Milkman joke

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Milkman jokes, though they appear in dozens of different forms, all have the same basic plot: a woman gives birth to an infant who more closely resembles the local milkman than her husband, revealing the child's biological father and, in the process, the mother's adultery.

Example:

  • A woman puts panties on her head to protect her hair whilst painting the walls. The doorbell rings and her small son answers it. "Mum!" The boy shouts, "Take your panties off. The milkman's here and wants paying."

The joke's context is an era in Western society that lacked inexpensive and ubiquitous refrigeration, and milkmen were an established trade. A milkman would regularly visit each house in an assigned neighborhood, usually in the morning, to drop off bottles of fresh milk and take away empty bottles from his previous visit. In the same era, men were commonly the main financial supporters of their families, and a man's wife tended to remain at home to care for their children and home. As the milkman would visit the home at a time when the husband would be away at work, this created an opportune situation for adultery.

In popular culture[edit]

As fears and suspicions over paternity are universal, each culture has its equivalent of the milkman joke. And occasionally, derivatives of the joke appear, with the milkman having been replaced by a member of some different occupation: the mailmen, plumbers or generic repairmen are often used. One variant is the series of Farkel family sketches from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, where a couple's children all resemble their next-door neighbor. Even Monty Python's Flying Circus had a short milkman sketch, where a lonely housewife lures the milkman into her house and up many stairs, then shoves him in a room with nine other milkmen, many of whom are very old (and two skeletons wearing milkmen uniforms) and locks the door. An entire episode of Father Ted ("Speed 3") was based upon the joke. In the Blackadder the Third episode "Dish and Dishonesty," Blackadder mockingly asks if William Pitt the Younger's little brother is called "Pitt the Toddler," "Pitt the Embryo," or "Pitt the Glint in the Milkman's Eye." In the Futurama episode "A Clockwork Origin," Farnsworth remarks his water is "as sterile as my milkman-trusting father." In the South Park episode " Insecurity," the male inhabitants believe the local delivery man is having affairs with their wives and one of the elder inhabitants of the city reveals it is the same thing that had happened in his era with milk men.

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