One of the oldest Stock Jokes ever told, this joke involves the classic setup: "Why did the chicken cross the road?" Most often, this leads to the classic punchline: "To get to the other side", though the punchline may vary sometimes. There are also times where an actual chicken may be involved.
A common variant is to simply substitute the chicken with another creature. (Why did the duck cross the road? It was the chicken's day off.) Or in an alien culture, someone might ask "why did the Smeerp cross the road?"
Where the joke originally came from is not entirely certain. Most folklorists believe it was originally an example of Anti-Humor, with the setup leading the listener to expect a traditional punchline but the answer being a mundane factual explanation. Robin Bernstein, in his 2011 book Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, further pinpointed its origin to Minstrel Shows, where it and other anti-jokes (e.g. "Why does a fireman wear red suspenders?" "To keep his pants up!") were used as part of the overarching theme surrounding black people trying and failing to assimilate into white society. Either way, it makes a very bad example of a joke to use as an introduction to humor (as it is often used in media), since it requires the listener to already be familiar with the concept of a joke in order to understand the "punchline" at all.
Either way, of course, these days everyone and their grandmother has heard it a million times ever since they were far too young to grasp the concept of humor, rendering the joke itself a case of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny.
- Referenced in a series of commercials asking you to "cross the road" for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
- Dragon Ball Z referenced this when Goku was tasked with making his trainer, King Kai, laugh. His desperate (and epically ill-delivered) attempt at a joke was "Why... did the chicken... CROSS THE ROAD!" After King Kai guesses the obvious, Goku counters with an actual plausible punchline instead: "It was too far to fly!"
- From Larry Gonick's The Cartoon History of the Universe, in which he illustrates the origin of language, which soon led to the first jokes:
First Caveman: Why chicken cross road? Yuk yuk
Second Caveman: Hmph. That one old already.
- Richie Rich shows Richie and his friends telling each other jokes. They crack up after hearing, "To get to the other side." Cadbury, overhearing, doesn't get it. In an effort to understand the humor by role-playing the part of the chicken, he clucks, flaps his arms, and crosses a road. As the watching children are rolling on the ground in hysterics, Cadbury still doesn't see what's so funny.
- This joke was used visually in Chicken Little by the title character while he also climbs up a telephone pole in a similar vein to Mulan, gets stuck in road gum...and loses his pants, all while trying not to be late for school.
- In Toy Story 2, the toys have been walking for a long, long time now to reach Als Toy Barn, whose mascot is a giant chicken. At one point, when complaining about how exhausting the trip is, Ham says, Why did the toys cross the road? To get to the chicken on the other side! and points out that theyre right across the street from it.
- In Alien Nation, Newcomers sometimes have problems with human humor, but George has learned one joke he considers extremely funny. "Stop me if you've heard this one..."
- Bicentennial Man: When Sir attempts to teach Andrew about humour, a "chicken cross the road"-style punchline is the third joke he tries (Andrew's Literal Mindedness causes trouble).
Sir: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Andrew: One does not know, Sir. Possibly a predator was behind the chicken. Or, possibly, there was a female chicken on the other side of the road if it was a male chicken, or possibly a food source, or, depending on the season, it might be migrating. One hopes there's no traffic.
Sir: To get to the other side.
Andrew: "To get to the other side." Aaaaah
- In The Good Lie, three Sudanese refugees were telling each other the Chicken Joke and they all find it very hilarious. Makes sense, since they're hearing it for the first time.
[Paul is laughing on his bunk bed]
Mamere: What is so funny?
Paul: I'm thinking about that chicken.
[All three boys laugh hysterically]
- Happy, Texas begins with the protagonists Working on the Chain Gang. One of them raises the question, "Why did the armadillo cross the road?" This turns out to be a trick question, as the armadillo is roadkill.
- A variation from Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird.
Kermit: Okay, why did the chicken not cross the road? Because he was chicken, get it?
- Stripes: John Winger leads a squad of soldiers in a close drill where they recite this joke:
John Winger: Why'd the chicken cross the road?
Soldiers: To get from the left to the right
John Winger: He stepped out of rank, got hit by a tank
Soldiers: He ain't no chicken no more
- Many variant forms have been created, usually switching the punchline for a pun or other twist on the concept.
- Why did the chicken cross the road? It was too far to walk around.
- Why did the chicken cross the road? It was stapled to the punk rocker.
- Why did the chicken cross the road? Because the sign said "WALK".
- Why did the chicken cross the playground? To get to the other slide.
- Why did the turkey cross the road? To prove he's no chicken.
- Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum it could be done.
- Why did the chicken cross the Möbius strip? To get to the same side.
- Why did the libertarian cross the road? None of your damn business; am I being detained?
- Why did the New-Age Retro Hippie cross the road? To break on through to the other side.
- Some versions keep the same wording, but add an extra word (like "wing" or "thigh") to turn the "other side" into a food pun.
- Why did the germ cross the microscope? To get to the other slide.
- Why did the gum cross the road? It was stuck to the chicken's foot.
- Why did the dinosaur cross the road? Because chickens didn't exist yet.
- Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the idiot's house. ... Knock Knock! (Who's there?) The chicken.
- A widely circulated text version collects answers as proposed by various philosophers and literary figures. There are dozens of variant versions online. One example:
Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.
- In the A is for Amber books from the Amber Brown series, Amber's best friend Justin declares that first grade is the "year of the Chicken Joke" and tells only chicken jokes the whole year. This was a form of Author Appeal, as series author Paula Danziger stated in the About the Author section of one of the original books "I love chicken jokes."
- Clue: In book #7, The Picture-Perfect Crime, Mr. Boddy has been telling several jokes, including one of these. His guests are not amused.
Boddy: "Why did the chicken cross the playground?" ... "To get to the other slide!"
- In the third The Dark Tower book, The Waste Lands the protagonists are exchanging riddles, and then Eddy Dean tells this one: "Why did the dead baby cross the road? ... Because it was stapled to the chicken". As riddles are Serious Business in his culture, Roland is not amused.
- It serves again in the fourth book Wizard and Glass, when the characters travel inside Blaine, a sentient schizophrenic train which asks them riddles (it'll commit suicide with all its passengers if they don't manage to tell a riddle that it would be unable to solve). Blaine is eventually defeated by Eddie, who told it a series of jokes and various nonsense, including the chicken joke mentioned above.
- In Dogs Dont Tell Jokes (by Louis Sachar), the protagonist recalls the first joke he ever heard, a punny variant which he somehow found uproariously funny despite not knowing the original.
Q: Why did the chicken cross the playground?
A: To get to the other slide.
- Played with in Terry Pratchett's short story "Hollywood Chickens", in which a flock of chickens get stranded on a road island in the middle of a busy Los Angeles freeway after falling off the truck that was transporting them. As the narrator notes, in this case the question is not "why?" but "how?".
- In the Myth-O-Mania book Have a Hot Time, Hades!, Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, shares one after introducing herself to her uncles and aunts, Zeus' siblings:
Thalia: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Hera: To be sacrificed to the gods, of course.
Thalia: Wrong! To get to the other side!
- The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon tells this joke: "Why did the chicken cross the Mobius strip? To get to the same side."
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys: The "One Fowl Day" episode features Discord attacking in the form of a gigantic chicken which prompts the exchange:
Barnabus: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Autolycus: To kill us all!
- In the eighth season of Knightmare, a dungeoneer named Duncan was given the task of giving Motley the fool some new material:
Dunstan: Why did the dragon cross the road?
Motley: I don't know.
Dunstan: To get his pension.
Motley: I don't get it.
Dunstan: Neither did the dragon — he wasn't 65.
- In Milliganimals by Spike Milligan, a man tells a giraffe a story about a Jewish man asking a chicken, "Why did you cross the road?".
- In Mongrels, Nelson (a fox) helps a chicken across the road, and says he has to ask; why she was doing so? The chicken replies that it was because she saw a black man coming and was afraid he might mug her.
Nelson: Turns out she was just a casual racist.
- In one episode of The Muppet Show, the Swedish Chef does his "Spring Chicken" sketch which ends in bouncing chickens escaping and the Chef pursuing them. Immediately afterward, Fozzie goes up to a stressed Kermit and starts to ask, Why did the chickens cross the road?" Kermit answers, "Because an angry Swede was chasing them with a cleaver!"
- The "Veterinarians' Hospital" sketch from the Roger Miller episode is also centered around such jokes, especially since Cluckitis is spreading through the theater and turning everybody into chickens.
- Parodied on an episode of Night Court. Harry is depressed because his girlfriend has been forced into the Witness Protection Program. The others try to cheer him up by arranging for him to try a jaywalking case involving a man named De Shicken. (Spelling unknown.) They end up asking "Why did De Shicken cross the road?"
- When the question "Where did Mr Chickennote live?" came up in the "Common Knowledge" episode of QI, Sean guessed "The other side of the road?"
- One of Jo Anne Worley's catch phrases on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In was "Is this another chicken joke?"
- Lampshaded on a 1968 telecast of The Match Game where Jo Anne was a team captain. A question posed was "Chicken ______," to which everyone assumed Jo Anne would say "Joke." Her answer: "Soup."
- Welcome Back, Kotter: Julie tries to tell some jokes but she mixes up the punchline of this joke with the punchline of "Why do firemen wear suspenders?" a less famous but very similar joke.
- Older Than Radio: The March 1847 edition of The Knickerbocker was the earliest appearance of the joke in print, where it was presented this way:
"Why does a chicken cross the street? Are you 'out of town?' Do you 'give it up?' Well, then: 'Because it wants to get on the other side!'"
- By 1892 the joke was well known enough that Potter's American Monthly could do a pun-based spoof:
"Why should not a chicken cross the road? It would be a fowl proceeding."
- Referenced in George M. Cohan's song "Forty-five Minutes from Broadway":
You tell them old jokes and they laugh till they sicken;There's giggles and grins here to let.I told them that one about "Why does a chicken"—The rubens are all laughing yet.
- This B.C. strip where the chicken who just have crossed the road asks the turtle not to ask.
- A Running Gag in Buckles has the eponymous dog attempting a "Why did the cat cross the road?" joke to Arden, while struggling to come up with a punchline. Then it was played with in a strip from June 20, 2013 where Arden attempts the same joke to Buckles, who reacts by panicking with his fear of cats and runs away screaming, to which Arden responds with "Forget it!...You're the joke!".
- The Far Side:
- One strip shows a chicken looking across a road at a sign that reads "THE OTHER SIDE. Why do you need a reason?"
- Another strip had a chicken couple confronting each other at their home's threshold: "Oh, I see! You return covered with blond feathers, and I'm supposed to believe you crossed the road just to get to the other side?"
- One Get Fuzzy strip had Bucky attempt to tell this joke as "Why did THIS chicken cross the road?", with Rob telling Bucky to knock it off as that joke confuses Satchel. Sure enough, Satchel ends up confused from the joke, trying to figure out which road the chicken was trying to cross.
- The one panel comic roadkill by mite farmand, where the chicken has "gone to the other side".
- In episode 3 of the 2015 series of The Vote Now Show, former Conservative Party campaigner Danny Finklestein told the true story of how, during the 1997 election campaign, the Conservatives sent a man in a chicken suit to follow Tony Blair around, because he was "chicken" to debate John Major. And then the party started worrying that spending all that time with Blair might make the chicken more sympathetic towards Labour, so Finklestein had to have regular lunches with him to ensure he was still on-message. He concluded the story with "We lost the election, but the chicken did not cross the road."
- In the pre-show for Muppet*Vision 3D, Fozzie calls the penguins to the stage. When a chicken follows them, he stops her, noting that chickens are supposed to stay on the other side of the road. When he asks to someone "Why did this chicken cross the road?", the chicken clucks the answer, which Fozzie finds funny and goes to tell the others.
- Gabriel Iglesias used this joke as an example to show how his mother, when he performs his material to her, would question the jokes and ruin them in the process:
Gabriel: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Mom: Who let out the chicken!?
Gabriel: It's a joke, mom.
Mom: It's no joke, baboso, you know how much I pay for those chickens!?
- Crossy Road may be reminiscent of Frogger, but the starting player character is a chicken.
- Activision's Freeway is basically both games' predecessor.
- When Moshi Monsters got pirate-ified temporarily, the ghost pirates would tell the joke "Why did the pirate cross the road? To steal the chicken!".
- In Octodad: Dadliest Catch, we have the following conversation between two sailors:
- Puyo Puyo:
- In Puyo Puyo Fever, Raffina references the joke when she dodges Hohow Bird's attack and responds with "Hey! Which way are you looking? I'll bet you don't even know why you crossed the road!"
- In one of the extra story mode chapters of Puyo Puyo Tetris, for a comedy routine with Tee, Maguro tells a variant of this joke where it's a tetrimino walking across the road. Tee guesses it's because of a dimensional merge, but it's actually because the road was "blocked".
- Rec.arts.int-fiction's Chicken Competition involved writing short Interactive Fiction games based loosely on this joke.
- In the Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (1997) level featuring Johannes Gutenberg the alchemist tells you the following joke if you try to drop the sooty chicken on his equally sooty oil lamp:
"Why did the chicken cross the road? Because she did not want to get roasted on an oil lamp!"
- Two strips of Arthur, King of Time and Space have Merlin asking the question and the other characters giving answers that reflect their personalities.
- In Freefall, Dvorak spent two weeks studying it, but was pleased with how it paid off when Florence thought he was developing a sense of humor.
- Referenced in this Skin Horse strip, where Tip's new job is covertly injecting chickens with radiographic trackers.
Tip: Who cares why they cross the road?
- In the xkcd strip Super Bowl Context, the Alt Text shows how the character who overexplains everything might tell the Chicken Joke:
"Why did the chicken cross the road? It begins over five thousand years ago with the domestication of the red junglefowl in southeast Asia and the development of paved roads in the Sumerian city of Ur."
- SCP Foundation has a rather dark version of this with a tape that changes the perception of people who see it: after seeing a particular scene, the watcher will percieve every character, fictional or not, watched on TV or in a movie, hear on radio, or read about, to choke and die. This includes incredibly short jokes as well.
Subject: (Reading a joke written in a candy wrapper) Why did the chicken cross the road? Who cares, halfway across the road, it fell over and choked and died. Haha.
- Michael Stevens of VSauce did a video about the joke, appropriately called "Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?"
- During TommyInnit's Minecraft talent show, CG5 ended up performing a short song based on the joke that ultimately segued into a cover of Bruno Mars' "That's What I Like", causing Tommy (who has an Old Shame attached to the song) to try and chase him off the stage.
- The "Honesty" episode of Adventures from the Book of Virtues has Aristotle telling the joke "Why did the bobcat cross the road? To bother somebody else for a change!"
- In an episode of Alphablocks, S, A, and Y hold hands and spell the word "SAY", which leads to S saying, "I say, why did the chicken cross the road?". A asks, "What's a chicken?" and Y asks, "What's a road?" and then they all shrug, suggesting that even S doesn't know what a chicken and a road are.
- This joke was also presented as a minor Visual Pun in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: C.L.O.W.N.", as Numbuhs Two and Five encounter an actual chicken trying to cross the road. When Numbuh Five wonders why the chicken is trying to cross the road, Numbuh Two struggles not to give the punchline, as earlier in the episode, he had been warned by a clown not to tell any jokes. Naturally, after Numbuh Five leaves, Numbuh Two gives in and blurts out, "To get to the other side!"
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: In the episode "Sir Ed-A-Lot" when the Eds are roped into The Dreaded Pretend Tea Party, Eddy is dressed as a jester while forced in entertaining Jimmy and Sarah who are pretending to be a prince and queen respectively. His second attempt at humor ends in this:
Eddy: "Yeah, so why'd the chicken cross the road?"Sarah: "To lay an egg, just like YOU ARE NOW!"
- A variant in the Garfield and Friends episode "How To Be Funny", where Garfield claims that the very first joke, which had been told by a caveman comedian, was roughly translated as "Why did the brontosaurus cross the road?"
- In Jungle Junction, Ellie Van tries to make someone else laugh by asking why the chicken crossed the road.
- Also, Pepper from Littlest Pet Shop (2012) (as well as pet celebrity Old Bananas) crack a few jokes of this variety on the show.
- There was a Looney Tunes short where Foghorn Leghorn is trying to eliminate a baby rooster. Foghorn tells him that the chicken crossed the road "to have a ball", and throws a ball into a busy 2-lane road to have him retrieve it. The baby rooster calmly walks out and gets the ball while narrowly avoiding speeding cars, then asks Foghorn to show him how to do it properly. Naturally, Foghorn gets his feathers plucked by two passing vehicles.
- On an episode of The Mighty B!, Bessie sees a driver speeding, and cries, "He could've hurt a chicken crossing the road!".
- The opening titles for Robot Chicken show a dead chicken, lying in the middle of the road having been run over, presumably while trying to cross to he other side.
Scientist: "Why did the Chicken cross the road?"Robot Chicken: "Bawk-bawk?"Scientist: "TO DIE IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE!"
- The Season 1 finale ended with a You Can't Do That on Television parody that resulted in the titular Robot Chicken and the Mad Scientist using signs to tell the joke.
- In an episode of The Smurfs, Brainy tells the joke "Why did the chicken cross the road? Because the others egged him on!".
- In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Mathmagic", Janna tells Star this joke during math class. Having never heard the chicken joke before, Star finds it hilarious that instead of a punchline, the answer is simply logic. When Star gets stuck in an unstable "Groundhog Day" Loop, one of the things that keeps changing is the punchline to Janna's joke.
- In the Steven Universe episode "Log Date 7-15-2", Peridot tries to acclimate to life on Earth by practicing telling jokes, including the old "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke. She not only stumbles over the punchline, but after awkwardly laughing at herself she wonders what a chicken is. She later asks Amethyst to shapeshift into a chicken, then laughs and says that she gets the joke now.
- Beast Boy invokes this trope in the Teen Titans Go! episode "Video Game References". Beast Boy is within a Frogger-like game and he has trouble crossing a road. He gets past all the cars no problem when he turns into a chicken.
- In The Loud House episode "Undie Pressure", Luan is trying to win a bet by not telling jokes, during which, Bobby arrives and says that he had to wait for a chicken to cross the road and wonders why it would, which causes Luan to break and tell jokes. At the end, he is seen chasing that very chicken demanding answers.
I dream of a better world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.