- For the eponymous joke, see Killer Joke. The Monty Python Wiki will not be held responsible for any injury or fatality this action may cause.
"The Funniest Joke in the World" is the most frequent title used to refer to a Monty Python's Flying Circus comedy sketch, also known by two other phrases that appear within it, "joke warfare" and "killer joke". The premise of the sketch is fatal hilarity: the joke is simply so funny that anyone who reads or hears it promptly dies laughing.
The sketch appeared in the first episode of the television show Monty Python's Flying Circus, which was titled "Whither Canada?". The sketch was later remade in a shorter version for the film And Now For Something Completely Different; it is also available on the CD-ROM game of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. The premise had previously been presented in the "Li'l Abner" comic strip.
The sketch is set during World War II, when Ernest Scribbler, a British joke writer (Michael Palin), creates the funniest joke in the world and then dies laughing. His mother (Eric Idle) enters the room shortly thereafter and finds her son dead. Horrified, she carefully takes the crumpled paper from his hand, and reads it, believing it to be a suicide note. She then begins laughing hysterically, falls over the desk (or bed, in the movie version) and dies. A policeman (Graham Chapman) retrieves the joke, but despite somber music and the chanting of laments by other officers to create a depressing mood, reads it and also dies laughing.
It is finally given over to the British Army, and after careful testing, the joke is translated into German, to succeed the great pre-war joke, apparently seen held aloft by Neville Chamberlain, in fact the PM returning to the UK with the Munich Agreement. Each word of the joke is translated by a different person — ostensibly because seeing too much of the joke would prove fatal. The narrator (Chapman) adds that one translator accidentally caught a glimpse of a second word, and was hospitalized for weeks.
The translation is given to British soldiers who do not speak German, because not understanding what they are saying is the only way to survive reading the joke aloud. The joke is used first time on 8 July 1944 in the Ardennes by the soldiers, who read the German version aloud on the battlefield, and the German soldiers simply fall over dead from laughter.
In the television version, a British soldier (Palin) is captured and forced to tell the joke to the Germans. However, as hearing the joke proves deadly, his captors (John Cleese and Chapman) die laughing and he escapes. The Germans work to produce an equally deadly joke; two Gestapo officers in charge of the "killer joke" effort (Chapman and Terry Jones) are seen shooting scientists who bring in jokes that aren't funny.
The Germans soon formulate a counter-joke, which is translated into English and played over the radio to London, but with no success. (The joke is: "There were zwei [two] peanuts walking down der strasse [street]. Und one was assaulted... peanut!") Different jokes are used in the television and film versions of the sketch.(In the film version, stock footage of Adolf Hitler is used, making it seem like he's announcing the joke to his soldiers; the joke is: "My dog has no nose." "How does it smell?" "Awful!")
The joke is finally laid to rest when "peace broke out" at the end of the war. All countries agree to a Joke Warfare ban at a "special session of the Geneva convention". The joke is under a monument bearing the inscription "To the Unknown Joke" (as compared with the British Unknown Warrior or the American Unknown Soldier).
Other shows have paid homage to "The Funniest Joke in the World". In the second Omake Theater skit of Blue Seed, Living Room Theatre, the TAC create a "Funniest Joke" to wipe out their enemies, the Aragami, and bring about a quick end of the series.
The clip of Hitler telling his "My dog's got no nose" joke was taken from Triumph des Willens ("Triumph of the Will"), a propaganda film of the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, directed by Leni Riefenstahl. In the clip, Hitler is addressing the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labor Front). What he actually said translates thusly:
"My dog's got no nose!" — "And furthermore, no longer will it be the case in Germany..." ("Insbesondere keiner mehr in Deutschland leben wird...")
"How does he smell?" — "We are the Reich's young manhood!" ("Wir sind des Reiches junge Manschaft!")
"Awful!" — "...your school." ("...Eure Schule.")
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