Top critical review
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A terrible book unworthy of print
on 4 January 2017
A lot of the reviews for this are from people buying it as a joke present for others, people who haven't read it extensively themselves, which might explain the 4-star rating.
The author is a self-described 'scholar' of humour and jokes, i.e. not a comedian. The sheer randomness and lack of discretion in his accumulation of ancient, recycled junk for this book proves that studying something is no guarantee you'll eventually understand it. He has no sense of humour - he just collects humour. Indiscriminately.
The book is divided into 2-page spreads on different topics: "only an X's daughter but...", "Why did the X cross the road", "what's X and Y?" and so on. Many categories appear again later in the book, for no discernible reason other than to less obviously spin out the recycled content. Most of the jokes are so bad, you can't believe someone would bother to put them into print. The first set of 'Why did the X cross the road" jokes are exactly the ones you heard (and got quickly bored of telling) when you were 4 years old: the chicken, the dinosaur, the horse ("it was the chicken's day off"). The X and Y jokes include ones so tediously old, even Penguin wrappers no longer consider them worthy of print: "What's brown and sticky? A stick." And so on.
Some people are happy with this because they bought it as a deliberately bad, "so bad it's good" present for someone - a joke present. The problem with that is, the title is "500 of the funniest jokes, one-liners and puns". I love one-liners and puns. I love so-bad-they're-good jokes. But these literally, actually are not the best ones - they're the worst. The most tedious, washed-up, saturated, flogged-dead jokes that only now reappear when a grandparent is briefly tasked with entertaining a toddler.
There are a few good jokes in here, seemingly by accident - the author's approach has simply been to unthinkingly harvest all of the most common-by-appearance playground jokes and print them, and now and then, good jokes as well as "Knock knock" jokes make it into playgrounds. So once every ten or twelve pages, I found something that made me laugh. But most of it is absolute bilge - jokes you already know and didn't find very funny the first time, jokes you get punished with if you cheap out on bad Christmas crackers.
Actually, that's a lie. Three out of the six cracker jokes at my last meal made me laugh, if a little weakly - a much better ratio than this book manages. Passing the contents of this book off as worthy of reading, let alone as the "funniest" classic jokes, is fraud. Once you grasp the (lack of) effort put into it, asking £10 for it is robbery. For £2, I might have just blamed myself and kept it. For the sake of £10, I returned it. Nobody should get paid for publishing this tripe.
I'm worried you might not believe just how painfully lazy some of the material is, so I'll end with a few examples.
"Why did the giraffe cross the road?"
"To visit the chicken."
"What's black and white and read all over?"
"What is black and white and eats like a horse?"
"Why was the mushroom invited to the party?"
"Because he was a fun-guy."
"Waiter, there's a fly in my soup!"
"Sorry, sir. Did you want it served separately?"
"What's orange and sounds like a parrot?"
"What time does the Chinese dentist's open?"