14 Long, Yet Funny Jokes from Legendary Comics That Were Worth the Build-Up
Word economy is hard. That sentence alone took me 15 minutes to write. Comedians try to make every word count, but even Mitch Hedberg needed to dip into double digits here and there. Here are some of the masters of the long, long, long joke…
Mike Birbiglia: Sleepwalking
Breaking the number one rule of small talk — no one wants to hear about your dreams — Birbiglia’s true, harrowing story about sleepwalking became so popular, he parlayed it into an 80-minute indie film, Sleepwalk with Me.
Paul F. Tompkins: Peanut Brittle
We all know the old peanut brittle prank, right? Tompkins has written a doctoral dissertation on a gag gift everyone else forgot about after the fourth grade.
Mitch Hedberg: Dufrane, Party of Two
This isn’t the longest joke on the list, but given that Hedberg’s best jokes tend to be about five words long, this one basically his War and Peace: “You know when you go to a restaurant on the weekends, it's busy, so they start a waiting list? They start calling out names, they say, ‘Dufrane, party of two. Table ready for Dufrane, party of two.’ And if no one answers, they’ll say their name again: ‘Dufrane, party of two.’ But then if no one answers they’ll just go right on to the next name: ‘Bush, party of three.’ Yeah, but what happened to the Dufranes? No one seems to care. Who can eat at a time like this? People are missing. You people are selfish. The Dufranes are in someone’s trunk right now, with duct tape over their mouths. And they’re hungry — that’s a double whammy. We need help. ‘Bush, SEARCH party of three! You can eat once you find the Dufranes.’”
Richard Pryor Lit Himself on Fire
Pryor explains the source of the burn marks on 50 percent of his body — he lit himself on fire. It’s funnier the way he tells it.
Bert Kreischer: The Machine
What started out as an “accidental” Russian language class in college (he thought he was taking Spanish) ended in robbing a train for the Russian mob, and, ultimately, a $20 million action comedy.
John Mulaney: The Salt and Pepper Diner
Mulaney and his friend performed a vital scientific experiment: What happens if you play “What’s New Pussycat?” on a diner jukebox seven times in a row?
Norm Macdonald: The Moth
“A moth goes into a podiatrist’s office, and the podiatrist’s office says, ‘What seems to be the problem, moth?’
“The moth says ‘What’s the problem? Where do I begin, man? I go to work for Gregory Illinivich, and all day long I work. Honestly doc, I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. I don’t even know if Gregory Illinivich knows. He only knows that he has power over me, and that seems to bring him happiness. But I don’t know, I wake up in a malaise, and I walk here and there… At night, I sometimes wake up and I turn to some old lady in my bed that’s on my arm. A lady that I once loved, doc. I don’t know where to turn to. My youngest, Alexendria, she fell in the cold of last year. The cold took her down, as it did many of us. And my other boy, and this is the hardest pill to swallow, doc. My other boy, Gregarro Ivinalititavitch — I no longer love him. As much as it pains me to say, when I look in his eyes, all I see is the same cowardice that I catch when I take a glimpse of my own face in the mirror. If only I wasn’t such a coward, then perhaps I could bring myself to reach over to that cocked and loaded gun that lays on the bedside behind me and end this hellish facade once and for all. Doc, sometimes I feel like a spider, even though I’m a moth, just barely hanging on to my web with an everlasting fire underneath me. I’m not feeling good.’
“And so the doctor says, ‘Moth, man, you’re troubled. But you should be seeing a psychiatrist. Why on earth did you come here?’
“And the moth says, ‘’Cause the light was on.’”
Patton Oswalt’s Favorite Fight
He tells the tale of a clash of “drunk office workers, drunk metalheads, drunk concertgoers, all in a big drunken blob, all at 2 a.m. on the Sunset Strip.”
Jim Gaffigan: Baths
“You guys are nice. I should have showered. I’m sure most of you shower, yeah? There’s probably one or two weirdos out there that took a bath. How much free time do you have on your hands? What are you taking a break from — ruling ancient Egypt? ‘I don’t have anything to do, and I’ll never have anything to do. So, I’ll just sit in a pool of my own filth. Ohh luxury… I should probably take a shower after this bath, huh?’
“I have taken a bath. It always seems like it’s going to be relaxing. You’re like, ‘Ah, this is so boring! No wonder people kill themselves in these things, huh?’
“Don’t worry. No one here has killed themselves in a bath.”
Kumail Nanjiani: Someone’s Living in My Attic
Nanjiani makes a seven-minute joke out of some spooky sounds coming from his attic.
Gilbert Gottfried (and Others): The Aristocrats
“The Aristocrats” is kind of an evolving inside joke among comedians that dates back to the Vaudeville era. It normally stays inside because the whole joke is to pack as many bawdy, graphic, cancelable details into the story as possible. Gilbert Gottfried gets top billing here because he told the joke publicly, in his darkest hour, after bombing during the Comedy Central Roast of Hugh Hefner. His nine-minute diatribe was a (miraculously successful) attempt to recover from a poorly received 9/11 joke.
George Carlin: Life
“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A death! What’s that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first; get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you’re too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work 40 years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating and you finish off as an orgasm.”
Nate Bargatze’s Run-In With a Dead Horse
What would you do if you saw a dead horse? Yeah, Bargatze didn’t do that.
Tom Segura: The First 48
The first 48 hours after a disappearance is your best chance to solve it. There’s a whole show about it, The First 48. Segura’s learned a lot from the show, like “get a lawyer,” and “lie.”