UKTV has published what it claims to be the world's oldest joke - a Sumerian rib-tickler dating back to 1,900 BC which goes: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."
Yup, they were a laugh a minute, those cheeky Sumerians, and no messing. In second spot we have the equally-hilarious Egyptians, who poked fun at pharoah King Snofru back in 1,600 BC with this cracker: "How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish."
Things had improved somewhat by the time the Anglo-Saxons got their act together back in the 10th century and presaged the birth of Carry On by asking: "What hangs at a man's thigh and wants to poke the hole that it's often poked before? Answer: A key."
Paul McDonald, the senior lecturer at Wolverhampton University who dredged up these classics, said: "Jokes have varied over the years, with some taking the question and answer format while others are witty proverbs or riddles. "What they all share however, is a willingness to deal with taboos and a degree of rebellion. Modern puns, Essex girl jokes and toilet humour can all be traced back to the very earliest jokes identified in this research." ®
Thanks to Mike Richards for the tip-off.