Lightbulb joke

Lightbulb joke

The lightbulb joke is an example of an endless-variations joke and has possibly thousands of versions covering every imaginable culture, belief, occupation and special-interest group. [cite web
url =
title = Light Bulb Jokes: Screwed-Up Humor
author = Elaine Viets
publisher = St. Louis Post-Dispatch
date = 1991-09-04
accessdate = 2007-12-14
quote = Some light bulb jokes make fun of ethnic groups, gays and women. Others shed light on certain professions...
] [cite web
url =
title = How Many Students Does It Take...
publisher = New York Times
date = 2004-11-07
accessdate = 2007-12-14
quote = Colleges have become the theme of at least one chestnut: the lightbulb joke.
] Generally, the punch line is derogatory to the group that is the subject of the joke.

The generally acknowledged "original" goes as follows::Q. "How many" [insert target group here] "does it take to change a light bulb?":A. "Ten — one to hold the light bulb and nine to turn the ladder around."


The original joke is almost never told, except as a prelude to a string of variations. Most variations follow this scheme::Q. "How many" [insert target group here] "does it take to change a light bulb?":A. "N — one to replace the light bulb and N-1 to" [behave in a fashion generally associated with a negative stereotype of that group] .Often the stereotypical behavior will involve elaborate decision-making processes, and/or Byzantine management and supervision of the bulb-changing. The actual bulb changer may be last in the list for extra punch, especially when following a long recital of various supporting roles, each employing more [members of the target group] than the previous one.

This general structure may then be subverted to various degrees:
*The nine ladder-turners may be unnecessary because the bulb-holder (like other members of the target group) thinks the world revolves around him.
*The quantity (ten, three, two, none, millions) of light bulb changers can be adjusted in unexpected ways in the punchline.
*The duration can be introduced as a variable, usually if the answer is "one".
*The verb can be altered to something other than 'change' (e.g. how many Nigerians does it take to steal a lightbulb?).
*The target group may not want to change the light bulb at all (e.g. emos: "None - they just sit and cry in the dark" / Women: "None - they just sit in the dark and bitch" /"what light bulb?"), or would not feel it was their responsibility (programmers: "That's a hardware problem").
*The joke may also be used to target a particular person the teller is angry at. In the 1980s, an alternative comedians joke: How many workers does it take to change a light bulb? None, Thatcher stole them all.
*The target group may not be able to change the light bulb at all, due to current real-world situations such as power outages. [cite web
url =
title = And the winner is ... California.
author = Michael Miller
publisher = Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal
date = 2001-02-16
accessdate = 2007-12-14
quote = There are also a dozen light-bulb jokes zooming around the Internet, but what good are lightbulb jokes if you don't have power?
*The word change can refer either to replacing a light bulb or making a cultural or structural change. Often it is stated that the target group "will never change anything".
*The word screw (screw in a light bulb) can refer to twisting a threaded fastener, to make a mess of something, or the act of sexual intercourse.
*The punchline can be turned into a complete non-sequitur:
*:Q. "How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?"
*:A. "Fish."

As with most variation-based jokes, a well-executed delivery derives its comedic value as much from the gradual dissolution of the joke paradigm, as from the punchlines themselves. Many joke lists found on the internet eschew such finery in favor of sheer volume.

ee also

* Internet humor
* Snowclones


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