Archive for August 20, 2011

Why Are Math Jokes Funny?

There’s a demotivational poster that reads:

If you get them, you probably don’t have friends.


You may not have friends, but if you laugh at a math joke, then you have something in common with the person who wrote, forwarded, or posted the joke. Is that person a friend? Maybe not, but she is at least a kindred spirit.

Harvey Penick wrote the book And If You Play Golf, You’re My Friend. For our crowd, if you laugh at math jokes, then you’re my friend.

This got me to thinking about what makes a math joke funny and why we enjoy them. I found my favorite answer to this question in the comments section of a webcomic. One comment suggested that part of the reason we find math jokes funny is that we “like inside jokes, probably because they exclude other people.” But a response to that comment suggested that shared dorkiness may be the reason:

It’s not that you laugh and think, “Neener, neener — I get it, and you don’t.” It’s that you realize you are not alone, and that sensation is bliss.

The mention of bliss reminded me of a joke…

Would you rather have eternal bliss or a ham sandwich?
A ham sandwich, because nothing is better than eternal bliss, and a ham sandwich is better than nothing.

If you laughed at that joke, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone and that you’re my friend.

August 20, 2011 at 5:42 am Leave a comment

About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

Past Posts

August 2011

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