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Alternative Joke Interpretation

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Most jokes have a single, clear meaning. We all know that a chicken crossing the road to get to the other side is Anti-Humor. We all know that a pony coughing because he's a little horse is a pun on the words "horse" and "hoarse". We all know that two of three castaways on a deserted island wishing for a genie to take them home and the third castaway wishing for his friends to come back is because the third castaway was Too Dumb to Live.

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Then there are these. Like most jokes, these jokes were probably intended to have one meaning, but some people interpret it as having another meaning. Even if the double meaning was intended by the writers, this may not always be clear to the audience.

May cause a Broken Base about the meaning of the joke. Ambiguous Syntax and Multiple Reference Pun are when this is intentional. Compare/contrast Stealth Pun, where a joke that may or may not be intentional goes over most people's heads. Compare Poe's Law, when the joke can be interpreted to mean something serious. Also compare Comically Missing the Point. See also "Funny Aneurysm" Moment and Hilarious in Hindsight for jokes whose punchlines change over time.


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Examples

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    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield:
    • What is the meaning of this 2006 strip? Garfield comes across a sign reading "beware of bunny", and comes across a dog-like creature. Either (1) there was a bunny but the dog ate it, (2) the dog is named Bunny and Garfield is surprised at how unfitting such a name is, or (3) the "dog" is just a really odd-looking bunny.
    • In one strip, Jon drinks something at the vet's, and the vet says, "Congratulations— you're going to have a litter of puppies", causing Jon to think, "I Drank WHAT?!". The intended meaning of the joke is that he drank fertility medicine for dogs, but some people have taken it to mean he drank dog semen.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Arrested Development/Community Crossover Community Psychology: A Study of Arrested Development, Britta tries to impersonate a lawyer but fails. She later tells Jeff "First the good news: I was not arrested for impersonating a lawyer." He replies "Good. Wait, there was a possibility of that?" Does Jeff's comment mean he's just now learning that Britta was doing something potentially illegal or is he referring to his own time as a lawyer which came to an end because he didn't meet the educational requirements?
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise fanfic Hoshi's Box: Security Hazard, Malcolm Reed and Hoshi Sato have been left in charge of the ship while everyone else goes on shore leave. Bored, they try to make themselves feel better by saying that the trip will probably turn out wrong for everyone else. Malcolm says that he bets Travis Mayweather will get a sunburn. Is the joke that Travis, being black, sunburns the hardest so if he gets a sunburn it's a very bad trip, or is it a joke about how he has rotten luck?
  • Peeking Through the Fourth Wall:
    • In Episode 31, Luna says she once dressed as a lamp for Halloween, but her classmates teased her by saying she always looked like that. This was intended as a reference to a meme about replacing Luna with a lamp, but it could also be interpreted as her classmates implying she got drunk all the time (albeit falsely, since After Dark: 4 reveals that she doesn't drink).
    • In Episode 17, when Lincoln is picked up by three Original Characters named Sophia, Maria, and Zoe who note that he's heavy, one of the MST guys notes that most of the weight would be in his head. Is this a joke about how Lincoln is a cartoon character drawn with a very large head, or is it saying that, since he's uncharacteristically angsty in the fanfic, his angst is so excessive it's literally weighing down his brain?
  • In The Simpsons' meme video "Steamed Hams, but Skinner Serves Poop and Chalmers Thinks it's Just a Joke", when Chalmers finally realises that Skinner really did serve poop and asks him why, Skinner makes a noise reminiscent of a wolf howling. Is he farting, is he saying, "Pooooop!", or is he just making the wolf noise randomly because he's crazy?
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail Parker wants his mom to draw an image of Goh getting his life sucked out by the characters of Chloe's story — who are based on characters from Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS — without thinking of the implications. Is he aware of how dark of an idea that is or does he just find the idea as a way to involve Goh in the illustrations?
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    Films - Animated 
  • In The Aristocats, when Roquefort the mouse is leading a bunch of stray cats to the kidnapped cat family, a man sees them, thinks he's drunk, and pours his wine out. Some people have interpreted him as thinking he's drunk at the sight of cats being chased by a mouse, while others have interpreted it as him thinking he's drunk because the mouse and some of the cats are wearing clothes.
  • In Cars, Lightning spots a tattoo on Sally's behind and points it out. Sally acts embarrassed, and drives backwards so that he won't see her tattoo. Is the joke that she's embarrassed because the tattoo is on her "butt" (which would raise the question of why cars don't cover their rears if they find them shameful like humans do), or is she embarrassed because she got it when she was younger, in an In-Universe version of Old Shame?
  • Finding Nemo: When Marlin and Dory are playing I Spy, Dory keeps using Marlin as the thing she sees. Is the joke that, besides the ocean itself, there's nothing and no one else to "spy", or is it that, due to being a Forgetful Jones, she just can't remember choosing Marlin?
  • In Frozen, the trolls' song has the lyric, "So he's a bit of a fixer-upper; so he's got a few flaws, like his peculiar brain, dear, his thing with the reindeer. That's a little outside of nature's laws!". Some people think that they were referring to the fact that he uses a reindeer named Sven as a horse, when he can just use an actual horse, but others think the writers sneaked a bestiality joke in, and still others think they're just referring to how Kristoff speaks for his pet reindeer Sven.
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2: Gobber's comment "This is why I never married. This and one other reason", can be taken as Gobber admitting he's gay, or that he's impotent. Voice actor Craig Ferguson, isn't gay but said it in a way that implies the former, but the way it's presented makes it open to interpretation.
  • In Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Buck the crazy weasel tells the heroes not to breathe in the green gas or they'll die. When they stop being able to hold their breaths and end up breathing it in anyway, they survive but they start laughing uncontrollably and speaking in helium voices. They also start making goofy confessions and blames— is the joke that they think they're going to die and are getting things off their chests, or that the gas has made them high? One of the possum brothers denies that he wets the other's bed like he said, claiming it was "gas talk", but was he really high or was he just saying he was to avoid embarrassment?
  • The Lion King:
    • At the beginning, Simba learns that he will become king just like his father, and he excitedly tells his uncle Scar who secretly wants the throne for himself. When Simba asks, "When I'm king, what will that make you?", Scar responds, "A monkey's uncle." Was he calling Simba a monkey, or was he saying that it was unlikely for Simba to become king?
    • When Zazu the bird says that Simba is getting "wildly out of wing", is it just another way of saying, "out of control" meant to rhyme with "king" in a goofy way, or is it a Hold Your Hippogriffs for "out of hand"?
    • During the "Hakuna Matata" song, Pumbaa mentions that he was downhearted and is about to rhyme it with "every time that I farted", but Timon interrupts him with "Not in front of the kids!". Some viewers have interpreted this as a fourth-wall breaking joke about the child audience, but other viewers think it refers to unseen animal kids and Simba.
  • When Shrek and Donkey arrive at Lord Farquaad's castle, Shrek looks up an the height of the tower and asks Donkey "Do you think he's compensating for something?"; Shrek's joke could mean he thinks Farquaad's compensating for either his short height, or a Teeny Weenie. It could be both as by that time, Shrek doesn't know yet that Lord Farquaad is short while the viewer does. It's also possible that the joke is that Shrek is Entertainingly Wrong, in that he has correctly guessed that Farquaad is compensating for something, but thinks it's a Teeny Weenie (as one's first guess usually would be in such a situation), when we the viewers already know that it's in fact his height.
  • In the infamous DMV scene in Zootopia, Nick tells the joke, "What do you call a three-humped camel? Pregnant!" Some have taken the joke as meaning that the third hump was the baby camel, while others saw it as a play on the word "hump". There was even a minor Edit War on this very wiki about the meaning of the joke.

    Films - Live Action 
  • In one of The Addams Family movies, Gomez tells Debbie that "of course" they have cable. Why would this be obvious? Some viewers see it as a Continuity Nod to the first movie, in which Gomez starts watching Gilligan's Island to cope with being evicted, others think it refers to them watching horror movies and dark documentaries on TV, still others think it refers to their enjoyment of whipping one another, some think it refers to tightrope walking (which seems like something they'd do) and a fifth interpretation is that it refers to Fester experimenting with electrical wires.
  • Stan Lee's cameo in Avengers: Infinity War has him as the driver of the school bus Peter Parker is riding on. After the kids panic to distract him from seeing Peter become Spider-Man, Lee says "You act like you've never seen a spaceship before." People have come up with two interpretations for this line: he's either referring to the invasion from The Avengers (2012) or the fact that some of his other cameos have had him traveling through space.
  • Blazing Saddles: Among the listed crimes committed by the outlaws are "women stampeded and cattle raped". Is this actually what happened, or did whoever wrote the list make a mistake?
  • After Phil catches a boy falling from a tree in Groundhog Day, the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier for "Groundhog Day" Loop, the boy doesn't thank him. Phil responds, "See you tomorrow... maybe." Some took it as meaning that Phil might not be there to save the ungrateful kid in the next time loop, while others thought he was referring to the fact that the time loop could break the next day.
  • In one of the Scooby-Doo movies, Velma awkwardly tries to swagger around in a leather jumpsuit to impress her boyfriend. He asks her, "Do you have to go to the bathroom?". Does he think she needs to go to the bathroom because her failed swaggering resembles a Potty Dance, or because he mistook the squeaking sounds made by her suit as Velma farting?
  • In Space Jam, when Bill Murray shows up for the climax as a borderline Deus ex Machina, Daffy asks him how he got there and Murray replies, "The producer's a friend of mine." Either Daffy is questioning how Murray got into the Looney Tunes world, and the answer is that Murray knows the producer of Looney Tunes, or they're raising the very valid question of what Bill Murray is doing in a Looney Tunes/NBA crossover movie in the first place, in which case the producer in question would be the film's producer, Ivan Reitman, who was indeed a friend of Murray's. Judging from the disgusted reactions from Daffy (and the leader of the Monstars), they took the latter interpretation.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, when Eddie asks Roger, who's currently on the run from the law, if anyone knows the rabbit's come to his office, Roger responds that no one does. However, he does explain he asked a number of people for directions, including the news boy, the fireman, the green grocer, the butcher, and the baker, but none of them knew. Only one person could tell him: the liquor store guy. Eddie gets very angry upon hearing this. The joke could be that either Roger asking willy-nilly around town means everyone knows where he's going, or everyone knows because Eddie is a frequent customer of the liquor store, and the guy in charge is a notorious gossip.

    Jokes 
  • There's a joke that can actually be taken three ways: a woman puts an ad in a newspaper for a man who is a good lover. There are three criteria the man must meet: he must not beat her up, he must not run away, and he must be good in bed. When the woman hears the doorbell ring, she opens it and sees a man with no arms or legs. It's obvious that the man cannot physically beat her up or run away, but the woman asks, "What makes you think you are good in bed?" The man responds, "How do you think I rang the doorbell?" So either he has a Gag Penis, a very long tongue, or can jump very high.
  • We all know the famous joke about the chicken who crossed the road to get to the other side. Besides the obvious, there's also the interpretation that the chicken wanted to commit suicide and get to "the other side" (as in, the afterlife).
  • "Your Mom is so fat, when she goes to In-N-Out, she can't get out." Is it because she can't fit through the door, or is it because she won't stop eating the burgers?
  • This joke involves a 60-year-old man saying that 60 is the worst age to be because you always feel like you have to pee but can't. A 70-year-old man says that actually 70 is the worst age because you get constipated, but an 80-year-old says that 80 is the worst age because while he pees at six every morning and poops at 6:30, he doesn't wake up until seven. Someone in the comments posted a bonus ending that involved a 90-year-old saying that 90 was the worst age because then you never wake up. Other users had trouble deciding if that meant the 90-year-old was a zombie, an insomniac, a guy paranoid about his mortality (as in, he fears death by old age), or just a guy who sleeps a lot.
  • There's an old joke about the three stages of life involving Santa Claus: first you believe in Santa, then you don't believe in Santa, then you are Santa. It's pretty obvious what the first two stages mean, but does the third stage mean that you look like Santa, or that you act as the Santa of your family? Some versions of the joke compromise, making the third stage acting as Santa and adding a fourth stage, which is looking like Santa.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter: In the first book, Ron says that he has one relative who's an accountant, but he finds him too embarrassing to talk about. Is the implication that the accountant is a squib (someone born to at least one magical parent but with no powers) and that's why Ron is embarrassed, or does he find the relative's job embarrassing because he's a wizard working in a job associated with muggles (normal people)?

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the episode Cigarettes, Alcohol, and Rollerblading of Father Ted, Father Jack gives up drinking for Lent. When he sees Father Ted and Father Dougal for the first time while sober, he asks "Where are the other two?" This joke could have meant that he either saw a blurry and distorted version of Ted and Dougal while drunk, or he always saw 4 other priests thanks to Single Malt Vision.
  • One episode of Get Smart shows Max become horrified when he discovers 99 just saw him unbutton his collar. In another, he refuses to let her watch him lower his sock below the ankle. Is the joke about the absurdity of a Casanova Wannabe being so shy, or a satirical jab at the Moral Guardians of the time?
  • 9-1-1 aired its first season finale shortly after the second season renewal was announced. The finale ends with a 911 call from a man asking if the show will be returning the following season followed by clips of the characters making What an Idiot! style comments. Are their comments suggesting they were definitely going to get renewed or because checking the status of a television series is not the purpose of 911?
  • Star Trek: Discovery: In one episode, the engineers Reno and Stamets are affected by some hallucinogenic spores that make them compliment each other, then this makes them feel awkward. Is the joke that they're feeling awkward because they hate each other and so don't want to be nice to each other, or is it that they don't want to seem as though they're hitting on each other (which they clearly aren't, since they're both gay)?
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In one episode, Worf claims to dislike swimming as it's "too much like bathing". Is the joke that Worf Hates Baths, or is it that he finds swimming boring because it's similar to the mundane act of bathing?
    • In "Rascals", after the Fountain of Youth effect is reversed, Picard feels his head to find that he's bald again. Is he hoping that he still has hair after aging up, or is he making sure he doesn't have hair and he's fully back to normal?
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In one episode, Seven of Nine says that everyone can hear it when B'Elanna (a Half-Human Hybrid with a Klingon mother) and Tom have sex. Is this an orgasm joke, or is it a joke about how Klingon women roar when courting/having sex?
  • On an episode of Series/8OutOf10Cats [[Series/Countdown Does Countdown]], Jimmy Carr makes a joke about Jon Richardson getting married, since it was either that or he'd have to send her back in the mail. Richardson inquired whether it refers to a Mail-Order Bride or a blow-up doll, to which Jimmy seems to acknowledge one being an unintended interpretation, but that either way, it isn't a real love.

    Music 
  • The folk song "Clementine" mentions that "herring boxes without topses, sandals were for Clementine". Is the joke that Clementine has big feet, or is it a Black Comedy joke about how they can't afford shoes?
  • In the "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Fat," Yankovic claims that when he goes to the beach, he's "the only one who gets a tan." Some have taken it as meaning that he blocks the sun for everyone else, while others assumed that he was the only one on the beach because he took up all the space. Either way, it works well for a song that is an extra-long fat joke.

    Posters 
  • There's a series of posters that describe people in the style of weather forecasts (e.g. a man who always takes a shower before work has the description "steamy in the morning"). The description for a baby mentions "showers". Does this refer to crying, or peeing?

    Video Games 
  • In Moshi Monsters, the description for Hoodoo Stew was "No Hoodoos were harmed in the making of this stew... we hope." It's been debated whether the people who labelled it were hoping that Hoodoos weren't cannibalistic or that they didn't fall into the stew and die by accident. On the one hand, Moshi Monsters was no stranger to edgy jokes (they had a whole species which ate their own ears for instance) and the Hoodoos do live in the jungle, and there's a stereotype of jungle-dwellers being cannibals. On the other hand, Hoodoos are generally portrayed as being on the side of good, and we actually get to see the ingredients for Hoodoo Stew which does not include Hoodoo meat.

    Web Animation 
  • Bino the Elephant, when Dr. Z says "It's okay Bino, I have more" after Bino accidentally kills his wife. Does Dr. Z practice polygamy, or, being a Mad Scientist, does he have clones or other copies of Meredith?
  • Helluva Boss: Blitzo has Stolas listed in his contacts under "bird dick". Is this an insulting nickname, or an indication that Stolas has avian genitals?

    Webcomics 
  • Spiked Math: "Sex Proofs" ends with a censored "proof by brute force". If you use the cryptanalytic interpretation of "brute force", it means that the characters are trying every way to have sex to find out what works. However, if you take "brute force" more literally, it becomes a Black Comedy Rape joke (or at least a joke about violent sex).

    Web Video 
  • At the end of the Epic Rap Battles of History video "Romeo and Juliet vs Bonnie and Clyde", Bonnie shoots Juliet, causing her to collapse. Romeo thinks Bonnie killed her and poisons himself. When Juliet regains consciousness, she is horrified when she sees Romeo lying dead, and stabs herself. Bonnie and Clyde are confused at what just happened. However, when they realize they have each other at least, they are immediately shot. Then the battle ends, and the announcer says "Who won? Who's next? You decide! Epic Rap Battles of History!" as usual. The problem is, he says the first part in a quiet voice and the second part in a loud voice. Some see the first part as mirroring Bonnie and Clyde's confused reaction to Romeo and Juliet's deaths, and the second part as the announcer getting back into character. Others see the first part as mirroring Juliet having woken up and regained consciousness, and the second part as mirroring Juliet's horrified reaction to Romeo's death.
  • In the comments of a video titled "'Meow' in Different Languages", where the Turkish part is illustrated with a viral video of a Turkish man yelling, "MEOW!", someone commented, "I am Turkish and I can truly confirm that this is how the cats sound on the streets". Is this just an absurdist joke, or are they saying the cats are very loud and exaggerating for comedic affect?
  • Twisted Translations: The main joke is always that the translations are bad, but there are some lines that could be taken in more than one way, but it's humorous either way:
    • One of the Taylor Swift songs, has Malinda in Taylor garb saying, "Gays, now we have a problem". Some people have interpreted that as "Taylor" being a homophobe, while others have interpreted it as her wanting to tell some gay people about a problem.
    • The title of "All I Want for Christmas is You" turned into "All I Want for Christmas is Your Baby". Does the singer (who's a duck, we might add) want to kidnap someone's baby, or have kids with them?
    • In the "Mother Knows Best" video, Gothel often talks as though she's going to die. Is the joke that she's an emo now, or is she actually going to die?
    • The line "Dinner and back to the bathroom" in "Google Translate Makes Dinner". Are they going to the bathroom because they have food poisoning or because they want to flush the dinner down the toilet? Either way, it works well with the theme of a Lethal Chef and it's a rare example of continuity since a toilet was mentioned earlier in the video, and now they're going back to the bathroom.

    Western Animation 
  • In Animaniacs, Yakko's teacher asks if he can conjugate and he replies, "I've never even kissed a girl!". Does he believe "conjugate" has a dirty meaning because conjugal rights are to do with sex, or is he confusing it with the word "consummate" or "copulate"?
    • The revival's "Catch Up Song" includes a reference to "cage free, vegan, paleo sausage." Nothing "cage free" is vegan, paleo discourages cage free in favor of pasture raised, and there were no vegan sausages made of only paleo ingredients on the market at the time. If meant to be taken literally, the joke doesn't work due to these inaccuracies, but it can be viewed as an over-the-top parody of modern food labels that couldn't actually exist.
  • DuckTales (1987): In "Duck in the Iron Mask", Launchpad takes offense only to "knaves", the last insult in Ray's list. Is this simply a case of interpreting an unfamiliar word negatively or did Launchpad know what it meant and objected more to a knock on his and the others' character than one on their intelligence?
  • Family Guy: A Cutaway Gag from "Fifteen Minutes of Shame" has Ronald McDonald chiding his daughter for wearing too much makeup for a night out, despite her looking plain. Either it can be interpreted as Hypocritical Humor, given who's talking, or it can imply that the daughter naturally has a clownish complexion and put on makeup to make her skin look normal.
  • In The Flintstones, Fred suggests Barney get another head and Barney says, "What would I need three of them for?". Is the joke that he can't do maths and thinks one plus one is three, is he talking about the head of his penis, is it an inside joke about how cartoon characters are measured in heads and he's two heads tall, or is he saying that Betty follows him around so much that her head is like a second head?
  • In Gravity Falls, upon seeing a man lying motionless on the floor of a Bad-Guy Bar, Mabel says "He's resting". Is that a dead body, or is he just passed out drunk?
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: In "The Eighth Door", Tso Lan quips, "Age before beauty" towards Po Kong when the Demon Sorcerers are fighting over each other to escape through the Demon Portal. This can be read one of two ways: it can be read as indicating he deserves to get ahead of Po Kong because he's older than her specifically, or it can be read as him indicating he deserves to be the sole demon who escapes through the portal because he's the oldest of all the imprisoned demon siblings.
  • When Kim Possible falls in love with Ron Stoppable in the episode "Emotion Sickness", Ron says, "It's not like I haven't thought about this, I mean, who hasn't?" Some thought Ron meant that everyone thought of Ron dating Kim, while others thought he meant that everyone thought of themselves dating Kim.
  • In The Loud House episode "Washed Up", the boat sputters and Leni blushes, thinking it's one of her bodily noises. But does she think she's gassy, or that her stomach is rumbling? The former would be more embarrassing, but the latter makes more sense when she tries justifying it by saying that she "only" had yogurt for breakfast.
  • In Rick and Morty Rick describes a Fantastic Slur as being "if the N-word and the C-word had a baby, and it was raised by every bad word for 'Jew'". Is the "C word" a certain slur used against Chinese people, or Country Matters?
  • In the Rugrats episode "The Smell of Success", Chuckie gets a blocked nose and it's so bad that he forgets what things smell like. He observes that Phil and Lil smell bad and Tommy says, "You'll get used to it." Some people think that it means Phil and Lil always smell bad because they play in the mud and trash but other people think that it just means they need to be changed.
  • The Simpsons has its own page.
  • In the Steven Universe crossover episode with Uncle Grandpa "Say Uncle", after Pearl points out that Steven's "Uncle Grandpa" would be Greg's father and brother, Garnet notes "That would explain a lot." While supervising director Ian Jones-Quartey claimed Garnet simply meant that Uncle Grandpa being a relative of Greg would explain Uncle Grandpa's wackiness, a lot of viewers interpreted it as Garnet implying that Greg is inbred.
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