Mum jokes. Jesus Christ, mum jokes. The laziest of comebacks, yet also a dark artform so many of us have turned to in a moment of banter-led madness.
In America, they are often termed “yo mama” jokes. They are the same as “your mum” jokes though, in that someone usually cracks wise with a gag where the punchline sees them infer your mum is fat, dumb, drunk or that they had intercourse with them.
Make no mistake: this is the lowest form of wit. It’s not even remotely clever but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a go-to comeback for even the sharpest of minds – and Jimmy Carr for that matter.
It’s a sorry state of affairs, but if you are looking to blame anyone for the rise of the mum joke, you need look no further than the original Bard himself, Bill Shakespeare.
While evidence exists that early mum jokes were being cracked as far back as 3,500 BCE, the reality is that it was Shakespeare who helped popularised the “art form.”
It’s all thanks to one brief exchange from Titus Andronicus, possibly Shakespeare’s most controversial play.
Among his bloodiest tragedies, the play is best known for featuring a scene in which one character eats a pie containing the slain bodies of his family. It’s pretty heavy.
In any case, the play also boasts arguably the first widely published mum joke in history, which goes as follows:
Demetrius: “Villain, what hast thou done?”
Aaron: “That which thou canst not undo.”
Chiron: “Thou hast undone our mother.”
Aaron: “Villain, I have done thy mother.”
It’s unclear whether audiences truly embraced the power of the mum joke all those centuries ago, but this particular type of comedy continued to pop up in the decades and centuries since, eventually reaching peak popularity in the 1990s.
Shakespeare popularised a lot of well-known phrases used in normal conversation today.
Stuff like “as good luck would have it” and “break the ice” are just a couple of the phrases to feature in Shakespeare plays from all that time ago.
But the fact remains: without Shakespeare, we probably wouldn’t have so many mum jokes floating around. Heck, we may not even have had Jimmy Carr. So blame Bill for that.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.