The Worst Joke Ever And The Culture Of Shame

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For years, I have lived with a quiet shame within. I have suffered, certain I was alone in the world and that no one understood. Yes, for decades, the only joke I have ever remembered is The Worst Joke In The World.

I do not remember jokes. One of the nice things about being friends with me is that you can tell me the same joke over and over. I won’t remember the punch line. I’ll think you’re hysterical, unless you happen to tell me the one joke I do remember. That joke is my curse.

The joke is old, perhaps ancient. It is clean, but not politically correct. And it is sad. It ends with someone jumping to conclusions and reacting harshly. Its punch line is a play on words, perhaps the dumbest play on words conceived since words began playing. But the most insidious thing about the joke is that once you know that punch line it compels you to repeat that word play for the rest of your life.

The Culture Club

As I said, I learned the Worst Joke In The World forever ago. It has lived within me, like a parasite that consumes my soul and excretes humiliation. It never occurred to me that others were enduring the same fate. Then, yesterday came. Yesterday, I learned The Joke has a culture of shame. All those who know the joke suffer silently with its cursed ending.

Culture Club, 1983. L-R: Jon Moss, Boy George,...

Another culture of shame, but somehow not the same. (Image via Wikipedia)

I was teaching a class. During a break, I was in a room with several other instructors. A friend stopped by and one of the instructors if she would like to join us for lunch. This newly invited guest replied enthusiastically “would I?” Without thinking, I muttered “peg leg, peg leg”. Two of my peers roared with laughter. The three of us looked at one another and said “you know the joke?” All agreed it was the stupidest joke, that we never ever told it and each of us were certain we were the only ones who remembered it.

We’d each carried the secret of this terrible joke for years. Now we were not alone. We discussed that there must be others like us who’d never admitted the truth. Meanwhile, the woman who was going to join us for lunch began to regret admitting that she was hungry.

It was at that moment that I decided to go public. I know the joke. Some of you know the joke and needlessly live with its shame. You too mutter “peg leg, peg leg”. You can’t help yourselves. I am here to tell you that you are not alone.

The Worst Joke, Ever

Some of you do not know the joke. I am going to change that. I have carried your share of the jokes shame for far too long. No, don’t you dare click to another page. Stay here and bear your share of the burden.

Because of some sad circumstance, a boy needed a glass eye.  His family was poor, they could not afford a real one made of glass. His father did the best he could for his son and carved him an eye out of wood.

The boy suffered socially as a result of his wooden eye. Children teased and taunted him. He had difficulty dating because of that wood eye.  He persevered despite the cruelty of his peers.

Then one day he met a wonderful girl. She was all he’d dreamed of, but she had a wooden leg. She too had endured the meanness that teenagers can inflict on one another. Smitten, our young man asked her for a date and she accepted.

The boy and girl had a great time on their date. Things had gone well, it was so nice for each to be with someone who understood what the other had been through. Both made it a point to not even discuss their struggles so they’d both feel comfortable.

At the evening’s end, they returned to the girl’s house. The boy, feeling the date had gone well, boldly asked the girl if she’d like to go out again soon. She smiled and said “would I?” Feeling she was humiliating him as so many others had,  the boy yelled back at her “peg leg, peg leg”.

Yeah, I know. The worst joke in the world. There you have it.

You’ll move on. You’ll forget about it. You won’t give the joke a second thought until the next time you hear someone say “would I?” and your first thought is “peg leg, peg leg.”

You doubt me; I know it will happen.

Welcome to the culture of shame.

61 Comments on “The Worst Joke Ever And The Culture Of Shame”

  1. AiXeLsyD13 says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard that… ha ha. Oh my.

  2. I laughed at “peg leg, peg leg” because I am a member of the Culture of Shame. I think I know a worse joke, though.

  3. Blogdramedy says:

    I remember that joke…I store it deep inside along with the “green side up” joke. 😉

  4. Thanks for letting me in on the joke…I think.

  5. Ludakristen says:

    I kind of love the joke.

  6. Z.N. Singer says:

    Talk about an abuse of power…though to be honest, I hardly reacted at all. We’ll see if your scheme has succeeded with me.

  7. Didn’t know this one. I’ll let you know when I reply to a “Would I?” with “peg leg, peg leg”. I’m sure it’ll happen soon enough…

  8. Debbie says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard that joke, but who am I kidding? I don’t remember jokes at all! Must be all those other important things taking up space in my brain!

  9. I know that joke, but in a much dirtier version. My mother — who for all her Southern lady-like-ness has an embarrassingly salty sense of humor of sometimes — told it to me after someone told it to her, probably in a bar, and like you, I can’t forget it either.

    Although I WANT to. Still waiting for that scientific development that allows me to remember the things I need to and forget the things I want to.

    I was like, Ew! Mom!

    See, it could be worse. Much, much worse.

  10. Spectra says:

    Well, after the long, shame-sharing build-up, I laughed and enjoyed your one joke. The only joke in your joke basket. it’s a good joke, and I intend to retell it at dinner soon. I only wished I had read this yesterday before a family dinner with my parents. I would have been the big hit with my new joke. Maybe even upstaged my sisters, who do have the uncanny ability to learn NEW jokes. I do not have this skill.

    As a kid, I only could remember one joke myself. A dirty one. Which ended with..”-bring it around the corner, Joe!” Heh heh…see? funny one.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’ve probably heard the bring it around the corner joke, but I dont remember it.

      What good is shame if you can’t share it? Sorry, residue leaking from my 3 years of catholic education.

  11. Kim Pugliano says:

    Alas, I will now go around asking people if they would like to do this or that, hoping and praying for the “would I” response just so I can “peg leg peg leg” in my head and giggle.

  12. Lenore Diane says:

    Misery loves company, eh Oma? You couldn’t suffer alone, could you? You had to bring us along for the ride. I guess it beats a bad song playing over and over in your head. Like maybe Air Supply’s, “I’m all out of love. I’m so lost without you. I know you were right believing for so long…”

  13. pattypunker says:

    THIS! this is the club you bring me into? just for that i’m going to play “867-5309 Jenny ” outside of your window tonight.

  14. Horsedonkeymulezebra says:

    As Omawarisan’s brother, I can confirm that he indeed knows only one joke. Of course everyone in the world knows that the punchline to the joke is “Harelip! Harelip!”

    Despite having an excellent sense of humor and a love of music, I can say that I have never in my 47 years heard him tell a joke or sing a song, and he unsuccessfully discouraged me from doing so either.

    This is not a character flaw however. He is a fine man who merely prefers one side of the joke/song interaction far more than the other. He has also accomplished much in his life, too many things to list here, aside from breaking his middle finger while jogging (???) or brushing his teeth so hard that the brush head snapped off in his mouth and his hand kept brushing with the jagged plastic handle resulting in several stab wounds to the outside of his cheek.

    • omawarisan says:

      I have a lovely singing voice.

    • madtante says:

      I’ve searched comments to ensure I’m not the only one to know the real punchline is indeed, “Hair lip, hair lip!”

      That’s how it’s told in the Ozarks, anyway.

      And I know “green side up” as well as its cousin “shiny side up.”

      …That said, everybody who knows me know I cannot tell a joke to save my life.

  15. Jane says:

    I’ve retired from joke-telling.
    This has nothing to do with me.

  16. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I’m one of those poor, pathetic souls on earth who laughs at awful jokes. And, when they’re told again, I laugh as though I’ve never heard them before. I can’t help it. But the world wouldn’t be complete without the people who tell these awful jokes – they seem to be unable to stop themselves. But, i’s not a victimless crime, OMA! So, of course, I laughed at this one.

  17. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    “it’s” not a victimless crime. See? I paid for the laughter with a typing error.

  18. Katybeth says:

    I’m sorry I laughed out loud. I had never heard it and its just so darn silly–sad to say it’s my kind of humor. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell and I’m sure I will..and everyone will groan except for those special few.

  19. KathiD says:

    I share The Mark of the Devil.

  20. jennspage says:

    I’m definately going to retell this later tonight. I laughed. Never heard it before either. Although being swedish that might not be wierd. But now Sweden is going to get it too. 🙂

  21. Ha! I’d forgotten that joke. A bad joke can be made good based on the set-up and the delivery, and somehow you pulled it off.

  22. spencercourt says:

    Apparently I never heard it either because I don’t remember it. Or it didn’t stay with me.
    But, why is “hare lip, hare lip” the punch line?

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh this joke will stay with you. I think the joke could be told with whatever condition a person wanted to give our hero and the young woman who crosses his path. Some have heard another variation. How my brother and I know opposite variants having grown up together is inexplicable.

  23. Laura says:

    That joke is one step away from being one of those annoying “inspirational” stories that get forwarded ad infinitum in email.

  24. sekanblogger says:

    My Dad told this joke 40+ years ago, except it was not a peg-leg, it was a hair-lip.

  25. Todd Pack says:

    That joke was so bad, I’m going to make a point of NOT tipping my waitress. So there.

    P.S. My dad told it with the “hair lip.” My grandmother never got it. Dad would tell it. “‘Would I?’ And he goes, ‘Hair lip! Hair lip!'” and Granny would wait a second or 2 and finally ask, “Then what did she say?”

    • omawarisan says:


      The joke is set up that you could throw any condition in the girls role and it would work. Weird that the culture of shame seems divided into very definite peg leg and hair lip camps.

  26. Bearman says:

    I have tears running down my face. I read it to my wife and she said…you haven’t heard that joke before? I guess not.

  27. Pie says:

    I’d never heard that joke before today.

    I don’t know whether to thank or curse you, now that you’ve left this UXB in my head.

  28. […] out loud. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing the title of the blog post is The Worst Joke Ever And The Culture Of Shame . What can I say, I’m easily amused. Try me; leave your favorite joke in the comment section […]

  29. […] I’ve decided to do my part to contribute to your practice of this holiday by pointing you toward a post about the one joke I am cursed able to remember. […]

  30. Dan Hennessy says:

    Not only the worst joke but an ancient joke . 2nd grade ? 3rd ? Reading it again was a revisit to the dumbness of childhood — kind of cool , therefore . Thanks for the memories .
    P.S. You should have let the joke lie and not dis-interred it , I think . It stinks . Too late now , eh ?

  31. mo says:

    My Father was the best joke teller of all time. His jokes always started with “That reminds me of a funny story”. He was hysterical. I can never remember jokes either…..except one…which I won’t put here. It’s that bad

  32. Jeff says:

    You have sunk low. I may be able to sink lower. I’m reminded of the sailor who asks a workmate when they’re on leave whether the town they’re in has more interesting prostitutes. ‘I’m getting bored’ he says ‘with our usual routine of getting drunk and visiting brothels’. His workmate scratches his chin, says ‘ah!’, and then directs him to a woman who can make the socket to her glass eye available as a service. Soon enough the sailor finds this woman and duly avails himself of her service. Afterwards, when pulling his pants back on, he says ‘That was certainly unusual. I’ll have to call on you again when I’m in town.’ ‘Oh!’ she says, pleased, ‘I’ll keep an eye out for you.’

  33. Sam says:

    This and the trick-or-treat “here’s my Buccaneers, where’s your buccan-eyes?” are forever burned in my shameful brain 😉

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