Tag Archives: anti-joke

Brown and Sticky Anti-Joke


The informant was very nonchalant about telling this joke. It was the kind of “let’s get this over with” demeanor that someone has when they expect you to already know the joke they’re about it tell. Regardless of that mutual understanding, they had a grin on their face that made it evident it was a joke they liked to tell.

“Okay. What’s brown and sticky?”

I responded, “Ohh, yeah. I’ve heard this one before.”

“Sticks,” we said together. And despite both knowing the punchline to the joke, we both shared a brief laugh as it was still an effective joke.


The informant considers to be their “first joke ever,” and it was the first subversive joke that they had ever heard. Because of this, it’s the first joke that comes to mind when they think about telling a joke. Even then, they don’t consider it to be a “funny joke.”

The informant attributed this joke to playground humor around when they were in the “second grade.”

Typically used as their go-to joke to tell, the informant tells this joke as something easy and clever– if the audience hasn’t heard it before. They described the joke being especially effective for kids, but much less effective for adults who can automatically infer the correct response.


This joke is both simple and subversive. It baits the audience into expecting the question of “What’s brown and sticky” to result in something more akin to a riddle where the answer would simply be an object that is both visually brown and texturally sticky. Part of what makes this subversion particularly effective for children is the inherent potty/gross-out humor that arises from asking someone for something brown and sticky. When the punchline (and more joke-y aspect) is revealed to be “sticks,” it additionally serves as a moment to embarrass the audience for their “gross” thoughts.

Taste the Soup

BACKGROUND: GH is the interviewer’s father.

GH: “ “Guy goes into a restaurant, orders soup. Soup’s delivered. After awhile, he signals the waiter. The waiter says “sir, is there a problem with the soup?”
The man says, “taste the soup.”
“Is it too hot?”
“Taste the soup.”
“is it too cold?”
“tASTE the soup.”
“Is it too spicy?”
“Taste the soup.”
“Is it too bland?”
“Taste the soup.”
Finally, the waiter, now exasperated, says “okay.” He goes down to taste the soup, and says “there’s no spoon.”
The man: “A-HA!
My dad used to tell me the joke, and I used to say “taste the soup” when someone finally came up with a solution to a problem, often one right in front of us. No one ever got it.”

ANALYSIS: “Taste the soup” is a traditional folk joke, one that has become specific family folklore. Eddie Murphy performed it in Coming to America, but my father had heard it for decades prior as a young boy. The punchline has been appropriated as a short-hand, which shows the joke’s dexterity and cultural staying power (even if not many get it).

The Mosquito Joke


J is the interviewer.
B is the interviewed party.

J: “I know you love to, so can you tell me the story of the mosquito joke?”

B: “[Laughs] That is one of my favorites. So I got told that joke when I was in… the summer of my eighth grade, right before I went into ninth grade, and we were at Montreat, church camp. And I do not remember exactly who told it to me, but, [uh], some guy knew it and… he… everyone else was, like, asking him to say it like all day long. They were like, [falsetto] ‘Oh, tell us the mosquito joke. Tell us the mosquito joke.’ And he kept refusing and building up hype. And so we kept asking and asking, and he finally told us it. Afterwards, he told me that when I tell it, that you can, like, make up your own … your own details to the story, but the basic points you have to hit on all of it are that there’s a mosquito, and he lives in Africa, and then he comes to America. And you just draw it out really long. You talk about his childhood in Africa, and then him coming to America, sometimes he gets a college degree, sometimes it’s different… all these different things. But, eventually, he needs to make his way back to Africa, and the joke is almost over as soon as you get back to Africa. And you say, ‘but the whole time he was in America, he didn’t have anything to drink, so he’s very, very thirsty.’ So he waits in line at the watering hole, but there’s a huge water line, so he doesn’t wait there. Then he goes to the Coke hole, and there’s also a huge line there. There’s a huge Coke line. So he doesn’t go. So he looks around, he looks around and he sees the punch hole, and the thing is… there’s no punchline. And that’s the whole joke.”

J:  “And what made you remember this so long?”

B: “Well the joke itself is really long, but there’s not that many details, so every time you tell it, it changes drastically, and you only have to remember just a few tiny, tiny details. So, it’s very easy to remember. And the same way the guy who told it to me did, you can build up hype for this joke, and the longer you build up hype the better the joke gets, because the more hype there is the more angry they’re gonna be when they hear the end of the story ‘cause there’s no payoff at all. It’s just a god-awful, terrible joke, but that’s the funny thing about it. So, I just have been telling it whenever I remember it and I guess that’s why I remember it so well.”


There exists a whole genre of jokes, called anti-jokes, where the punchline is that there is nothing funny about the joke. Comedy is all about subverting expectations for a laugh, and the most basic expectation of any joke is that it will literally be a joke. By taking away the joke aspect, the teller completely shocks the audience, who for this specific joke will be a little angry at first, and eventually, they will realize that the joke is funny, although probably not laugh out loud funny. Anti-jokes had a large boom in popularity in the late 2000s, which is when much of this story takes place. The more true source of this example may come from someone who read a similar joke and decided to add their own flair to make the joke even better.


The interviewed party is a 22-year-old male who currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island attending Brown University. Although he currently lives in the North East, he spent a majority of his life living in the Southern United States. This includes his birthplace in South Carolina and continues on to North-East Georgia.



Purple Passion

Due to the length of this story, a transcript is not provided. Instead, the audio clip of the Purple Passion story is attached to the Folklore database article. (Link)

Context: This informant is a nineteen year old college student, attending school in the US, but originally from Singapore. This anti-joke was told to me by the informant in a college dorm room. The informant made sure to take long pauses and deliberately spoke in an awkward manner to further extend the length of the anti joke. This, in turn, made the lack of a punchline all the more frustrating.

Background: My informant heard this story from  one of his friends while sitting at a bar. He appreciates this story because of how elaborate it is. The story weaves an intricate web of events, all centered around the use of a single term – “Purple Passion”. His story, by its end, is nearly ten minutes, and yet, it has no punchline. Instead it ends abruptly and unsatisfyingly, and the reader reacts accordingly, with anger, surprise, and frustration.

Analysis: Purple Passion is an expertly built anti joke, that, when properly delivered, demonstrates the efficacy of such constructs. In wasting the time of its subject so expertly, the story actually has a greater chance of spreading itself. Since ones time is wasted, telling the story to another person might appear to “settle the score”, and thus leads to its continued retelling. I personally enjoyed the story to the end, as it’s structured in a very deliberate manner – it is constantly building up to an ending, before suddenly turning the boy, and, by extension, the listener, towards another false objective.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

There is a very common joke: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Usually, it’s followed by the answer: “To get to the other side.”

From that joke, there has been many other jokes that stemmed from the joke, such as: “Why did the chicken cross the playground?” “To get to the other slide.”

These types of literal jokes are called anti-jokes, in which the punchline is not a clever play on words, but a literal, mundane answer.

For reference of the first time this joke was published, please see: The Knickerbocker, or The New York Monthly, March 1847, p. 283.