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Archive for the 'Jokes and Humor' Category

Tuesday - April 21, 2015

So, Who Started Knock-Knock Jokes?

knock_knockKnock knock.*
Who’s there?
Joe King.
Joe King who?
Joe King (Joking) like this used to be considered a sickness by some people.

Knock-knock jokes. Some people laugh at them. Others groan (make a long deep sound because you’re upset or in pain).

As Jeff explained in English Cafe 339, knock-knock jokes are like a short conversation between two people that uses a pun to create humor (something that makes us laugh). A pun’s humor comes from using two words that sound alike but have different meanings.  Sometimes two words – like “Joe King” (a person’s name) – are put together to sound like another word – “joking” (being funny) – with a different meaning. We laugh because we don’t expect the second meaning. It surprises us.

So, where did knock-knock jokes come from? Linton Weeks, from National Public Radio (NPR), recently wrote that this kind of humor started with “do you know” jokes in the early 1900s. A do-you-know joke works like this:

Do you know Arthur (a man’s name)?
Arthur who?
Arthurmometer (our thermometer ((piece of equipment that measures temperature)).

In the 1920s a new kind of joke, called a “nifty,” appeared. Nifties were popular among flappers (fashionable young women) and their friends. Imagine a nifty between a flapper and her boyfriend:

Have you ever heard of Hiawatha (native American Indian chief)?
Hiawatha who?
Hiawatha (I was a) good girl until I met you.

By the middle of the 1930s, knock-knock jokes had arrived and could be heard almost everywhere. There were knock-knock joke contests. Swing (dance) orchestras put them into their songs. Politicians used them to try to get people to vote for them. A grocery store in Pennsylvania even ran a newspaper advertisement that said:

Knock! Knock!
Who’s there?
Don who?
Don (don’t) forget to do your shopping at (name of the store)….

One newspaper complained (to say you are annoyed or unhappy) that “you can’t turn the radio on anymore without getting one of the knock-knock gags (jokes).”

So, you can see that not everyone liked knock-knock jokes. Many thought they were silly. Some psychologists even thought that humor like this was a kind of mental sickness. Because knock-knock jokes use questions that can’t be answered, one psychologist suggested that many people use them to try to show that they’re smarter than everyone else.

Knock-knock jokes are still around; they’re especially popular with kids. You can find hundreds of knock-knock joke books on Amazon. And, from time to time, some of us older kids feel the need to tell just one more:

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Orange juice.
Orange juice who?
Orange juice sorry (aren’t you sorry) you read this blog post?

Please tell me you’re not!

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you will find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

* This post is adapted from The Secret History of Knock-Knock Jokes by Linton Weeks.

Photo from

Tuesday - November 26, 2013

Happy Banjo Thanksgiving!

This year, Thanksgiving falls on (occurs on) November 28th and I want to wish everyone in our ESL Podcast family — those who help to produce the podcast, those who listen to us and read what we write, and those who support us with memberships and donations — an early Happy Thanksgiving.

This year, I thought you might enjoy a Thanksgiving duel (fight between two people, usually with weapons) between perennial (always true; never ending) enemies: the farmer and the turkey. This is not a duel with swords (a weapon like a very long knife) or with pistols (guns). Instead, the weapon of choice (preferred tool) is music.

You’ll hear the farmer and the turkey play a classic American song called “Dueling Banjos.” (A banjo is a musical instrument with a round body, a long neck, and strings.) The song is an instrumental (song with no lyrics or words) and was composed (written) by a man named Arthur Smith in 1955.  It was played on several popular TV shows at the time, and a version recorded in 1973 reached the top of the music charts. It was also famously used in the 1972 movie Deliverance.

I hope you enjoy this Thanksgiving video, which also serves as a reminder to us of the importance of music education, especially for turkeys.

– Lucy

P.S. If you’re not able to see the video below, go to YouTube.

Thursday - November 22, 2012

“U Can’t Stuff This”

Here, in the U.S., we are celebrating Thanksgiving today. It’s a holiday for being with family and being grateful for all of the good things in our lives. One thing we are always thankful for at ESL Podcast is our fantastic listeners.

I thought you might like another song for Thanksgiving (also see this and this). This is a version of the very popular 1990 hit song by MC Hammer called “U Can’t Touch This.”

This version is called “U Can’t Stuff This.” Traditionally, before turkeys are cooked, people put stuffing, a mixture of bread, seasonings, vegetables, and other things inside of the turkey to enhance (improve) the taste.  If I were a turkey, I probably wouldn’t want to get stuffed, either.

I hope you enjoy this, and if you’re reading and listening from the U.S., have a happy Thanksgiving!

~ Lucy

U Can’t Stuff This

Can’t stuff this
You can’t stuff this
Can’t stuff this

My, my, my, my ladies think I’m so hot (attractive)
Makes me think it’s time to trot (to walk at a fast pace, like a horse)
And strut (walk in a way to get noticed) around the farm (area of land used for growing crops and raising animals)
This hayseed (seed from hay, a type of dried grass that horses eat) here can’t do me no harm

Feels good when you know you’re down (informal for being in agreement with something)
A super tom (male) turkey you can’t sell by the pound
And I’m known, as such (in this way)
And this is one turkey you can’t stuff

You can’t stuff this
I told you farm boy
You can’t stuff this
Yeah, I keep on living, you know
You can’t stuff this
Put down the roasting pan (large pan with a cover used for cooking)
Break it down!

Stop!  Turkey time.
I’m fresh and I’m juicy
You, like that, coming here with a recipe (cooking instructions)
So move, out of my face
And get a big meal some other place

For Thanksgiving, hold on
I’m plump (fat; with a round shape) but I’m fit (physically healthy)
And I know what’s going on
Like that, like that
Baby, I’m a free-range (animals raised in natural environments) Cadillac (brand of expensive American cars)

So you know, you want too much
And this is a turkey you can’t stuff
Put down the seasoning (salt, herbs, and spices put on food to make is taste better)
You can’t stuff this
Get your hands off my giblets (the liver, heart, gizzard, and neck of a chicken, usually removed before cooking)

You can’t stuff this
Want a piece of me (want to fight), sucker (jerk)?
Can’t stuff this

Thursday - September 13, 2012

The Strange Effects of Jeff’s Voice

In the emails we get from listeners, people often tell us when and where they listen to the podcast. Many tell us that they listen to the podcast while they commute, traveling between home and work or school.  Others tell us that we keep them company (are with them) when they exercise or run errands (do things like going to the store or post office).  Some people listen to the podcast when they do housework or other chores (routine tasks, usually related to the home).

In addition to telling us how and where they listen to the podcast, some people have told us about the effects of the podcast. A number of (several; many) parents have told us that their babies and young children like to listen to Jeff’s voice. I should tell you that I have been out in public with Jeff, and I have seen how babies react to him.  They love him.  I don’t know if he just has a friendly face or if, because of his bald (without hair) head, babies think he is one of them?  I’m not sure. But parents have written to tell us that babies love listening to Jeff’s voice, often being lulled (made to feel sleepy in a calming way) to sleep.

Do you have babies? Have they fallen under the spell of (felt the magical effects of) Jeff’s voice?

I guess babies aren’t the only ones.  Many people have told us that they listen to Jeff in bed, right before going to sleep.  They tell us that Jeff’s voice has a calming effect on them, helping them fall asleep. We know that Jeff isn’t boring, so what is the secret to Jeff’s soothing (gently calming) powers?  Perhaps Jeff has hypnotic (when people are awake but very sleepy and does whatever someone tells them to do) powers that he doesn’t even know about.

How and where do you listen to the podcast?  Have you had or observed any special effects of Jeff’s voice? Do you think Jeff’s voice has other strange powers we don’t know about?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Foucault Pendulum from Wikipedia

Tuesday - July 31, 2012

English Through Jokes II: Lost in the Flood

Since there was an overwhelming (large) majority who voted in favor of (for) including jokes on the blog, I am going to try another one today.  I’ll give the joke, then explain it briefly below.

There was an old man sitting on his porch (an area outside the house, usually in the front, on the first level), watching the rain fall. Pretty (very) soon the water was coming over (getting so high that it entered) the porch and into the house.

The old man was still sitting there when a rescue (someone who saves you in an emergency) boat came and the people on board (in the boat) said, “You can’t stay (remain) here! You have to come with us.” The old man replied, “No, God will save me.” So the boat left.

A little while (a short time) later, the water was up to (had reached; was as high as) the second floor (level), and another rescue boat came, and again told the old man he had to come with them.The old man again replied, “God will save me.” So the boat left him again.

An hour later the water was up to the roof (top of the house) and a third rescue boat approached (came near) the old man, and tried to get him to come with them. Again the old man refused to leave, saying, “God will save me.” So the boat left him again.

Soon after, the man drowned (died in the water) and went to Heaven (paradise), and when he saw God, he asked him, “Why didn’t you save me?”

God replied, “You dummy (idiot; stupid person)! I tried. I sent three boats after (for; to get) you!!”

The man thinks God will save him from the flood (when there is too much water in an area, making it dangerous to be there). But he doesn’t realize or understand that the rescue boats that come to help him are really sent by God, so the man doesn’t accept their help. God tells him this after he dies and goes to Heaven.

There are probably some good theological (theology = study of God) points (conclusions) you could make from this joke, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself.


Joke credit:; Photo credit: Pittsburgh Flood, 1936, Wikipedia PD

Tuesday - June 12, 2012

The Barking Dog

Today’s post is something of (sort of) an experiment. I’m going to tell you a joke. I’ll explain some of the words in parentheses () just like we usually do. At the end of the joke, I’ll explain a little more in case you didn’t get it (understand it; laugh).

The experiment is this: Is a joke still funny and worth reading in English if there are explanations with it? I’d like to ask you to (a) read the joke and then (b) answer the poll (survey) question below.

Are you ready? Okay, here we go…


The Barking Dog

A dog who was normally quiet began barking (making a loud noise) every night at around 3 a.m. Irritated (angry) and sleepy, the dog’s owner searched the back yard (behind his house) for what might have disturbed (caused a problem; angered) this otherwise (usually) peaceful (quiet) animal.

For three days he found nothing amiss (nothing wrong). When the dog woke up the neighborhood (barked so loudly that everyone in the area woke up) a fourth night at 3 a.m. with loud barking, the owner finally went around the house to investigate (see what the problem was).

There he saw his neighbor throwing pebbles (small rocks or stones) over the fence (something that divides two areas, usually tall pieces of wood or metal) at the dog. The owner asked his neighbor what he was doing.

“My mother-in-law (his wife’s mother) is visiting,” the neighbor explained. “If she gets woken up in the middle of the night (late at night, when everyone is sleeping) one more time, she says she’ll leave!”


Explanation: The man was trying to make the dog bark to anger his mother-in-law so that she would leave his house early.

Okay, so maybe not the funniest joke in the world, but not too bad, right? Now for the poll question. Please answer as truthfully (honestly) as you can.

Did you think this joke was funny, even with the explanations and definitions?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


Photo credit: Boston Terrier, Wikipedia CC

Joke credit:, CC


Wednesday - November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow, November 25 (the fourth Thursday each November), is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. Learn more about the holiday here and here.

Once again, it is time for us to give thanks for the support of our fantastic ESL Podcast listeners, members, and donors. The song below is a parody (funny song based on another song) of the popular 1970’s Gloria Gaynor hit song “I Will Survive.”  Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Lucy

“I Will Survive” – Thanksgiving Version

At first I was an egg, I was petrified* (very scared; very frightened)
Kept thinking I’d be lost or I’d get cracked (for something hard to be broken so that a line appears on the surface) and fried
But you took me to your nest (bird’s home) before it was too late
and kept me warm and you helped me incubate (for an egg to be kept warm until a bird is hatched or born).

And now you’re back, think you’re the boss
Wanna put me on a plate next to your wife’s cranberry sauce (a sweet jelly sauce made from cranberries, eaten at Thanksgiving)
I should have known this day would come
I should have known not to relax
If I thought for just a second that you’d come in here with an ax (tool for cutting wood).

Go on now go, walk out the door
Just turn around now
Ain’t chopping (using a sharp tool to cut) my head to the floor.
Weren’t you the one who prized (highly valued) this dark meat on my thighs (upper part of a leg)?
Do you think I’d gobble (make the noise that a turkey makes)?
Did you think I’d lay down and die?

Oh on, not I.
I will survive.
Oh as long as I know how to peck (for a bird to use its hard mouth (beak) to hit or bite), I know I’ll stay alive.
Got my wings so I won’t fall,
Ain’t selling me to Butterball (popular U.S. company that sells turkeys).
I will survive.
I will survive.

* “Petrified” can also mean for a living thing to turn into something very, very hard because it is very old, like a fossil.

Tuesday - September 7, 2010

You Got Punked!

Have you ever had friends or family play a trick on you? If you have, then you may have been “punked.”

If you’re playing a prank or playing a practical joke on someone, it means that you’re deceiving them in some way to have fun or to make other people laugh.  In recent years in the U.S., people have started using the word “punked” to describe being the victim (the person harmed or tricked) of a practical joke or prank.  In fact, the actor Ashton Kutcher had a show on MTV, the music cable television station, called Punk’d in which he played practical jokes on other celebrities.

Recently, I saw a prank on the website “Funny or Die.”  Here’s the setup (arrangement; plan):  The producers (makers) of “Funny or Die” asked popular singer Jewel to disguise herself by wearing a wig (false hair) and a fake nose, and to go to a karaoke bar and to sing her own songs.  A karaoke bar is a bar where any customer can sing a popular song on stage while recorded music plays, usually performing in front of friends or coworkers for fun.  The producers asked her to sing her own hit (very popular) songs as a woman named “Karen” to see how the other bar patrons (customers) would react.  After Jewel got her disguise, she was also given some fake coworkers, “business associates,” who went to the bar with her.  They all wore badges, which she calls “laminants” in the video, which are identification cards worn on a string around the neck or pinned to a shirt/coat, showing that they were in town to attend a frozen foods convention (large meeting).

When they arrived, Jewel said that their group “really stood out,” meaning that they were very noticeable because they were different from the typical customers in the bar.  Her “business associates” were trying to get her to sing, but she pretended to be reluctant (not wanting to do something), until the entire bar was “pulling for her” (wanting her to succeed).

Watch the video below or here at “Funny or Die“.  I’ll explain below a few more things people said in the video in case you have difficulty understanding them.

2:48  “She’s kind of homely (not attractive; plain looking).”

3:02  “That’s the first time there’s ever been an encore here (the first time someone has been asked to sing again because the audience enjoyed the first performance so much).”

3:04  “That was pretty off the charts (amazing; better than anyone had expected) there.”

6:14  “That was all set up (all arranged; not real).”

6:18  “I was duped (successfully tricked).”

What do you think of the prank?  How would you have reacted if you had been one of the other customers?

~ Lucy

Tuesday - July 20, 2010

The Dangers of Deforestation

Forests are large areas in nature with a lot of trees. When a lot of trees are removed from the forest, we call this deforestation.

Deforestation can occur for many reasons.  It may happen because of logging, the cutting down of trees so the wood can be used for building, for fuel (source of energy), and/or to make paper products. Deforestation may also occur when people want to use the land for other things, such as for homes or for pastures (land with green grass and plants) for livestock (animals raised for food or to work).

Environmentalists, people concerned with protecting nature and the environment, have long warned us about the negative effects of deforestation, including soil erosion, or the loss of soil (the layer of dirt where plants grow), and climate and air quality changes.

However, the follow photo shows another important negative effect of deforestation.  As the old saying goes:  “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

~ Lucy

*Thanks to Emiliano for the photo.

Tuesday - June 15, 2010

I am Not Lucy Tse

A couple of weeks ago, we received a listener email message about the podcast. In the message, the listener said that he was glad to see a picture of me on the Internet and to know what I looked like.  Curious to know what I looked like, too, I did an image (picture) search and found a few of my Googlegangers.

I found this woman who works as a community coordinator (organizer) in Canada, but sadly, I’m not Canadian.

I found these woman with Facebook pages, but sadly, I’m not active on Facebook.

Finally, after a lot of searching (looking), I spotted (found) a video of me.  I’ve told people for years that I’ve started to age backwards (starting with the end and going to the beginning), much like Benjamin Button.  Now, maybe they’ll believe me.

Check out my fancy moves (dance steps)!  I bet you didn’t know I was this nimble (able to make quick and graceful movements).  If this whole podcast thing doesn’t work out (become successful), I know I have a backup plan (something else I can do if I fail at the first thing).

~ Lucy