Sex, religion, place: where jokes come from…and go to

Photo: Joseph Bremson/excitingsounds (via Creative Commons, some restrictions)

A priest, a rabbi and a minister go into a bar…

A senator, a doctor and a lawyer are on a plane…

A 75 year old man goes to the doctor for advice about his marriage…

How can you tell you’re from the north country…

Lots of jokes circulate around the internet these days. Some are funny, many are not. Some are “kosher” for sharing, many are not. What makes a joke “shareable”–acceptable to send back out into the ether with your name attached to it?

For me, the joke has to be funny (like I said, this is not a given), it can’t be offensively lewd, and it can’t be mean-spirited or downright racist.

If the butt of the joke is a person or people I am not connected to, I’m unlikely to share, even if it doesn’t feel mean-spirited. There are exceptions, but I’m careful. For example, even a gentle joke about an Irishman in a pub would be red-flagged for me because the humor is rooted in a troubling stereotype.

Does this seem too “politically correct?” I don’t think so, at least not when I’m sharing out into the unknown digital frontier.

Okay, having said all of this, I received a set of Jewish jokes (yes, I’m Jewish) from a non-Jewish friend. They’re kind of silly and fun. I found them perfectly fine, even though they’re based on some (innocuous) stereotypes.  I’m curious. What are your boundaries? Read these jokes and tell me if you think any of them are funny and/or offensive.

Jewish marriage philosophy

A Jewish woman goes to see her Rabbi and asks, “Yankele and Yosele are both in love with me, who will be the lucky one?”

The wise old Rabbi answers, “Yankele will marry you. Yosele will be the lucky one.”


If a married Jewish man is walking alone in a park and expresses an opinion without anybody hearing him, is he still wrong?


My father said, “Marry a girl who has the same belief as the family.” I said, “Dad, why would I marry a girl who thinks I’m a schmuck?”


Jewish Marriage advice: “Don’t marry a beautiful person. They may leave you. Of course, an ugly person may leave you too. But who cares?”


Jewish proverb: “A Jewish wife will forgive and forget, but she’ll never forget what she forgave.”


Photo: stlphotoblogger (from Creative Commons, some restrictions)





The Italian says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have wine.”

The Frenchman says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have cognac.”

The Russian says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have vodka.”

The German says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have beer.”

The Mexican says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have tequila.”

The Jew says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have diabetes.”


Ethnic humor at its best gives a feel for a culture or group, the flavor. Here’s a video from a group called OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES. There are lots more like this one–dozens of older Jews, not professional entertainers, telling jokes…mostly at their own expense. Warning: some are a bit off-color, though the one I’ve selected is not.

Now, share a joke (remember, no lewdness, no racism or meanness).

It’s spring. Time to exercise the laugh muscles. Did I tell you the one about the Chinese guy and the Jewish guy sitting in a bar…


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13 Comments on “Sex, religion, place: where jokes come from…and go to”

  1. Dale says:

    My top contribution to the bar-joke genre was in this All In Post in December 2011:
    Yo Yo Ma and a wombat walk into a bar…

    Dale, NCPR

  2. Lucy Martin says:

    This is far from new, but in terms of national stereotypes, it still makes me chuckle:

    “Heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and it is all organised by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and it is all organised by the Italians”

    While there is some consensus that British cuisine is improving I’m not hearing a great clamor for Swiss lovers or Italian organizers.

    Utilizing the Ellen ‘rule of connection’, I recite that barb with a family tree that is part English and part Swiss. (Sorry if I am offending Italians!)

    I often feel society has become overly cautious and far too quick to take offense. I wish we could all lighten up a bit and just enjoy more laughs.

    I mean, wombat jokes are great, especially since the wombat lobby has yet to organize. But how often can you work a wombat into a good joke?

  3. Being Jewish and having originally received the Jewish jokes you have shared from family members, I was not offended and laughed in recognition and nodded in agreement but when one such joke came from a non-Jewish friend who has a strong tinge of ethnic and social intolerance, I was offended!

    I am sure other ethnic groups have the same inside view of themselves not too far removed from these as well…some things are just universal….but I too am very cautious as to what I send to whom. I have a very close friend who gets highly offended with any kind of ethnic joke, be it related to her background or anyone elses…I know not to send them to her.

    By the way, one of my former colleagues and dear friend appears in the Old Jews Telling Jokes series several times..such a storyteller Howie is! You should enjoy! :-)

  4. Ellen Rocco says:

    Jacqueline–My friend is also featured on Old Jews Telling Jokes. I would have included one of Bonnie’s jokes except that one is definitely off-color and the other includes a key Yiddish word in the punch line, and it’s a word not in common usage.

  5. jill vaughan says:

    Have you heard about the dyslexic paranoid? He was sure he was following somebody….

    “The Welsh.. who pray on their knees and their neighbors.. the Scottish, who keep the Sabbath and anything else they can get their hands on.. The Irish, who don’t know what they want but are willing to fight for it anyway, and the British, who are a self-made people, thereby absolving the Almight of a terrible responsibility.

  6. jill vaughan says:

    can’t seem to edit- that’s supposed to be the Almighty.

  7. Lucy Martin says:

    I had yet to hear that UK characteristic list, Jill. Thanks for that!

    The line about Brits as self-made people (which lets God off the hook for their deeds) reminds me of a joke Unitarian-Universalists tell about themselves.

    Yes, there were UUs in my family, so I can make this joke….although most Unitarians probably believe anyone can make any joke about any group – as long as the joke is made in the spirit of inclusion, compassion and enlightenment, keeping in mind it is always a mistake to presume to speak for all Unitarians.

    I found it on a web list of Unitarian jokes, which includes a good light bulb joke section.

    “The Universalists believed that God was too good to damn people, while the Unitarians believed that they were too good to be damned.”

    And … how many Unitarians does it take to change a light bulb?

    “Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favour of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb. Present it next month at our annual Light Bulb Sunday Service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life, and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.”

  8. Ellen Rocco says:

    Oh, Lucy, don’t get me started on light bulb jokes…the haiku of ethnic jokes.

  9. Peter Hahn says:

    There is also the classic joke and variants that goes in the other direction – to be as offensive as possible e.g. “the aristocrats”. Certainly not appropriate here – and Im not even providing a link, but I find them incredibly funny, although others dont.

  10. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    This goat walks into a bar. Then he sits down and orders a beer. The bartender, amazed that this goat can actually talk, gives him a beer. The goat says, “What do I owe you?” The bartender stops and thinks for a moment. “Even though this goat is smart,” thinks the bartender, “he probably hasn’t been in many bars.” So the bartender says, “That’ll be ten dollars.” The goat forks over the money and starts drinking his beer. After a few minutes, the bartender can’t restrain his curiosity, so he walks back over to the goat and tries to strike up a conversation. “You know, we don’t get many goats in this bar.” The goat looks up from his beer and says, “Well, at ten bucks a beer, I’m not surprised.”

    “A goat walks into a bar in Butte, taken to shelter”

    Read more:

  11. Jim says:

    This post sent me back to a previous lifetime when a retired NYC cab driver (Irving) would come into the shop every afternoon to shoot the s*it and tell jewish jokes in his heavy yiddish/NYC accent. Irv was a prince among men and very funny; hadn’t thought of him in 40 years. Thanks Ellen, for the blast from the past…….

  12. Ellen Rocco says:

    Jim–In a previous life (my youth in NYC), worked in a bar on Broadway and 111th Street. The owner, Bill, was a short, pugilistic Jewish guy, and his second in command, Benny, was pretty much cut from the same cloth. Every shift began with Benny offering his secret hangover cure (if one needed it), and a classic NYC Jewish joke. If only I could remember even one of those gems!

  13. BRFVolpe says:

    A rabbi, a priest and a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder, walk into a bar.
    The bartender says, “What is this, some kind of a joke?”

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