“Knock knock?” “Who’s there?” “Herd” “Herd who?”
Heard you didn't know where these jokes came from (ha ha)
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The knock knock joke; one of the simplest forms of comedy. They all follow a well defined formula that even the youngest of kids can follow and replicate. Love or hate them, these jokes are a part of society that will never go away. But where did these polarizing jokes come from? After some “extensive” research I’m here to share the answer with you.
Before looking into knock knock jokes I thought that I would need to speculate much more in order to come to an answer. Knock knock jokes seem to have always been around, so their origin must not be documented. How far would I have to go to get the answers I need? Knocking, knocking on doors, doors. Would I have to look to research the history of knocking on doors? Fortunately, I did not.
Like many things in the English language it can all be traced back to Shakespeare. In Macbeth, the character of Porter makes a comment that sounds very similar to a modern knock knock joke:
“Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ th’ name of Beelzebub?”
But Shakespeare was alive in the 1600s, so what happened to the jokes within the last 400 years?
The next form of a knock knock joke I found was from the early 1900s. A style of joke appeared 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!” While not as funny as some of the puns we hear today, this undoubtedly uses the same formula as contemporary jokes.
Knock knock jokes became what they are today in the 1930s. The thirties could be described as the golden age of knock knock jokes. Now I wasn’t alive then, but from what I’ve read knock knock jokes were a huge deal.
These days knock knock jokes are mostly associated with children. Their simplicity and immature nature can makes them seem childish. Which is why most would be surprised if they visited 1930s America, as knock knock jokes were all the buzz. Businesses held knock knock joke competitions, orchestras told them during performances, they were on the radio, and people even told them to strangers on the street. Can you imagine that, strangers talking to each other on the street? What a time to be alive.
Knock knock jokes have dwindled in popularity since the thirties, but have remained a staple in comedy and pop culture. It is here that these corny jokes will most likely remain until the end of humanity. How exciting.