Regan Joke

[original joke by Reagan, or at least was at one point told by Reagan]

“A man in Soviet Russia would like to buy a car. There’s only one model, as per usual Soviet policy, but that’s alright, a car’s a car. He heads down to the dealership to buy the car and is told by the dealer that there’s a five year wait list to get the car. The man says no bother, just put me down on the list, I’ll come to pick it up in five years time. As he is leaving, he stops to ask one more question — “Will the car be ready on a Tuesday?” The dealer looks a bit surprised, but he counts out the days and says the car will indeed be ready on a Tuesday. “Well that won’t do, the plumber is coming over that Tuesday.”

Former president Jimmy Carter is giving a speech to an audience in Japan. Most of the audience speaks only Japanese, so there is also a live translator present. He opens the speech with a light joke, the translator translates it, and the crowd erupts in laughter. This confuses Carter, he didn’t think the joke was quite that funny, it was more of a chuckler than a centerpiece of a comedy set, but he continues the rest of the speech regardless without a hitch. Later, he asks the translator how he translated the joke to be so funny. The translator admits “well, I couldn’t translate it, so I panicked and said ‘President Carter told a funny joke. Please laugh.'””

My informant remembered this one from a YouTube video and retold it to me candidly. They mentioned that they interpret this joke as a way to show that Regan was a human being. Kinda shit at times but still a human who could tell a good joke. They also mentioned that this one shows how cool languages are. Word for word, the said “Languages are cool as shit.”

To me, I think the initial joke goes over my head, but the translation punchline is such a self-referential and unexpected joke. I would agree with my informant that this joke shows how cool languages can be. I also think that it could be trying to show how translators are not perfect, especially in the moment.