21 Jokes in English That Are Funny, Popular and Educational (With Audio)
“A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny.” — Ed Wynn
If this quote made you smile, you should be very proud.
Humor is an important part of any culture. Laughing together makes us feel closer and gives us something to share with friends and strangers. It’s also an easy way to get to know a new culture.
Understanding humor as an English learner is a huge step towards understanding English like a native. Today, thanks to the Internet, jokes in English are all around us.
Explore the funny world of jokes on the Internet and learn English while you’re at it. Here are the main categories of jokes in English, all with examples and explanations, plus audio to help with pronunciation.
- 1. Traditional English Jokes
- 2. One-Liner Jokes
- 3. Anecdote Jokes
- 4. Non Sequitur Jokes
- 5. Parody Jokes
- 6. Topical Jokes
- What Makes a Good Joke?
- How to Learn English with Jokes
- How the Internet Has Changed Jokes
- And One More Thing...
1. Traditional English Jokes
Traditional jokes are jokes that have been around for a while. They’re not as popular anymore because of the Internet, but they’re still classics. Traditional jokes usually look like a short story or a question and answer format.
Some of the most famous traditional jokes include:
Chicken crossing the road jokes
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To get to the other side!
Explanation: You expect some sort of funny response to the question, but the answer is really obvious. That’s what’s funny about this joke. Of course he’s crossing the street to get to the other side. Why else would he cross the road? Some people also say “the other side” is death, because it will die crossing the road.
This joke has been reused many times with other animals and people. Just replace the chicken with anything and add an appropriate response. For example:
Q: Why did the duck cross the road?
A: Because it was the chicken’s day off.
Explanation: The duck is doing the chicken’s job of crossing the road!
Here are a few other popular answers to this age old question:
A: Because she felt like it.
Explanation: This answer is just obvious enough to be funny.
A: To change the light bulb.
Explanation: This last answer refers to another kind of English traditional joke in the section that’s coming up next.
Light bulb jokes
Light bulb jokes ask: “How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Changing a light bulb is a pretty easy job, and you don’t usually need any help. These jokes use light bulbs as a measure of intelligence, using stereotypes of certain types of people like lawyers, blondes or policemen.
Here’s one popular example:
Q: How many policemen does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. It turned itself in.
Explanation: “Turning itself in” can mean that the light bulb screwed itself in, or that it went to the police station and admitted to committing a crime, so no officers were needed.
Here are a few other example of light bulb jokes:
Q: How many actors does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one. They don’t like sharing the spotlight.
Explanation: According to stereotypes, actors are vain and want attention on the stage, thus not wanting to share the spotlight while changing the light bulb.
Q: How many Jewish grandmothers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: I’ll just sit in the dark.
Explanation: According to stereotypes, Jewish grandmothers are martyrs, and because of this, they don’t want to be fussed over, so they’ll happily just sit in the dark room over changing the light bulb.
Knock knock jokes
These classic jokes always follow the same order. Someone says “knock knock,” and someone else responds, “who’s there?” The knocker then gives an answer of who’s at the door. This can be anything, like an animal, a thing or even just a sound. The sound is repeated with the question word “who?” and then the knocker delivers the punchline.
Here are some examples:
A: Knock knock.
B: Who’s there?
B: Lettuce who?
A: Let us in! It’s cold out here.
Explanation: “Lettuce” sounds like “Let us” in English.
A: Knock knock.
B: Who’s there?
B: Figs who?
A: Fix your doorbell. It’s not working.
Explanation: In spoken English, “figs” sounds a lot like “fix.”
A: Knock knock.
B: Who’s there?
B: Nun who?
A: None of your business.
Explanation: In spoken English, “nun” and “none” sound exactly the same.
You probably wouldn’t tell these jokes at a party anymore because they’re so old that everyone has heard them. You can, however, tell a traditional light bulb joke about a modern topic, like this one about Apple employees:
Q: How many Apple employees does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Seven. One to change the bulb and six to design the T-shirt.
Explanation: This joke makes fun of the way Apple runs their business, focusing on design and marketing.
Find it online: There are still many websites dedicated to traditional jokes. Websites like Comedy Central and Reader’s Digest have huge collections of jokes, some of which talk about modern topics.
2. One-Liner Jokes
A one-liner has only one line or sentence. Because it’s so short, it’s really important to understand every word or you can miss the meaning.
For some great examples of one-liners, watch this video of the late comedian Mitch Hedberg. Hedberg was a stand-up comedian, a type of comedian who stands and tells his jokes in front of an audience. These jokes are usually anecdotes (more on that next!), but nearly all of Hedberg’s routine was made up of one-liners. Take this one, for example:
“I tried to walk into Target… but I missed.”
Explanation: Target is a store, but it’s also an object that you aim for. This one-liner and many others often use puns. A pun is a play on words, like using a word in an unexpected way. For example, if you say something is very “punny” then it’s a pun… but it’s also funny.
“I just flew in from New York. My arms are tired.”
Explanation: The joke teller is pretending he flew (like a bird by flapping his arms) from New York.
“I don’t suffer from insanity. I happen to enjoy every second of it.”
Explanation: The joke teller is admitting being a little insane, but insisting they like it, so they don’t suffer from it—they enjoy it!
“So apparently my smoke alarm is also a food critic now.”
Explanation: This joke teller is such a bad cook that they burn everything, which in turn triggers their smoke alarm, hence the criticism.
If you can’t understand why a one-liner is funny, try looking up the words in a dictionary. Is there more than one meaning? Is it used in a different way? Search Google for any names or references you don’t understand (for example, searching for Target would explain that it’s a store, if you didn’t already know that).
Find it online: On Twitter, comedians Summer Ray and Jen Doll have great one-liner jokes that use observations about life to make funny comments.
You can also find some great one-liners on Reddit.
3. Anecdote Jokes
An anecdote is a short story about something that really happened to you or someone you know. They’re funny because they really true.
To understand anecdotes, you need to “put yourself into someone else’s shoes,” or imagine being the person in the anecdote. It also helps to know how people behave, since anecdotes often show people doing unexpected or silly things.
Here are a couple of examples:
“When the coffee shop clerk asked for his name, my brother-in-law answered, ‘Marc, with a C.’ Minutes later, he was handed his coffee with his name written on the side: Cark.”
Explanation: You might already know this, but when you order a drink at Starbucks, they write your name on the cup so they can call you once it’s ready. Marc pointed out that his name is spelled with a “C” because the name is usually spelled with a “K” at the end, like “Mark.” Instead of writing “Marc,” the clerk wrote Cark… which just doesn’t make sense!
“Teaching is not for overly sensitive types, let me tell you. Yesterday, I was reviewing the future, present and past verb tenses with my ESL class. I gave them the example—’I’m beautiful’—and asked which tense the example was in. From the back row, a student raised her hand. Her answer: past tense.”
Explanation: This poor teacher was unfortunately insulted by a student suggesting that the teacher’s beauty had faded some time ago, so the statement was clearly in the past tense.
Find it online: Sometimes an anecdote becomes so popular that it’s shared among many people online. One example is from Lindy West, who shared her story of discovering a possible spider’s nest on Twitter, which means she posted updates as it was happening, and the result was hilarious.
You can find more traditional anecdotes on Reader’s Digest, where users submit their own funny short stories from their lives.
4. Non Sequitur Jokes
This is an especially fun type of joke because it uses nonsense as its comedic source! “Non sequitur” is a Latin term that means “It does not follow.” A non sequitur is when you try to connect two points that have nothing to do with each other, and there are often hilarious results.
One of the most famous non sequitur jokes was written by the author Lewis Carroll in his book “Alice in Wonderland,” when he asked:
“How is a raven like a writing desk?”
There is no right answer here because a raven and a desk obviously have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Many people have offered their own answers, and each one makes less sense than the last, like this one:
“Because there is a ‘b’ in both.” (Neither word has a “b” in it.)
Carroll’s own answer was:
“Both are N-E-V-A-R put backwards.”
Explanation: “Nevar” is “raven” spelled backwards, and a writing desk should not be placed down backwards or you won’t be able to write on it.
Don’t try to make sense of that, because it doesn’t! And that’s the point—it’s not supposed to make sense. This kind of joke can be frustrating for English learners because it’s hard to tell when a joke is a non sequitur. A good sign that something isn’t supposed to make sense is when the punchline seems to be about a completely different subject.
The popular comedian Norm MacDonald, who was on the American comedy show “Saturday Night Live” for many years, was famous for his non sequitur jokes, some of which are in this clip:
Find it online: Many memes use non sequiturs, such as this one. You can find other memes on Know Your Meme.
5. Parody Jokes
A parody makes fun of something by copying it in a funny way.
The popular late night show “Saturday Night Live” uses parodies to make fun of current shows, movies and real-world events. Comedian Weird Al Yankovic creates parodies of songs by using the same music but changing the words. For example, Weird Al’s song “Tacky” uses the same music as Pharrell’s “Happy.” It even makes fun of the music video.
Understanding a parody usually requires knowing the original. You can find out the original by searching Google for “what is (song, joke, skit, etc) a parody of?”
Here’s an example:
TL;DR Wikipedia is a hilarious Twitter account that parodies Wikipedia articles into short, funny jokes. For example, for the U.S. holiday of Presidents Day:
“Presidents Day: An annual U.S. holiday honoring those in the market for a new mattress or car.”
Explanation: This parody makes fun of the various sales promotions at mattress stores and car dealerships that seem to pop up every year in the U.S. over the Presidents Day weekend.
Find it online: There are entire parody websites online, like The Onion, which writes pretend stories that look like news stories (and sometimes fool people!)
Twitter has many parody accounts as well, where people pretend to be fictional or famous people like this one that parodies Twitter owner Elon Musk as an Italian—with hilarious results.
6. Topical Jokes
Thanks to the Internet, we know what’s going on in the world right as it’s happening.
Of course, that means we can also make fun of anything as it’s happening. Even things that are “no laughing matter,” or very serious, can’t escape from the Internet’s desire to make everything funny.
Topical jokes are jokes made during or right after some big current event. They can be controversial, and some use dark humor. You might even see a topical joke about a tragedy followed by the phrase “too soon?” meaning, is it too soon to make light of something bad that happened, often a tragedy such as a natural disaster.
Here are a couple of examples:
“IKEA is being accused of evading over $1 billion in taxes. Prosecutors have actually been after IKEA for years. They’ve just been having a hard time putting their case together.”
Explanation: IKEA is a Swedish furniture store that’s famous for selling furniture that you assemble, or put together, on your own at home. The joke is that even the lawyers are having trouble assembling evidence and putting their legal case against IKEA together. This joke uses something that’s currently happening as a setup for a pun.
“A DoorDash delivery driver saved a woman’s life when she fell and broke her hip outside her house. When she returned home from the hospital three weeks later, she complained the pizza was now ice cold.” “
Explanation: The good deed of the DoorDash delivery person isn’t recognized, for comic effect, even though he saved the customer’s life.
In the U.S., late night comedy shows are the main source of topical jokes. Here’s a recent monologue from “The Jimmy Kimmel Show,” where Jimmy tells topical jokes about current events:
Find it online: Topical humor is everywhere on the Internet, especially on social media websites where people share current event like Twitter and Facebook. To see some funny comments, try looking at any “trending” topic on Twitter. Usually, at least one consists of people saying funny things about something that happened recently.
What Makes a Good Joke?
A good joke—quite simply—makes people laugh!
Jokes usually have a setup and a punchline. The setup sets up, or introduces, the scenario or story, giving you any information you need to understand the funny part. The punchline is the funny part.
There are many types of jokes, and you might not find them all funny. In general, a good joke presents information told in some new or unexpected way. Some use silly humor while others make fun of more serious subjects. Jokes usually use either current events or universal topics, which are topics that everyone can understand, like marriage, work, school or friends.
Not all jokes are positive, either. Some jokes are offensive—they can make some people feel bad. Some use stereotypes—general statements about people which aren’t necessarily true. Understanding why these these jokes are offensive or what makes them funny (even if you don’t think they’re funny) is a sign that you’re closer to knowing English like a native.
How to Learn English with Jokes
Jokes are an excellent English learning tool because they often have multiple meanings. To understand a joke, you need to understand:
- The vocabulary the joke uses.
- Alternative meanings of certain words.
- Cultural or pop culture references.
For example, read this joke:
“A man walks into a bar… and breaks his nose.” “
Explanation: Why is this funny? Because it uses the multiple meanings of “bar” in English.
It starts out by setting up a classic type of joke (many English jokes begin with “a man walks into a bar,” meaning that he walks into a place to have a drink). Then it uses the other meaning of the word “bar.” A bar can be a place where you go for drinks, or it can be a long round piece of wood or metal.
In this joke, you expect the “bar” with the first definition, so you think that the man is entering a bar to have a drink… but then how did he break his nose? He broke his nose because he walked into the other kind of bar—a piece of metal or wood—and hurt himself!
See how much you need to know to understand just one short joke?
It’s all right if you don’t catch onto humor in English right away, but don’t be discouraged! There are lots of different things you can do to help you understand jokes a little better, such as watching comedies and popular sitcoms.
Movies and TV shows, as suggested by the video below, are filled with quips, jabs and gags to give you a better idea of what’s considered funny in English.
Find more comedy—and other natural learning opportunities—in native English videos on the FluentU program.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Here are some tips for learning from jokes:
- Look up names. Search Google for any names mentioned in a joke. Jokes about Trump, Biden, Target, Presidents Day or Taylor Swift are funnier when you know who or what they are.
- Check the dictionary for multiple word meanings. Some words have more than one meaning, and many jokes make use of that.
- Look up vocabulary words. Many jokes are short so it’s important to understand every word.
- Ask the joke teller to explain. Sure, this isn’t ideal because often when jokes are explained, they lose their effect. But if you don’t understand the joke, ask! Then you’ll have the required background knowledge to tell the joke yourself some day.
Jokes are a great way to learn while having fun, too!
How the Internet Has Changed Jokes
Before the Internet, jokes were mostly made on TV shows, by comedians, among friends or in parties. Now, thanks to the Internet, we’re all comedians! Social media websites, comment sections and even some news websites are full of jokes by ordinary people just like you and me.
This has also changed the way jokes look. Jokes used to be a few sentences long. Internet jokes are usually shorter, and they can combine words with images and short videos, like in memes.
Before the Internet, you could set up a joke by saying something like “stop me if you’ve heard this one before…” Online, there’s no need to do this. Something about the Internet makes us want to make witty, hilarious comments.
Now back to that Ed Wynn quote from the start of this post: “A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny.”
Understanding words like “comic” and “comedian” isn’t enough to understand the true meaning of this sentence. You also need to understand how changing the order of English words changes the meaning.
That’s a pretty complicated level of understanding, and you can build your knowledge of these things with comedy.
In case you don’t quite get it, the quote is explaining the difference between a comic and a comedian.
A comic makes people laugh by saying things that are funny. But a comedian makes people laugh by making anything funny, even if it’s not funny on its own. For example, they talk about the normal things we do in our everyday lives and make them funny. Which do you think is harder to do?
You probably won’t find all the jokes in this article funny, but if you can understand why they’re funny, you’re doing great!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)