30 Funny Math Jokes Most People Probably Won’t Get
Back when the Internet was still a baby, the primary users were its creators, math and tech-oriented academics. So as a result, math jokes have an elemental role in the history of the web. Sure, funny TikToks and animal snapchats may have overshadowed them, but browse through a few geeky subreddits and Twitter hashtags and you will still find them.
Mathematician and author John Allen Paulos in his book Mathematics and Humor described several ways that mathematics — generally considered a dry, formal activity — overlaps with humor: both are forms of "intellectual play"; both have "logic, pattern, rules, structure"; and both are "economical and explicit". Bored Panda thinks the man definitely has a point, so we compiled the best math jokes we could find online to prove it. Continue scrolling and after you're done, tell us in the comments if you agree!
In An Essay on Comedy (originally presented in 1877), George Meredith goes to the extreme of calling humor "comedy" just as Paulos goes to the extreme of calling jokes "humor", avoiding the common and pejorative associations attached to "jokes". But as Paul H. Grawe pointed out, Meredith is really talking about humor, specifically humor that takes at least a momentary mental calculation in order to catch it.
"Meredith’s discussion can be seen as recognizing at least three sub-forms of mental humor," Grawe wrote. "First, there is Incongruity, which Paulos early on indicates to be the center of all humor as far as he is concerned. In Incongruity, as we later empirically defined it, two things, ideas, or concepts are brought into collision with each other or into collision with a verbal structure. A drawing of a flat disk on a globe spindle and beneath the cartoon caption indicating this was Columbus’ first globe is humor of this second form, a thing — a dis — collided with an idea — a globe — but collided by the choice of words in the caption."
The second Meredithian form is Word Play, two words or verbal constructions are made to collide with one another. Consider this:
"Knock, knock," "Orange," "—Orange who?" "Orange you glad I'm not going to tell another one?"
The word "Orange" colliding with "Aren’t ya," which can often be pronounced similarly, is the joke.
It's Very Simple
The third Meredithian form is the Gotcha joke. It's is laughing at the form of humor. "Someone thinks he is smart or otherwise talented and acts on that talent. And then, it is made apparent that he wasn’t that smart or otherwise talented and is got for his effort," Grawe explained. Paulos' discussion, like Meredith's, is easily analyzable as covering Incongruity, Word Play, and Gotcha humor.
So probably even 19th-century thinkers understood that math can be an excellent vessel for humor.