Wednesday 27 May 2009

A brief history of Jokes (Part III)

Civilisation began, and the civilisations of the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Babylonians, swiftly succeeded each other. Nothing remains of their jokes. As Erich von Daniken sagely points out, “[Nature] allows dressed blocks of stone to survive for 5,000 years [but not] the thickest iron girders.” What hope then for jokes? However, judging from the remains of their monuments and inscriptions, it all looked like a great deal of fun.

Around 1500 BCE God decided it would be a good idea to get involved in religion, and institute monotheism. It would make everything a lot simpler, He thought. Accordingly, He revealed himself to Moses in the form of the Burning Bush, and at the same time created the World’s first Knock Knock joke. The Lord called out of the midst of the bush, saying Moses, Moses. And Moses replied:

Who’s there?
God: I am.
Moses: I am Who?
God: I am Who I am.

The Word could not believe it! He’d been hanging around with God for millions upon millions of years and he’d never even suspected He had a sense of humour. And then He goes and pulls one out of the hat like that! Absolutely unbelievable.

Unfortunately, after this shining start, monotheism didn’t live up to its promise. It ended up being lots of rules and regulations. A lot of telling people what to do, and no jokes.

But what did you say? ... Egypt? Have I forgotten to mention the incredible explosion of jokes that was ancient Egypt? Where lotus flowers bloomed in quiet pools while the construction of enormous jokes went on day and night out in the desert? Where thousands of slaves hauled vast blocks of stone to be fitted together into the seamless jokes that still fascinate us thousands of years later? Where every detail of their jokes (set-up, digression, punchline) was carved in mysterious hieroglyphics and sealed in dark passages as pledges for eternity? And where the statues of the Pharaohs have the quiet look and flickering smile of someone who knows a very good joke but isn’t going to tell you just yet?

No, I have not forgotten Egypt.

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