Twelve Jokes from (if not by) Sigmund Freud

In 1905, Sigmund Freud published his book-length study, Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious. Here are some of the jokes Freud includes as part of his analysis, in the order in which they appear in the book.

Source: The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud. Translated and Edited by A. A. Brill, New York: The Modern Library, 1995 (orig. 1938). Except where noted, I have tinkered with Brill’s versions of the jokes without affecting Freud’s (or Henny Youngman’s) accompanying propositions, the subject of a forthcoming post.

A doctor, leaving the hospital room of a woman whose husband is waiting outside, shakes his head and says to the husband, “I don’t like her looks.” The husband replies, “I haven’t liked her looks for years.”

“Why do you keep singing that song over and over?”
“Because it haunts me.”
“No wonder, you’re always murdering it.”

A wealthy and elderly gentleman showed his devotion to a young actress by many lavish gifts. Being a respectable girl, she took the first opportunity to discharge his attentions by telling him that her heart was already given to another man. “I never aspired as high as that,” was his polite answer. (Brill translation)

“Have you taken a bath lately?”
“Why, is one missing?”

A matchmaker assures a young man that the father of the girl he should marry is no longer living. After the engagement is announced, the young man discovers that the girl’s father is not only alive but in prison. The young man reproaches the matchmaker for deceiving him. “Hey what did I tell you,” says the matchmaker, “you call that living?”

The same matchmaker introduces a woman to a much, much older man. The woman takes the matchmaker aside and whispers, “What are you doing? This guy is old, ugly, has bad teeth, and can barely see.” The matchmaker says, “Oh you can speak up, he’s deaf, too.”

“Can you call up ghosts?”
“Yes, but they won’t come.”

“I bet that lady dyes her hair.”
“Oh no she does not, it was that color when she bought it.”

Hipster sees another hipster with some food in his beard. First hipster says, “I bet I can tell you what you had to eat today.” Second hipster says, “Go for it.” First hipster says, “Wings.” Second hipster says, “Ha! Shows what you know. I had wings the day before yesterday.”

Two men meet at a railway station. “Where are you traveling?” asks one. “To New York,” was the reply. “Oh come on, what a liar you are!” said the first one, bristling. “When you say you’re traveling to New York, you really want me to think that you’re going to Boston. I know you’re going to New York, so why lie about it?”

Freud’s priceless retelling of a story by Mark Twain:
“Economy of sympathy is one of the most frequent sources of humoristic pleasure. Mark Twain’s humor usually follows this mechanism. When he tells us about the life of his brother, how, as an employee in a large road-building enterprise, he was hurled into the air through a premature explosion of a blast, to come to earth again far from the place where he was working, feelings of sympathy for this unfortunate are invariably aroused in us. We should like to inquire whether he sustained no injury in this accident; but the continuation of the story that the brother lost a half-day’s pay for being away from the place he worked diverts us entirely from sympathy and makes us almost as hard-hearted as that employer, and just as indifferent to the possible injury to the victim’s health.” (Brill translation)

My favorite:
“What hangs on a wall and you can dry your hands on it?”
“Um, a towel.”
“No, a herring.”
“A herring! A herring doesn’t hang on a wall.”
“But you could hang it there.”
“But who wants to dry his hands on a herring?”
“Well, you don’t have to.”