It appears that the first semblance of a joke can be traced back to 1200 BC. It was originated in ancient Greece by Palamedes who, as legend goes, outwitted Odysseus before the Trojan War. In 350 BC, it appears that the first "comedy club" was formed. It was called the Group of Sixty and convened at the temple of Hercules where the members swapped jokes and witticisms. In 10 BC, the Roman playwright, Plautus, suggested the use of 'jest books' in some of his works. Other Romans, like Melissus, began compiling collections of jokes. The Philogelos, which is the earliest known joke book known to exist today, dates to around 5 AD. It contains some 264 jokes, some of which are duplicated in different forms throughout the book, suggesting that it may well be two volumes of books combined.
Fast forward to 500-999 AD. The Philogelos disappears from existance, as does most forms of humor throughout western Europe. During this time period, however, humor does still seem to exist in folktales in Islamic culture. This humor makes its way into southern Mediterranean countries. About 1300 AD, the "joke" is reborn during the Renaissance. Italian humorist Poggio Bracciolini, in 1452, creates his best-known book of jokes, the Liber Facetiarum, or Facetia. The collection contained 273 humorous anecdotes, jests, puns, jokes, and bon mots (a witty remark) taken from his travels around Europe. This is the first time a written collection of this kind is published in Europe.
It seems we've been telling jokes a long time. But have you ever tried to make up a joke "from scratch"...start to finish? I'm guessing that nearly everyone, at one time or another, has tried to make up a joke. I do quite regularly. At any given time, there are thousands of jokes floating around on the internet, so someone is actively writing these funnies and one-liners. Usually, however, the best jokes are developed by comedians and, interestingly, aren't actually developed or created...they simply happen because someone did, or said, something silly and it winds up becoming fodder for a creative mind. The next thing you know, it's a joke being told on The Late Show.
Like most things, jokes evolve over time, keeping up with the latest trends, sayings, and national obsessions. You may hear a joke that sounds vaguely familiar but the punchline is different. In fact, you probably have heard it before, just in one of its many earlier incarnations. But that's the nature of the joke.
Jokes are meant to amuse us and, most of the time, they do. There are, of course always exceptions...and I'm sure you know the kinds of jokes I'm referring to. And that is a discussion that is best left for another place and time. I hope you enjoy my silly jokes and will stop by my homepage every Monday where I post the latest in what seems to be a never-ending stream of silly frog jokes.
Happy Bad Joke Monday!