|Research in the BL. Sometimes you get nothing, and sometimes you come up with pure gold. During my last visit there, I made a ground-breaking discovery, one which will force us all to reconsider the ways in which we think about the history of humor: they had "Waiter, there's a fly in my drink/soup" jokes in 1641. And back then, they rhymed. This, from the fascinating collection of jests, Wits Recreations.|
A Fly out of his glass a guest did take,
It's nearly funny. But not as funny as the earliest "knock knock" joke known, recorded in PRO MS SP 154/3 f. 45b, dated 1515 and attributed to John Skelton:
Here followeth a methode for makynge of a ieste wherein the iester doth sette hymselfe as iff behynde a dore, and beginneth thus:
And then they would laugh and laugh and laugh and tell it again.