Top old jokes


Mrs. Rafferty stopped to address Mrs. Flannagan, who was standing at ease in the door of the tenement. She spoke with an air of fine pride:

[Pg 156]

“I’m afther havin’ a letter from me boy. He tells me that fer meritorious condooct, his sintince will be reduced six months.”

Mrs. Flannagan beamed appreciatively on hearing the glad tidings.

“Sure, now, an’ what a comfort it must be t’ yez, havin’ a son what does ye such credit.”


The raw recruit was on sentry duty. He had a piece of pie, which he had brought from the canteen, and proceeded to enjoy it. Just then, the colonel happened along, and scowled at the sentry, who paid no attention to him whatever.

“Do you know who I am?” the officer demanded.

The sentry shook his head. “Mebby, the veterinarian, or the barber, or mebby the colonel himself.” The sentry laughed loudly at his own wit. But he wiltered as the officer sternly declared his identity.

“Oh good land!” the recruit cried out in consternation. “Please, hold this pie while I present arms.”


It is related concerning a sofa, belonging to a man blessed (?) with seven daughters, all unmarried, which was sent to the upholsterer to be repaired, that, when taken apart, the following articles were discovered:

Forty-seven hairpins, three mustache combs, nineteen suspender buttons, thirteen needles, eight cigarettes, four photographs, two hundred and seventeen pins, some[Pg 157] grains of coffee, a number of cloves, twenty-seven cuff-buttons, six pocket-knives, fifteen poker-chips, a vial of homeopathic medicine for the nerves, thirty-four lumps of chewing-gum, fifty-nine toothpicks, twenty-eight matches, fourteen button-hooks, two switches, a transformation and two plates of false teeth, which apparently had bitten each other.


The raw Irishman was told by the farmer for whom he worked that the pumpkins in the corn patch were mule’s eggs, which only needed someone to sit on them to hatch. Pat was ambitious to own a mule, and, selecting a large pumpkin, he sat on it industriously every moment he could steal from his work. Came a day when he grew impatient, and determined to hasten the hatching. He stamped on the pumpkin. As it broke open, a startled rabbit broke from its cover in an adjacent corn shock and scurried across the field. Pat chased it, shouting:

“Hi, thar! Stop! don’t yez know your own father?”

* * *

The meek-looking gentleman arose hastily and offered his seat in the car to the self-assertive woman who had entered and glared at him. She gave him no thanks as she seated herself, but she spoke in a heavy voice that filled the whole car:

“What are you standing up there for? Come here, and sit on my lap.”

The modest man turned scarlet as he huskily faltered:

[Pg 158]

“I fear, madam, that I am not worthy of such an honor.”

“How dare you!” the woman boomed. “You know perfectly well I was speaking to my niece behind you.”

* * *

The little man was perfectly harmless, but the lady sitting next to him in the car was a spinster, and suspicious of all males. So, since they were somewhat crowded on the seat, she pushed the umbrella between her knee and his and held it firmly as a barrier. A shower came up, and the woman when she left the car, put up the umbrella. As she did so, she perceived that the little man had followed her. She had guessed that he was a masher, now she knew it. She walked quickly down the side street, and the man pursued through the driving rain. She ran up the steps of her home, and rang the bell. When she heard the servant coming to the door, feeling herself safe at last, she faced about and addressed her pursuer angrily:

“How dare you follow me! How dare you! What do you want, anyhow?”

The drenched little man at the foot of the steps spoke pleadingly:

“If you please, ma’am, I want my umbrella.”

* * *

* * *

The assistant minister announced to the congregation that a special baptismal service would be held the following Sunday at three o’clock in the afternoon, and that any infants to receive the rite should be brought to the church at that time.

The old clergyman, who was deaf, thought that his assistant was speaking of the new hymnals, and he added a bit of information:

“Anyone not already provided can obtain them in the vestry for a dollar, or with red backs and speckled edges for one dollar and a half.”

* * *

The child went with her mother on a visit in New Jersey. At bedtime, the little girl was nervous over the strangeness of her surroundings, but the mother comforted her, saying:

“Remember, dear, God’s angels are all about you.”

A little later, a cry from the child called the mother back into the room.

[Pg 160]

“The angels are buzzing all around just dreadful, mama, and they bite!”

* * *

The new clergyman was coming to call, and the mother gave Emma some instructions:

“If he asks your name, say Emma Jane; if he asks how old you are, say you are eight years old; if he asks who made you, say God made me.”

It is a fact that the clergyman did ask just those three questions in that order, to the first two of which Emma replied correctly. But it is also a fact that when the minister propounded the third query, as to her origin, the child hesitated, and then said:

“Mama did tell me the man’s name, but I’ve gone and forgotten it.”

* * *

The editor of a country newspaper betook himself to a party at the house of a neighbor, where, only a few weeks earlier, a baby had been added to the family. On the editor’s arrival at the house, he was met at the door by his hostess, a woman who suffered to some extent from deafness. After the usual exchange of greetings, the editor inquired concerning the health of the baby. The hostess had a severe cold, and she now misunderstood the visitor’s inquiry concerning the baby, thinking that he was solicitous on her account. So she explained to the aghast editor who had asked about the baby that, although she usually had one every winter, this was the very worst one she had ever had, it kept her awake at night a great deal, and at first confined her to her bed. Having explained thus far, the good lady noticed the[Pg 161] flabbergasted air of her guest. She continued sympathetically; saying that she could tell by his looks and the way he acted that he was going to have one just like hers. Then she insisted that, as a precautionary measure for the sake of his condition, he should come in out of the draft and sit down and stay quiet.


A Texas lad, lacking a team of horses or oxen or mules for his ploughing, engaged his sister to direct the plough, while he yoked himself to a steer for the pulling. The steer promptly ran away, and the lad had no choice but to run too. They came shortly into the village and went tearing down the street. And as he raced wildly, the young man shouted:

“Here we come-darn our fool souls! Somebody head us off!”


A babu, or native clerk, in India, who prided himself on his mastery of the English tongue and skill in its idioms, sent the following telegram in announcement of his mother’s death:

“Regret to announce that hand which rocked the cradle has kicked the bucket.”


A British journalist, in an article on Sir Henry Irving for a London weekly wrote:

[Pg 162]

“I was his guest regularly at all Lyceum first nights for a whole quarter of a century…. He delighted in the company of third-rate people.”


The disreputable-looking panhandler picked out an elderly gentleman of most benevolent aspect and made a plea for a small financial contribution. When he had finished his narrative of misery and woe the elderly gentleman replied benignantly:

“My good friend, I have no money, but I can give you some good advice.”

The tramp spat contemptuously, and uttered an oath of disgust.

“If you hain’t got no money,” he jeered, “I reckon your advice ain’t worth hearin’.”


A well-known millionaire entertained Edward Everett Hale with other guests at a dinner. The host was not only hospitable, but wished every one to know his liberality. During the meal, he extolled the various viands, and did not hesitate to give their value in dollars and cents. In speaking of some very beautiful grapes served, which had been grown on his estate, he wearied the company by a careful calculation as to just how much a stem of them had cost him. Doctor Hale grinned pleasantly as he extended his empty plate, with the request:

“I’ll thank you to cut me off about $1.87 worth more, please.”

[Pg 163]


The wives of the savage chief questioned the wife of the missionary:

“And you never let your husband beat you?”

“Certainly not,” the Christian lady replied. “Why, he wouldn’t dare to try such a thing!”

The oldest wife nodded understandingly.

“It is plain enough why the foreign devil has only one wife.”


The son of the house addressed his mother wistfully.

“I’m going to have a little sister some day, ain’t I?”

“Why, dear, do you want one?”

The child nodded seriously.

“Yes, mama, I do. It gets kin’ o’ tiresome teasin’ the cat.”


The more-or-less-religious woman was deeply shocked when the new neighbors sent over on Sunday morning to borrow her lawn-mower.

“The very idea,” she exclaimed to her maid, “of cutting grass on the Sabbath! Shameful! Certainly, they can’t have it. Tell them we haven’t any lawn-mower.”


Two men walking along Avenue A in New York City observed a dingy saloon, in the window of which was a framed sign, reading:

Ici on parle français.”

“I don’t believe anybody talks French in that dump,” one of the observers remarked.

To settle the matter, they entered, and ordered ginger ale of a red-headed barkeeper who was unmistakably Irish.

One of the men addressed the barkeeper:

Fait beau temps, monsieur.”

The barkeeper scowled.

“Come agin!” he demanded.

[Pg 165]

It was soon demonstrated that French was a language unknown to the establishment.

The visitor then inquired as to the reason for the sign in the window, explaining that it meant, “French is spoken here.”

The Irish barkeeper cursed heartily.

“I bought it off a sheeny,” he explained, “for six bits. He tould me it was Latin for, ‘God Bless Our Home.'”


Artemas Ward said:

“When I am sad, I sing, and then others are sad with me.”

* * *

The optimistic pessimist explained why he always dined in restaurants where music was provided.

“Because it works two ways: sometimes the music helps to make me forget the food, and sometimes the food helps to make me forget the music.”

* * *

The young man, who was interested in natural history, was sitting on the porch one June evening with his best girl, who was interested in music. The rhythmic shrilling of the insects pulsed on the air, and from the village church down the street came the sounds of choir practise. The young man gave his attention to the former, the girl to the latter; and presently she spoke eagerly:

“Oh, don’t it sound grand!”

The young man nodded, and answered:

[Pg 166]

“Yes, indeed! and it’s interesting to think that they do it all with their hind legs.”

* * *

The boy violinist, played at a private musical, rendering a difficult concerto, which contained some particularly long rests for the soloist: During one of these intervals, a kindly dowager leaned toward the performer, and whispered loudly:

“Why don’t you play something that you know, my boy?”

* * *

The apoplectic and grumpy old gentleman in the crowded restaurant was compelled to sit, much against his will, next to the orchestra. His stare at the leader as the jazz selection came to an end. The annoyed patron snorted, and then asked:

“Would you be so kind as to play something by request?”

The leader bowed again and beamed.

“Certainly,” he replied; “anything you like, sir.”

“Then,” snapped the patron, “please be good enough to play a game of checkers while I finish my meal.”


The Japanese are remarkably tidy in the matter of floors. They even remove their shoes at the doorway. A Japanese student in New York was continually distressed by the dirty hallways of the building in which[Pg 167] he lived. In the autumn, the janitor placed a notice at the entrance, which read:

“Please wipe your feet.”

The Japanese wrote beneath in pencil:

“On going out.”


It was a late hour when the hostess at the reception requested the eminent basso to sing.

“It is too late, madam,” he protested. “I should disturb your neighbors.”

“Not at all,” declared the lady, beaming. “Besides, they poisoned our dog last week.”


The older sister rebuked the younger when putting her to bed for being cross and ill tempered throughout the day. After she had been neatly tucked in, the little one commented:

“It’s temper when it’s me an’ nerves when it’s you.”


“And you say you have the same nightmare every night,” the doctor inquired. “What is it?”

The suffering man answered:

“I dream that I’m married.”

“Ah, hum!” the physician grunted perfunctorily. “To whom?”

“To my wife,” the patient explained. “That’s what makes it a nightmare.”

[Pg 168]

The inn-keeper was inclined to take advantage of a particular guest who did not scrutinize the bills rendered. When the clerk mentioned the fact that this guest had complained of a nightmare, the host brightened, and marked down an item of ten dollars charge for livery.


The young son of a mountaineer family in North Carolina had visited for the first time in the town twelve miles from home, and had eaten his mid-day meal there. Questioned on his return as to the repast, he described it with enthusiasm, except in one particular:

“They done had something they called gravee. But hit looked like sop, an’ hit tasted like sop, an’ I believe in my soul ‘twar sop!”

* * *

When his daughter returned from the girls’ college, the farmer regarded her critically, and then demanded:

“Ain’t you a lot fatter than you was?”

“Yes, dad,” the girl admitted. “I weigh one hundred and forty pounds stripped for ‘gym.'”

The father stared for a moment in horrified amazement, then shouted:

“Who in thunder is Jim?”

* * *

On an occasion when a distinguished critic was to deliver a lecture on the poet Keats in a small town, the president of the local literary society was prevented by[Pg 169] illness from introducing the speaker, and the mayor, who was more popular than learned, was asked to officiate. The amiable gentleman introduced the stranger with his accustomed eloquence, and concluded a few happy remarks of a general character with this observation:

“And now, my friends, we shall soon all know what I personally have often wondered-what are Keats!”

* * *

During the scarcity of labor, a new clerk, who knew nothing of the business, was taken on by a furniture house. His mistakes were so bad that the proprietor was compelled to watch him closely, and to fire him after the following episode.

A lady customer asked to see some chiffoniers. The clerk led her to the display of bassinettes, which was an unfortunate error since the lady was an old maid. She accepted his apology, however, and then remarked:

“Where are your sideboards?”

The clerk blushed furiously, as he replied:

“Why-er-I shaved them off last week.”

* * *

The lady who had some culture, but not too much, was describing the adventure of her husband, who had been in Messina at the time of the earthquake.

“It was awful,” she declared, in tense tones. “When Jim went to bed, everything was perfectly quiet. And then, when he woke up, all of a sudden, there beside him was a yawning abbess!”

[Pg 170]

* * *

One of the two girls in the subway was glancing at a newspaper.

“I see,” she remarked presently to her companion, “that Mr. So and so, the octogenarian, is dead. Now, what on earth is an octogenarian anyhow?”

“I’m sure I haven’t the faintest idea,” the other girl replied. “But they’re an awful sickly lot. You never hear of one but he’s dying.”

* * *

A story is told of an office-seeker in Washington who asserted to an inquirer that he had never heard of Mark Twain.

“What? Never heard of Tom Sawyer?”

“Nope, never heard of him.”

“Nor Huck Finn?”

“Nope, never heard of him neither.”

“Nor Puddin’head Wilson?”

“Oh, Lord, yes!” the office-seeker exclaimed. “Why, I voted for him.”

And then he added sadly:

“An’ that’s all the good it done me.”

* * *

The aged caretaker of the Episcopal church confided to a crony that he was uncertain as to just what he was:

“I used to be the janitor, years ago. Then we had a parson who named me the sextant. And Doctor Smith, he called me a virgin. And our young man, he says I’m the sacrilege.”

[Pg 171]


The old mountaineer and his wife arrived at a railway station, and for the first time in their lives beheld a train of cars, which was standing there. The husband looked the engine over very carefully, and shook his head.

“Well, what do you think of it, father?” asked the old lady.

“She’ll never start,” was the firm answer: “she’ll never start.”

The conductor waved, the bell rang, the locomotive puffed, the train moved slowly at first, then faster. It was disappearing in the distance when the wife inquired slyly:

“Well, pa, what do you think of it now?”

The old man shook his head more violently than before.

“She’ll never stop,” he asserted; “she’ll never stop!”


The great pugilist was superstitious and fond of lobster. When the waiter served one with a claw missing, he protested. The waiter explained that this lobster had been worsted in a fight with another in the kitchen. The great pugilist pushed back his plate.

“Carry him off,” he commanded, “and bring me the winner.”

[Pg 172]


The sergeant rebuked the private angrily:

“Jenkins, why haven’t you shaved this morning?”

“Why, ain’t I shaved?” the private exclaimed, apparently greatly surprised.

“No, you ain’t,” the sergeant snapped. “And I want to know the reason why.”

“Well, now, I guess it must be this way,” Jenkins suggested. “There was a dozen of us usin’ the same bit of lookin’ glass, an’ I swan I must have shaved somebody else.”


The day laborer was of a cheerful disposition that naturally inclined to seek out the good in every situation. He was a genuine optimist. Thus, after tramping the three miles from home to begin the day’s work on the ditch, he discovered that he had been careless, and explained to a fellow laborer:

“I’ve gone and done it now! I left my lunch at home.”

Then, suddenly he beamed happily, as he added:

“And it’s a good thing I did, for the matter of that, because I left my teeth at home, too.”

* * *

The optimist fell from the top story of a skyscraper. As he passed the fourth story, he was overheard muttering:

“So far, so good!”

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