Why'd the chicken cross the road? This conundrum has been asked millions maybe billions of times since it was conceptualized by The Knickerbocker, a monthly magazine in New York city, in an issue from 1847. The riddle was published by Lewis Gaylord Clark's under his column the Editor's Table column. His column was one of the most important for the magazine. The most popular answer and the one featured in this original magazine is 'Because it wants to get on the other side!'. This riddle has been seen as a brand of anti-humor, in that the answer is not what would be expected. Although when you first hear the riddle it makes you think that it will end with a clever quip, peaking your curiosity, the answer is funny because it is not what you would expect it to be. This riddle transcended across America and was published again popularly in Potter's American Monthly, a monthly magazine published in Philadelphia. But this magazine had a different answer working off of the familiarity of the original. The answer being 'it would be a foul proceeding'. |
From this point of popularity it is hard to find somebody who speaks English that does not know the riddle and a few possible answers. The variant riddle from Potter's American Monthly is not unique, the riddle has sparked thousands of variant, similar riddles and jokes that are based on the original. Websites have actually been created based entirely on chicken crossing the road jokes. Although it is not as popular in other cultures and languages, the riddle has also gained popularity in other cultures and languages.
Not only have jokes descended directly from this original joke, but the brand of humor implemented in this riddle has sparked a major growth in the popularity of anti-humor. Most notably this type of humor has become popular in stand-up comedy and in movies/TV. Recently, this humor has become a large part of comedy getting into all aspects of comedy. Some comedians even base their entire act on this humor. This is parodied and perfectly exemplified by the hit Comedy Central show South Park in their episode Funnybot (season 15, episode 2). In the episode the German people create a robot that was made for comedy after being voted the least funny people in the world. The robot always tells random jokes that aren't funny, followed by yelling awkward. At this point everyone laughs. This is the true essence of a lot of anti-humor; the fact that it is not funny makes it awkward and funny.
One simple riddle written in 1847 has transcended time to spark a cultural revolution. It will be interesting to see where that chicken goes in the next century.
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For more information about this riddle visit the Wikipedia riddle page.
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