|Still from Cold Comfort Farm (1995)|
It's amazing think that people can still find books that are decades or even centuries old jokes funny. Though, when I say that, I'm reminded of all the people in my eighteenth century literature class when I was an undergrad getting offended by Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. Satire doesn't seem to age as well, or maybe its that harder-edged humor doesn't age well. Silliness seems ageless.
What will be really impressive is if these books are still making people laugh in two thousand years' time. I found this review of two books of ancient humor in The New York Times Review of Books from back in 2008 that gives many examples of jokes and funny stories that just don't translate or aren't funny because our culture is so different from ancient Rome or Greece. While digging around for old jokes, I did find these gems:
A student invited to a meal didn't eat. When one of the guests asked him why he wasn't eating, he replied, "In case I appear to have come for the food."
A student writing to his father from Athens, thoroughly proud of what he had learnt, added, "I hope I will find you charged in a capital case, so I can show you my skill as a lawyer."