funny-stories-in-english

Laugh and Think at the Same Time with These 23 Funny and Smart Stories in English

Humor is so much more than silly situations and funny words.

It is about the places we live in, the people who are with us, the events we experience and the problems we face.

In other words, humor is about the society in which it exists.

If you want to communicate really well, it is not enough to just know some English words—you need to know about the society and culture too. 

These humorous English stories will make you laugh first, then think. Here are 23 funny stories in English to get you started!

Contents

Our Funny English Story Recommendations

1. “Captain Underpants” by Dave Pilkey

Good for: Young learners

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

This book is simple and clever. It is about two boys, George and Harold, who like to draw comics. They are famous pranksters in their school.

One day their principal catches them and makes them do his chores. The boys hypnotize their principal and make him into a superhero they drew—Captain Underpants.

The story reveals a lot about the relationship between adults and children. The book is filled with funny cartoons and jokes that are sometimes disgusting but always entertaining.

Funniest quote: “George and Harold were usually responsible kids. Whenever anything bad happened, George and Harold were usually responsible.”

2. “XO, OX: A Love Story” by Adam Rex

Good for: Beginner learners

XO, OX: A Love Story

Have you ever wondered about the love stories of gazelles or oxen? This book proves that if such a relationship ever became real, then it would be hilarious!

The story is told through a collection of letters where a love-struck Ox tries to impress a celebrity Gazelle. The joyful illustrations make the book truly memorable.

This may seem like it is a book for children, but adults can understand the theme of unrequited love and appreciate the way the author plays with language.

Funniest quote: “You are so graceful and fine. Even when you are running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running away from tigers.”

3. “Hunting the Deceitful Turkey” by Mark Twain

Good for: Intermediate to advanced students

Hunting the Deceitful Turkey

Considered one of the funniest turkey tales in American literature, Twain recounts a true incident where he tries to shoot a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

The story is a humorous account of his failure. It also relates to the American holiday of Thanksgiving, where turkey is the main dish in the feast.

Since the story was written in 1906, you might read some words which are not commonly used anymore. For instance, the word “swindler” means “cheat” or “fraud.” It might be helpful to have access to a good English dictionary while you read this.

You can also read the story online here.

Funniest quote: “Lie low, keep still, don’t expose yourself; I shall be back soon as I have beguiled this shabby swindler out of the country.”

4. “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir” by Jenny Lawson

Good for: Mature intermediate learners

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

Have you ever felt that you did not fit in, or that you were strange, weird or awkward? The author of this book felt like that throughout her life.

There are tales about her sister going to school in a bird costume, her “message-board” cat, her relationship and more. Her story is equal parts funny and enlightening (something which makes you aware).

The core message is that the moments that embarrass us are really the ones that define us. If you are still unsure about the book, you can read this article by The Washington Post.

Funniest quote: “Also, I stapled a picture of us from our wedding day to the cat’s left leg. Don’t we look happy? We can be that way again.”

5. “The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year” by Sue Townsend

Good for: Intermediate learners

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year

Eva, the main character, is frustrated with her family. When her children leave home, she climbs into bed and stays there.

She refuses to be a dutiful wife to her indifferent husband, and she stops being an ideal mother to her careless children. Soon, unexpected things start happening. The true face of every person in the household starts to come out.

The novel is comical but also seeks to question traditional family roles. For a more detailed overview, read this review by The Guardian.

Funniest quote: “Brian kept the photograph inside an old Bible. He knew it would be safe there. Nobody ever opened it.”

6. “Em and the Big Hoom” by Jerry Pinto

Good for: Mature intermediate students

Em and the Big Hoom: A Novel

Madness is usually seen as a very clinical topic. Mad people are distant and mysterious. They are reduced to their disorders and their humanity is often ignored.

This novel narrates a story about a woman who lives with schizophrenia. The narrator is her son who is trying to figure out what is happening while exploring his parents’ past.

The unique characters and interesting observations about the family and their way of coping with Em, the mother, make the book humorous while also keeping the human element of all the characters.

Funniest quote: “Honestly, I don’t understand Zen. It seems if you don’t answer properly, or if you are rude, people get enlightened.”

7. “The Sellout: A Novel” by Paul Beatty

Good for: Intermediate learners

SELLOUT

This is a satire that won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2016. It is a sharp, witty story about an African American protagonist (main character) who was born in a middle-class family.

Raised by a single father, he dreams of making his life better. But when his father is killed in a police shooting, he decides he needs to take a radical step.

The novel is funny and goes deep into the heart of American society. To know why it won one of the most famous awards in the world, read this review.

Funniest quote: “If New York is the ‘city that never sleeps,’ then Los Angeles is the ‘city that’s always passed out on the couch.'”

8. “How to Build a Girl” by Caitlin Moran

Good for: Mature intermediate learners

How to Build a Girl: A Novel (P.S. (Paperback))

This story is about killing a 14-year-old girl to build a new one. It is not literally about murder, but rather, it is a story about growing up as a girl.

The protagonist is named Johanna. She renames herself Dolly Wilde when she decides to change her life. She goes through a very intimate journey to become the woman she wants to be.

This is a witty story about being free and what it means to be free. You can read a fantastic review of this book here.

Funniest quote: “There’s no point in drinking if no one’s watching.”

9. “Something Fresh” by P.G. Wodehouse

Good for: Intermediate to advanced students

Something Fresh

P.G. Wodehouse’s novels are always filled with humorous characters, and plots with as many twists as the number of holes in Swiss cheese.

In this tale, a series of events are set into motion when a precious art piece is stolen from the castle of Mr. J. Preston Peters. There are detectives, imposters and marriages that go wrong.

This is a classic story that never fails to be funny and interesting. Here is a short review of the novel.

Funniest quote: “It’s very kind of you to keep offering me your dead mouse; but honestly I have no use for it.”

10. “The Eyre Affair” by Jasper Fforde

Good for: Upper-beginner learners

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel

This is a fantasy book that takes place in Britain. Jane Eyre, one of the most famous literary heroines in history, has been kidnapped. A detective is asked to save her before it is too late.

The story is set in a world where people can literally enter novels, time travel is real and cloning is commonplace.

The novel manages to be funny while talking about a society under the rule of a dictator. Here is a brief review of the book.

Funniest quote: “I shouldn’t believe anything I say if I were you. And that includes what I just told you.”

11. “The Lumber Room” by Saki

Good for: Intermediate students

cover of "the lumber room" by saki

Adults often treat children as people who are less intelligent. In this story, Nicholas easily tricks his strict aunt and outsmarts her throughout the story.

Saki is famous for writing about characters who are not only funny but also use their minds to change the situation they are stuck in.

There are some advanced words in the story. “Obstinacy” means “stubbornness,” or the quality of being stubborn. “Debarred” means to exclude or ban someone from doing something.

Funniest quote: “The dramatic part of the incident was that there really was a frog in Nicholas’s basin of bread-and-milk; he had put it there himself, so he felt entitled to know something about it.”

12. “The Crocodile” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Good for: Upper-beginner students

The Crocodile

Ivan Matveich is swallowed alive when he goes to see a crocodile with his wife and a friend.

He finds himself quite comfortable inside the animal and refuses to come out. What follows is a hilarious story which has become a classic.

Originally published in 1865 in Russian, the story might contain some confusing words. For instance, “arcade” is an old word used for a covered passage where people used to go for entertainment.

This tale can be read online as well.

Funniest quote: “‘Alive and well,’ answered Ivan Matveitch, ‘and, thanks to the Almighty, swallowed without any damage whatever.'”

13. “The Nose” by Nicholas Gogol

Good for: Beginner learners

The Nose

“The Nose” is a satirical story about a person named Kovalyov whose nose leaves his face and decides to have a life of its own.

In a hilarious series of events, the nose actually moves above Kovalyov in official ranks to become his senior in the government.

This was written in 1836 to comment on how Russian society was obsessed with social status. You might notice uncommon words like “propriety,” which means to have good manners and act according to social rules.

This story can also be found online here.

Funniest quote: “The nose looked at the Major and frowned a little.”

14. “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry

Good for: Beginner learners

The Ransom of Red Chief (Tale Blazers)

Two men kidnap a boy who turns out to be so mischievous that they ultimately return him to his father and give their own money to his family instead.

Originally published in 1907, this story still makes readers laugh out loud.

O. Henry managed to created a story that is remembered throughout generations.

Funniest quote: “‘If you don’t behave,’ says I, ‘I’ll take you straight home. Now, are you going to be good, or not?’ (This was said by the kidnapper.)”

15. “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome

Good for: Upper-beginner students

Three Men in a Boat

This book was originally intended to be a serious memoir, but the funny elements soon took over and the writer decided to publish it as a humorous tale.

The story is about three men who take a boat ride on the river Thames in England and describe funny things they encounter throughout the journey.

Here is a full review of the book.

Funniest quote: “George goes to sleep at a bank from ten to four each day, except Saturdays, when they wake him up and put him outside at two.”

16. “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Poole

Good for: Upper-beginner students

A Confederacy of Dunces

This book was published after the author died and won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.

This novel is about Ignatius Reilly, a fat man with a funny hat. The story includes a parrot attack, a revolt to impress a girlfriend and many accidents.

It is best for advanced English learners. The word “dunce” refers to a stupid person and the word “confederacy” means a union or alliance of people who agree to work together.

Funniest quote: “I mingle with my peers or no one. And since I have no peers, I mingle with no one.”

17. “Puckoon” by Spike Milligan

Good for: Intermediate learners

Puckoon

Puckoon is a novel set in 1924. That year, Ireland was divided into Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. You can read the historical background here.

In the novel, the border cuts through the middle of a village named Puckoon and divides a house into two.

What follows is a comical journey. In fact, the protagonist is so lazy that the narrator has to intervene to make sure he does something in the story!

Funniest quote: “Many people die of thirst but the Irish are born with one.”

18. “I Want My Hat Back” by Jon Klassen

Good for: Young learners

I Want My Hat Back

This charming and darkly amusing book is for beginners, and specifically younger learners.

The story is simple, engaging and very funny. There are several animals, personalities and settings you can experience in this short story.

There are also some live readings and animations available online as well.

Funniest quote: “‘Have you seen my hat?’ asks the bear. ‘What is a hat?’ the animal replies.”

19. “The Sneetches and Other Stories” by Dr. Seuss

Good for: Beginner learners

The Sneetches and Other Stories

This collection contains four Dr. Seuss short stories. It include the hilarious poem “Too Many Daves,” which is a silly tale about a mother who names all of her 23 sons Dave.

This story is great for phonetic practice, as some of the names contain unfamiliar words and sounds, which can be challenging but still fun to read.

Many native English speakers grow up reading Dr. Seuss books, so this is a great way to experience a style of writing that many people are familiar with.

Funniest quote: “She often wishes that, when they were born, she had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn.”

20. “The Ushuaia Rabbit” by Fernando Sorrentino

Good for: Intermediate students

This surreal yet engaging short story is great for intermediate learners who want a vocabulary challenge.

It is about a strange and unbelievable creature. There are some excellent words and descriptions in this entertaining tale.

Note that this story does require a little extra patience, because it is a fiction (not true) story.

Funniest quote: “But we can’t expect blood from a turnip or any intelligence whatsoever from journalists.”

21. “Death by Scrabble” by Charlie Fish

Good for: Intermediate students

Here is another great short story for intermediate learners. This tale is amusing from the opening line (see the quote below) right until the end.

The story focuses on a game of Scrabble between a man and his wife. The tense feeling builds up to an unexpected ending.

The game Scrabble involves building words out of letter tiles to earn points. Both the game and the story are great ways to practice and learn vocabulary.

Funniest quote: “It’s a hot day and I hate my wife.”

22. “Do You Speak English?” by Simon Collings

Good for: Intermediate learners

This story may be too difficult for absolute beginners, but the subject matter is engaging for language students.

It touches on the difficulties of traveling without knowing a language—a topic many language learners can relate to!

While it is not the funniest story on the list, you may understand the feelings of the characters who cannot speak directly to each other.

Funniest quote: “The boy named a price which was five times what he would have got for it locally.”

23. “The Great Automatic Grammatizator” by Roald Dahl

Good for: Upper-beginner business students

The Great Automatic Grammatizator and Other Stories. Roald Dahl (Puffin Teenage Books)

This is an interesting and thought-provoking tale about the English language. The points about grammar and creativity are things that all English students can relate to.

It is a particularly good story for business English students because the setting is a corporate business. The main character wants to invent a machine to do the job of a writer.

The story is especially relevant today with the rise of AI technology. There is some technical vocabulary, but don’t worry—it’s still an entertaining tale.

You can also read it online here.

Funniest quote: “Why doesn’t he stand up straight? He looks like a bent stick.”

 

After reading these stories, hopefully you will not only have a good laugh but you will also be able to add a touch of humor to your English conversations.

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