Stop me if you've heard this one: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap." No? Well, according to researchers, that joke goes back to Sumeria in 1900 B.C. It's not exactly a laugh riot, I grant you, but it does include one of the funniest words in any language: husband.
But seriously folks, we've got scientists getting paid to find the word's oldest joke. It reminds me of the Monty Python skit about the "killer joke", not to be confused with the eighties band, Killing Joke. The Python joke went something like this: "Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! ... Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput." If your high school German is up to snuff, you're probably just now picking yourself up off the floor. Or not.
Because that's the thing about jokes, isn't it? Sometimes the magic works, other times you just get a blank look for your trouble. Or worse, you could get the omnipresent joke-killer, "I don't get it." I wonder if the originator of a 1600 B.C. gag about a pharaoh, said to be King Snofru, "How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish," got only shrugs on his delivery. Ancient Egyptians weren't known for their timing.
Long before the boys in Monty Python got together, sometime in the 10th Century, we get our first English joke: "What hangs at a man's thigh and wants to poke the hole that it's often poked before? Answer: A key." Again, not exactly "The Parrot Sketch", but back then there was all that trouble with the Vikings, and it probably seemed like the height of levity. I guess you had to be there.