Knock-knock joke

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The knock-knock joke is a question-and-answer joke, typically ending with a pun. Knock-knock jokes are primarily seen as children's jokes, though there are exceptions.

The scenario is of a person knocking on the front door to a house. The teller of the joke says, "Knock, knock!"; the recipient responds, "Who's there?" The teller gives a name (such as "Noah") or a description (such as "Police") or something that purports to be a name (such as "Needle"). The other person then responds by asking the caller's surname ("Noah who?" "Police who?" "Needle who?"), to which the joke-teller delivers a pun involving the name ("Noah place I can spend the night?" "Police let me in—it's cold out here!" "Needle little help with the groceries!").[1]

The formula of the joke must be followed strictly:

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
[Someone or something.]
[Someone or something] who?
Punchline.

In the United States, children tend to learn this formula in preschool.[citation needed]

As shown below, knock-knock jokes can take the form of simple puns on the name given (1), jokes specifically involving the door-knocking scenario (2), puns on the "who?" phrase of the speaker (3), or humorous departures from the knock-knock joke form (4).

1.
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Anna Partridge.
Anna Partridge who?
"Anna Partridge in a pear tree!"

2.
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Doris.
Doris who?
Doris open, so I thought I'd drop by.

3.
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Boo.
Boo who?
Don't cry!

4.
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting cow.
Inter—
MOO!

The following popular children's knock-knock joke demonstrates some latitude of the form:

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Banana.
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Banana.
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Orange.
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say "Banana"?

History[edit]

Writing in the Oakland Tribune, Merely McEvoy recalled a style of joke from around 1900 where a person would ask a question such as "Do you know Arthur?", the unsuspecting listener responding with "Arthur who?" and the joke teller answering "Arthurmometer!"[1]

A variation of the format in the form of a children's game was described in 1929.[2] In the game of Buff, a child with a stick thumps it on the ground, and the dialogue ensues:

Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Buff.
What says Buff?
Buff says Buff to all his men, And I say Buff to you again.

In 1936, the standard knock-knock joke format was used in a newspaper advertisement.[3] That joke was:

Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Rufus.
Rufus who?
Rufus the most important part of your house.

A 1936 Associated Press newspaper article said that "What's This?" had given way to "Knock Knock!" as a favorite parlor game.[4] The article also said that "knock knock" seemed to be an outgrowth of making up sentences with difficult words, an old parlor favorite. A popular joke of 1936 was "Knock knock. Who's there? Edward Rex. Edward Rex who? Edward wrecks the Coronation."[5] Fred Allen's December 30, 1936 radio broadcast included a humorous wrapup of the year's least important events, including a supposed interview with the man who "invented a negative craze" on April 1: "Ramrod Dank... the first man to coin a Knock Knock."[6]

"Knock knock" was the catchphrase of music hall performer Wee Georgie Wood, who was recorded in 1936 saying it in a radio play, but he simply used the words as a reference to his surname and did not use it as part of the well-known joke formula.[7] The format was well known in the UK and US in the 1950s and 1960s before falling out of favor. It then enjoyed a renaissance after the jokes became a regular part of the badinage on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Linton Weeks (March 3, 2015). "The Secret History of Knock-Knock Jokes". Retrieved June 27, 2016. 
  2. ^ Henry Bett (1929). The games of children: their origin and history. Singing Tree Press. p. 87. 
  3. ^ "Hee Haw News" p. 4. Rolfe Arrow. (Rolfe, Iowa). Sep. 10, 1936.
  4. ^ "'Knock Knock' Latest Nutsy Game For Parlor Amusement." P. 1. Aug. 3, 1936. Titusville Herald (Pennsylvania). Byline Aug. 2. New York.
  5. ^ "Wallis Simpson 'not good looking'". The Daily Telegraph. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2015. 
  6. ^ Allen, Fred; Hample, Stuart (2001). All the Sincerity in Hollywood--: Selections from the Writings of Radio's Legendary Comedian Fred Allen. Fulcrum Pub. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-55591-154-6. 
  7. ^ a b Rees, Nigel (2006). A Word in Your Shell-like: 6,000 Curious & Everyday Phrases Explained. Collins. p. 395. ISBN 978-0-00-722087-8.