Residence: New York City
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/14/12
Primary Language: English
Two elephants are in a bathtub. One elephant says to the other, “Please pass the soap.” The other elephant says, “No soap, radio!”
My informant first heard this joke from her father, who’d been telling it for as long as either she or he can remember. My informant told me that her father used to say this joke to her all the time, and it would always make her laugh. It wasn’t until she turned 12 or so that she realized she had absolutely no idea what the joke meant. She would ask her dad again and he’d just laugh and say the punchline again, “No soap, radio!” As if it were incredibly obvious. After bothering him about it for a long time, she finally told me her that he, in fact, had no idea what the joke meant either. It was just something someone had told him years ago and had stuck with him. The point of the “joke” is that there is no punchline, it’s just a practical joke, meant to provoke a reaction from the person who hears it. Either the person hearing the joke will assume a false understanding of the joke–“Oh, hahaha, I get it!”–and thus becomes the butt of the joke himself, or they will confess that they don’t get it, and therefore feel left out.
The joke is best when told with a wingman. Way when the joker says the punchline, the wingman laughs, which encourages others to laugh–even if they have no idea what they’re laughing about.
My informant tells me her entire immediate family knows this joke, and once in a while they’ll employ it on an unsuspecting stranger. “Everyone always falls for it and laughs the first time,” she said, “and so even after, when you’re on the ‘inside,’ it’s never mean-spirited…everyone is always embarrassed about the time they laughed!”