be as rebellious as ever. They poke fun at social norms and political elites, and they break taboos across boundaries of race, gender, and sexuality — at times eliciting equal amounts of laughter and outrage. Here are some of the funniest jokes from modern comedians, from old-school stand-ups such as Rodney Dangerfield to modern entertainers such as Chris Rock and Ricky Gervais.
Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice”?
— George Carlin
I have a lot of growing up to do. I realized that the other day inside my fort.
— Zach Galifianakis
The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.
— Joan Rivers
Nothing good ever happens in a blackout. I've never woken up and been like, “What is this Pilates mat doing out?”
I like to play chess with old men in the park, although it’s hard to find 32 of them.
— Emo Philips
A two-year-old is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have a top for it.
— Jerry Seinfeld
I believe in the institution of marriage, and I intend to keep trying until I get it right.
— Richard Pryor
The thing that attracted me to my husband was his pride. I'll never forget the first time I saw him, standing up on a hill, his hair blowing in the breeze — and he too proud to run and get it.
— Jean Carroll
Children are smarter than any of us. Know how I know that? I don’t know one child with a full-time job and children.
— Bill Hicks
If I ever do a nude scene, I want to be in shape just enough so nobody calls me "courageous" for doing it.
— Ali Wong
I went to a place to eat. It said “breakfast at any time.” So I ordered french toast during the Renaissance.
— Steven Wright
To me, political office should be like jury duty. You should just get a notice in mail one day and be like, "I'm Secretary of State next month!"
— Wanda Sykes
I like an escalator, man. Because an escalator cannot break. It just becomes stairs.
— Mitch Hedberg
Yeah, I love being famous. It's almost like being white, y'know?
— Chris Rock
I was one of those kids that finished school early… by dropping out.
— Tig Notaro
I drink too much. Last time I gave a urine sample, there was an olive in it.
— Rodney Dangerfield
I used to play sports. Then I realized you can buy trophies. Now I'm good at everything.
— Demetri Martin
My hell is going to be the StairMaster wing of Dante's inferno, where they’re gonna tape my feet to the pedals and the only music I get is Michael Bolton karaoke-style.
— Janeane Garofalo
I’ve never worked out what the moral of Humpty Dumpty is. I can only think of: Don’t sit on a wall, if you’re an egg.
— Ricky Gervais
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