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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 all jokes, these jokes are intended to have one meaning, but some people interpret it as having another meaning.

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 

    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?

    Films - Animated 
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • At the beginning of The Lion King, 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?" and 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 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 guess 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" that doubled as Getting Crap Past the Radar. There was even a minor Edit War on this very wiki about the meaning of the joke.
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    Films - Live Action 
  • 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 from having him 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 his other cameos have had him travelling through space.
  • 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 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, heaven).
  • "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, 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.

    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.
  • 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?

    Music 
  • 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?

    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.
  • Translator Fails: 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 calling her gay friends to solve 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 
  • 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?
  • 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 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:
    • In the episode "Lisa the Vegetarian," Ralph says that sleep is "where [he's] a Viking." Some assumed that Ralph is very good at sleeping, while others thought he dreamt that he was a Viking. Both interpretations are very amusing considering who's talking.
    • The same episode also has Barney telling Lisa "Go back to Russia!" after she announces that she's made gazpacho for everyone at the BBQ; debate has raged over whether Barney thought gazpacho was a Russian food, or he was saying Lisa is a communist.
    • In "Bart Sells His Soul," the episode right before "Vegetarian," Bart describes Michael Jackson as "something they made up to scare kids." Some see this as a reference to Jackson's alleged pedophilia, while others see it as a Call-Back to the episode "Stark Raving Dad," where a fat mental patient who thought he was Michael Jackson phoned Bart and referred to himself as "Michael Jackson." After The Reveal that "Michael Jackson" was really named Leon Kompowsky, Bart could have thought that Jackson was made up.
    • The famous episode "You Only Move Twice" has perhaps the most divisive Simpsons joke in history: When Hank Scorpio throws a moccasin, he asks Homer if he's ever seen someone throw a shoe, and Homer responds, "Yes, once." The side that thinks Homer was referring to another time he saw someone throw a shoe and the side that thinks he was referring to what he just saw do not get along.
    • In the "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace" skit of "Treehouse of Horror VI", Homer reads a note "Do not touch", signed "Willie". He reads it as "Do not touch Willie," then says, "Good advice!". Is he taking the note to mean "Don't touch Groundskeeper Willie" because he's gross or is he taking it to mean "Don't touch your willie?". And if it's the latter, is it because it's cold (it was snowing in the episode) or is it because he dislikes masturbation?
    • In the Vacation Episode "Kill the Alligator and Run", Homer is reluctant to visit Florida because it's "America's wang". Is it a reference to the state's shape, or to its culture?
    • In the episode "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", we learn that Homer used to be part of a band called the "B Sharps", which was a parody of the Beatles. Is the name "B Sharps" a reference to the fact that B sharp is just C natural on the piano, or to the fact that "Beatles" sounds like "B Dulls"?
      • There's also another pun - "sharp", as a barber's razor is supposed to be.
    • The chalkboard gag to the episode "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy" where Bart writes "My homework was not stolen by a one-armed man" is a reference to The Fugitive, but could also be interpreted as Bart claiming that minor character Herman (who does have only one arm) took his homework.
    • In one episode, Maggie gets chicken pox, so they throw a party so that the kids will catch it and get it over with (since you can only catch chicken pox once). Ralph Wiggum says, "I feel like a chicken already- I just laid an egg in my pants!". Most people interpret that as meaning he soiled himself, but a few think it means he ejaculated (which wouldn't actually be neurologically possible for someone his age, by the way), and some think nothing happened, he's just being random.
    • In the episode "I Love Lisa", a flashback shows Chief Wiggum entering a pornographic theater, Krusty the Clown noticing him and asking if this is a bust, and Chief Wiggum replying "Yes, that's exactly what it is, a bust." Most people interpret the scene as Chief Wiggum insincerely confirming Krusty's concerns that he's in legal trouble, but another interpretation, given a certain definition of "bust" and that the characters were watching a porno flick, is that Chief Wiggum thought Krusty was inquiring about a scene featuring an exposed breast.
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