The Joke

I’m no good at telling long jokes, partly because I forget some detail that makes it funny, but mostly because I am overcome with laughter before the punchline. I prefer short jokes (my favorite: a baby seal walks into a club. It’s awful. Makes me laugh every time.) But there’s one long joke I can recount verbatim. It goes like this:

An elderly couple were driving along the highway when they got stopped by a state trooper. The husband, who was driving, pulled over and stopped the car. The trooper approached the window.
“Excuse me, sir, do you know how fast you were going?”
The wife, in the passenger seat, is terribly hard of hearing. She leaned toward her husband and croaked “Huh? What’d he say?” (if you do an annoying old-woman voice, it’s much funnier)
The husband, dutifully accustomed to repeating conversations for his wife, repeated what the trooper said. “He wants to know if I know how fast I was going.”
Wife, “Oh, okay.”
The trooper continues his stop, “I’ll need to see your license and registration.”
Wife, “Huh? What’d he say?”
Husband, “He needs to see my license and registration.” The husband hands the trooper the documents.
The trooper looks over the documents, then says “Oh, you’re from Illinois. The worst fuck I ever had was from Illinois.”
The wife leans in, says “Huh? What’d he say?”
The husband responds, realizing he has a rare opportunity, suddenly victorious in his drudgery, “He thinks he knows ya!”

This joke was seared into my memory by my college roommate Gillian, who told and retold the joke about two dozen times at a music department kegger we attended. As the night wore on, and she got drunker and drunker, she told the joke in increasing volume, to the point where I could hear her across the crowded party delivering the punchline with gleeful abandon, “HE THINKS HE KNOWS YA!”


And so the joke, and its provenance, became part of my personal lore, and part of the stories I told my kids over the years. When they were too young to hear the word “fuck” I replaced it with “sex”, but it is funnier with “fuck,” and when they were old enough (I waited until all of them were 18, I SWEAR), I used the original text.

The story is now told in shorthand in our family, and the line “He thinks he knows ya!” is thrown around when one of us asks for something to be repeated, or in other circumstances when we’re being goofy.

Last night, my daughter (who is now 21, for those of you who can’t stand the idea of a child drinking alcohol) admitted that once, at a party, she was so drunk she tried to tell this joke, but couldn’t remember anything except the punchline. And she’s like me–she can’t tell a joke because she collapses in giggles before the funny part. So there she was, drunk off her ass, laughing so much she can hardly speak, sputtering the one sentence “He thinks he knows ya!” over and over, perplexed about why nobody else thought it was funny.

It’s deliciously funny to me that the one joke I know because someone was drunk off her ass repeating it all night long is the one joke my daughter can’t remember because she was drunk off her ass trying to repeat it all night long.

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