Knock Knock! Who’s there? A question! A question who? A question that needs to be answered. Where do these types of jokes come from? The knock knock joke is one of the most common joke formats in the world. Jokes of this kind can be seen in almost all facets of American media even though recently that have come to be seen as jokes for children. These types of jokes are interesting because they involve a sort of call and response. Most jokes only involve a second person to the extent that they say “why?” If you walk up to anyone on the street and say “knock knock” they will definitely respond with “Who’s there?” Like many jokes and cultural revolutions, these jokes came from literature-based media.
Knock knock jokes aren’t only unique in their delivery, but they are also unique because of their beginnings. This type of joke had can be traced back to a children’s game that was around at least since 1929. It was called the game of Buff. In this game one child hits a stick against the ground and the following dialog takes place: “Knock knock! Who’s there? Buff. What say Buff? Buff says Buff to all his men, and I say Buff to you again.” From this point a newspaper published a joke in its popular format in 1934. Even though this is one of the first published jokes with this format, the origin of this type of joke is largely unknown and only speculations and myth surround the real invention of the jokes. Even though the origins are unknown, we do know that they became popularized in 1936. They were so popular because they claimed the title of being the most popular parlor game. This flavor of joke remained very popular and grew until the early 1960’s; at this point it fell to the wayside.
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Even though knock knock jokes aren’t regarded as highly as they were between the 1930s and 1950’s they have still maintained their popularity in that almost everyone knows them. Part of the reason they became less favorable is because of their very limited nature. You can only write so many jokes with the same exact form before you exhaust them all together. This also makes them somewhat boring after a while. Another factor that led to their demise is the maturity of humor in recent times. Full-grown adults used to think a lot of these jokes were funny that would be regarded as cheesy or childish by even teenagers of today. So they do still endure, but only for the amusement of children and for the sake of being cheesy.
Although the world’s appreciation for knock-knock jokes have fallen drastically, they are still an important part of our joke culture and have identifiability that is rare among jokes. They have survived for at least nearly a century, and they will probably endure much longer.