Top 5 Punchlines That Made Me Wonder What The Rest Of The Joke Was

“…and the monks sing ‘We don’t wanna play dominoes'”*

*cue laughter*

Does that not drive you insane? They do it all the time in film and TV shows, you’ll have seen it yourself. It’s a trope known as an Orphaned Punchline** and it’s a handy way of showing that we, the viewers, have come in to a conversation that’s already in progress. It also allows writers to squeeze in a little comedy that they might otherwise not be allowed to use, perhaps hinting at a dirty joke that they’d never be allowed to add the script.

Every time I see this trope used in a film or TV show, I ask myself two questions. Firstly, what’s the rest of the joke? Secondly, is it funny? Well, enough is enough. After years of asking these questions, i’ve gone back and reviewed some of my favourite shows and films in search of answers.

5) “…so the parrot says, ‘I only got one question: what did that chicken in there do?'”

This is the one that started this whole thing off. I’m currently re-watching all of X-Files and this punchline popped up in the season five episode “Christmas Carol” and triggered this blog. If you’re wondering why this punchline in particular prompted me to research and write a response, it’s because this time I actually know the setup.

What’s the joke?

This is an old gag, one that i’m pretty sure I heard from my grandfather. Gamps was a great collector of jokes and this definitely sounds like one of his.

“So there’s this guy who buys himself a pet parrot for a bit of company. He takes the bird home, pops it in the cage and he’s feeling pretty good about himself. Then, the bird starts talking. This parrot swears, you see. Every word that comes out of the bird’s mouth is just pure filth. Calls the guy every name under the sun. Eventually, the bloke says ‘ENOUGH! If you don’t stop swearing i’ll…”=’ and he’s looking around the room wondering what to do and he sees the freezer ‘…i’ll put you in the freezer! Cool you off!’. Of course, the bird doesn’t listen and keeps effing and blinding so the guy thinks to hell with it, pulls him out of the cage and shoves him in the freezer. He leaves him in there for a few minutes, then he opens the freezer and the parrot flies out, lands on the counter and looks at him. He’s looking at the parrot, the parrot’s looking at him, then the bird opens it’s beak and says ‘OK, look, i’m real sorry about all the swearing. I’ll be good.’ and the guy is real taken aback but he says fine and they’re all good and so the parrot says, ‘I only got one question: what did that chicken in there do'”

But is it funny?

Told well? Yeah, it’s worth a giggle. It’s an old, old gag and there’s nothing funny about trapping birds in any of the kitchen appliances, of course, but it’s a fairly well put together joke. I’d give it one tee out of tee hee hee.

4) “…and then the duck says, ‘There’s a man attached to my ass'”

This punchline gets a big laugh when delivered by Anya in “Restless”, a season ??? episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It’s also not exactly an Orphaned Punchline, in as much as we do see a little of the setup but not enough to figure out what the setup is, so it still counts.

What’s the joke?

I couldn’t actually track this one down online, which means it’s either something that the writers came up with or it’s based on a joke they heard from a friend who heard it from a friend who… you get the idea. Near as I can figure, the joke is basically this:

“A guy walks into a hospital with a duck on his head. Shocked, the receptionist leads him into the waiting room and he sits patiently. The receptionist picks up the phone, explains the situation and he is taken through to the doctor’s office. Bemused, the doctor asks him what the problem is and then the duck says, ‘There’s a man attached to my ass'”

But is it funny?

Eeeeehhhhhhhh. I wouldn’t say it’s worth a belly laugh but it’s not bad. Comic subversion and all that. I’d give it haha out of hahahahaha.

3) “But honey, this one’s eating my popcorn!”

This is one of the earliest instances of the Orphaned Punchline that I can remember really breaking my brain. I went to see Men In Black in the cinema in 1997 and I remember sitting there, looking at my popcorn, wondering what the hell made K laugh so heartily.

It’s also probably the example that sticks out most in my mind because of Tommy Lee Jones’ absolutely fantastic delivery. The little voice, the laugh, he sounds like a guy who just got done telling the funniest joke that he’s ever heard.

What’s the joke?

I’d not heard this one before but TVTropes.org actually had the full joke and it goes something like this:

‘There’s this farmer who goes everywhere with his pet rooster and one day he decides to head to town to see a movie. Noticing a sign that says no animals are allowed inside the cinema, he stuffs the bird into the front pocket of his overalls and then once he’s seated and the lights have dimmed, he unzips the pocket so the rooster can see. After a while, the woman sat next to him notices something poking out from the farmer’s overall and nudges her husband. “Honey! The man next to me has his thing out.” Her husband is trying to watch the film and replies, ‘And? It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.’ to which his wife replies ‘But honey, this one’s eating my popcorn!'”

But is it funny?

Of course it’s funny. Maybe not quite as funny as K seems to find it, but come on people. This joke about a woman that thinks there’s a willy stealing her snacks. That’s got to be worth at least a groan and a wry smile.

2) “…The clown can stay, but the Ferengi in the gorilla suit has to go!”

In 1994 the Star Trek franchise returned to the big screen with Generations, a film which was something of an emotional rollercoaster for a ten year old Trek fan. My heart jumped with joy as Kirk and Picard appeared on screen together, only to be smashed to pieces as Kirk died. In between all of that, a newly emotional Data said “Oh shit” as the Enterprise crashed and I just about wet myself laughing. Like I said, I was 10.

There’s also another moment in Generations in which Data’s emotion chip leads to laughs, when he suddenly starts giggling like a loon, announcing that he has finally got the punchline to a joke which Geordie told during the Farpoint mission. For non-Trekkies, that’s a callback to the first ever episode of The Next Generation. The irritating part about it is that the joke is told offscreen and so there’s no knowing why Data winds up busting a gut some seven years later.

What’s the joke?

I have no idea. This is one of my earliest memories of this trope in use, it’s bugged me for years and there’s apparently no answer. I trawled forums and fan sites and came up with nothing. In the end, I had a crack at writing the joke myself but couldn’t for the life of me come up with a setup that made sense. I’m looking at my notes as I write this and all i’ve got is the word “Ewok” surrounded by question marks and a scribbled idea about tweeting a link to this post to Brent Spiner to see if he can help.

But is it funny?

I mean… maybe? Who knows!? I do love the moment in the film and Data is one of my favourite Star Trek characters of all time so sure, I guess. I’ll never sleep tonight for wondering about the damn setup, though.  I regret starting this…

1) “…and then I said, The Aristocrats!”

In an episode of Fairly Odd Parents, Mark Chung is heard delivering the punchline of a joke as written above. If you don’t understand the amount of disgusting, filthy nonsense that the writers slipped past the majority of the audience with that one, you’ve never heard of The Aristocrats.

What’s the joke?

There’s no one version of this joke. It’s a kind of backstage running gag between comedians in which they have to construct the dirtiest, most shocking version of the joke possible. If you’re interested in the story behind this, there’s a fantastic documentary all about it featuring all manner of comedians including the late, great George Carlin. I couldn’t find it online anywhere to stream but you can grab a copy from Amazon and probably from various other retailers.

The basic setup of the joke is simple. A man walks into an agents office and says “Boy, have I got an act for you”. The agent asks him about the act and the man then describes it in detail. The act varies from version to version but can include any manner of disgusting and quite possibly illegal acts. Once the description (sometimes demonstration) of the act is done, the shocked agent asks “What do you all this act?!” and the man says “The Aristocrats!”

I decided to have a stab at telling this joke. This version is incredibly tame, but here goes.

“So the other day I walked into this agent’s office and said to him ‘Mister, have I got an act for you!”. So he sits me down and asks me about the act and I told him ‘Well, what I do is I get up on stage with my wife and I drop my trousers and I put my testicles on this little table. So i’m just stood there, see, with my balls on this table and my wife comes over with a marker pen and on one ball she draws a smiling face and on the other one a frowny face. Then I start talking in two different voices, just jiggling them about and having a conversation about the state of the country and all of that and then right at the end I turn around and i’ve got the Union Jack painted on my bare ass and I fart the national anthem’. So the agent, he’s shocked and he says to me “What the hell do you call the act?!” and then I said ‘The Aristocrats!'”

But is it funny?

My version? Not really, but it’s as graphic as I was willing to go for this post. I’ve heard some incredibly unsettling versions of this joke. I’ve also heard some incredibly funny versions. All comedy depends on your own personal sense of humour, of course, but this particular joke will divide a room faster than a referendum.

In this particular example of an Orphaned Punchline, however, it’s genius. It doesn’t matter what the structure of the joke was, because what’s funny is just how much potential material flew under the radar. Slipping this into a kids show? Genius. I give this a full belly laugh with follow up chortling.

*This is an Orphaned Punchline story from my own life. I have a clear memory of hearing my dad telling a joke to someone and this was the punchline. Years later, I have no idea what the setup was and my dad can’t remember. If anyone out there knows this joke, please get in touch. It keeps me awake at night…

**TVTropes.org is a fantastic site for pop culture nerds and was really useful when pulling this post together. Thanks TVTropes! *thumbs up, twinkle smile, freeze frame, credits*

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