‘So, three Sumerians walk into a bar…’

oldest-joke-ever-recorded

This is great, and a welcome respite from politics. Researchers have found the world’s oldest joke.

“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap,” goes the joke, which dates from 1900 B.C. and which originated in what is now southern Iraq.

Now, I like a good fart joke as much as the next guy, but WTF? Does anyone actually get that?

No matter. Iraqi humor even today doesn’t quite translate into English, a fact that often left me feeling damn confused over gruesome tales that my Iraqi friends found hilarious.

Many of modern day Iraqi jokes deal with the Dulaimi tribe from Anbar and tend to focus on their perceived backwardness and sheer yokelry. One I remembered went something like, “A Dulaimi drove his cousin to Baghdad. His cousin sat behind the driver so he could take over the wheel after he killed the first guy.” Much laughter would then ensue, and no, I still don’t get it.

But the real genius of Iraqi humor was poking fun at Saddam and making word plays. (Too bad puns don’t translate well.) ‘Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the sickly vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council who today may or may not be part of the neo-Ba’athist insurgency (what’s left of it) often came in for humiliating jokes. The craven yes-man was often pictured impersonating a woman, for some reason.

Ancient humor was no different, and megalomaniacal rulers have always been good for a laugh. Some of the ancient jokes the researchers found poked fun at Egyptian pharaohs.

“How do you entertain a bored pharaoh?” goes one. “Sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile — and urge the pharaoh to go fishing.”

Put your favorite Iraqi joke — not jokes about Iraqis, mind you — in the comments.