I first heard the "lemon joke"
in high school. It's a joke that doesn't make any sense. It
isn't funny at all. It isn't a joke you tell so much as a joke you
play on the person you're telling it to.
It goes like this:
Two lemons are sitting in a bathtub. One
says to the other, "Pass me the bar of soap."
The other one says, "What do I look like,
It's pretty much a litmus test for the
listener's character. Sometimes they're confused, sometimes they're
angry because they don't get it. Some of them will ask questions
until it makes sense. Some people will laugh and laugh because you're
laughing as well, and they laugh because they're trying to fit in.
If you find one of these people, avoid them.
I've mentioned my old roommate Ron (not
his real name) before. He was a double math/physics major who had
pretty much no personality. At this point I wasn't living with him
any longer, but we were right across the hall from one another. My
then-current roommate Jack and I were telling the lemon joke to friends
in the lobby, and they had gotten what it was all about. We explained
how the prank worked: Everyone has to laugh and nod during the telling
like this is the greatest punchline in the history of comedy.
"What are you guys laughing about," asked
"Have you ever heard the lemon joke," I
Of course he hadn't. No one told
Ron jokes. In fact, when he was around, he kind of was the joke,
poor thing, and this was no exception.
We told him the joke, all of us laughing
the whole while. This wasn't acting. Once you started telling
it and saw the expectant look on the listener's face, the laughing came
naturally. Of course, the mark assumed you were laughing at the joke,
We got to the punchline and Ron just sat
there. We laughed even harder. He looked really confused.
His life at that point was all about solving intellectual problems with
objective solutions that could be looked up in the back of the book if
"Lemons," he said. I'm not sure if
it was a question or if he was just thinking out loud.
"Yeah," we said enthusiastically.
This started a new round of laughter. Ron interpreted it as an indication
that the presence of talking lemons was an important factor in the equation.
"A bar of soap?" He was determined
to work this out.
"Yeah." More laughter.
"And a typewriter?" He looked really,
deeply troubled. It was the climax for us.
Minutes later after we stopped laughing
enough to speak, we finally broke down and explained the "joke" to Ron.
He was even more frustrated now because we presented him with a problem
that had no solution. He went back to his room to figure it out,
never realizing that his inability to figure out why this was funny was
precisely why telling it to him was so funny in the first place.