I bet you haven’t gone a month in your life without hearing someone ask, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” People love jokes – the cornier the better – and that old poultry joke just keeps popping up. But I think this yuk-yuk might finally be reaching the end of its shelf life.
It’s not that it doesn’t get laughs every now and then; it’s just that most modern children have never seen a real chicken. They know what a chicken sandwich is, and they can tell you how many chicken nuggets come in a box, but they just don’t know anything about the actual bird behind the deep fried meals. And if you’ve never met a chicken, and your own parents have never let you cross a road by yourself, you’re not going to care about why some stupid bird is rambling along on a busy street. “Maybe that’s where chicken nuggets come from... maybe some dumb chicken is crossing the road, and POW!” The joke is lost on these guys.
And think about “Knock, Knock” jokes for a minute. We’ve trained kids to be wary of strangers. Most kids won’t fall for the classic punchline “Little Ol’ Lady... WHO?” because they’ll be running for the phone to call the cops. “There’s some creepy old man out here pretending to be someone’s grandmother!” And who knocks anymore? Kids don’t even ring the doorbell. Kids stand in the front yard and text, “IM HERE @ UR DOOR. R U HOME?” I’m tempted to start a line of “TEXT, TEXT” jokes, but I don’t really know what to say.
I’m afraid our old jokes won’t work with this new generation. We need to forget about chickens, and roads, and priests walking into a bar. We need to let the kids come up with their own jokes, even if we don’t understand them. Their jokes will probably have punchlines like, “And since he tried his best, no one laughed when he slipped on the banana peel.” And maybe that’s not so bad. Maybe this new generation’s refined values will eliminate the mean and vulgar jokes that fueled my generation’s schoolyards and cafeterias. That might just be worth the demise of a pedestrian chicken, a few drunk bar patrons, and that “little ol’ lady” at the front door, if you know what I mean.
Hey, did you hear the one about the three hipsters who walked into a coffee shop?
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Covington. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.