Joke evolution – survival of the witless?

Today I was wondering how some jokes become widely known, while others remain relatively obscure. For instance, we’ve all heard, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Why have we all heard it? It’s not even remotely funny. Far more amusing is “Mommy, do I have an Oedipus Complex?” “Shut up and kiss me!” Yet I bet one millionth the number of people are familiar with the latter joke (and even fewer would get it). Does this reflect the distribution of the “lowest common denominator” in our society? Or is it the phenomenon that repeating something often enough makes it stick in our minds, even if we don’t want to remember? Think about the song, “Midnight at the Oasis.” Really stupid song. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming it within the next hour. Sorry. At least I didn’t mention “YMCA.”
Back to humor. Henny Youngman told thousands of jokes. Yet what joke of his do you recall? “Take my wife, please!” That’s it? That’s his legacy? I much prefer Emo Phillips, who comes up with great twists like, “My female friend told me, ‘Emo, I wouldn’t have sex with you if you were the last man on Earth!’ I replied, ‘If I were the last man on Earth, I wouldn’t even let you in the line.'” More down the road…

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