Regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, Franz Kafka is best known today as "that guy who wrote a story about some dude turning into a cockroach." Working with themes of alienation, the fantastic made mundane, and parent-child conflict, his works are populated with well meaning characters caught in the crossroads of tragedy, surrealism, and existentialism.
And yet, Kafka himself considered his works funny, supposedly laughing out loud among friends when reading and sharing his work. Indeed, when read in the right mindframe, the ironic circumstances and black comedy of Kafka's nightmarish worlds can and will provoke a chuckle of two, even as events continue spiraling out of control.
Thus, I will be presenting you today with Kafka's Joke Book, a McSweeny's article written by comic and stand-up comedian John McNamee, who you may know for his work, Pie.
Kafka's Joke BookWhy did the chicken cross the road?
It had been crossing so long it could not remember. As it stopped in the middle to look back, a car sped by, spinning it around. Disoriented, the chicken realized it could no longer tell which way it was going. It stands there still.
“Who’s there?” Alois asked again, more insistently.
And so it went for years. It wasn’t until his deathbed Alois realized he was on the outside of the door.
“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”
“I don’t know,” Gregor told the faceless interrogator for the fiftieth time.
“We can’t help you if you won’t work with us. Perhaps another day in the machine will convince you to cooperate.”
What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?
Nothing after Albert’s inexplicable transformation. Every breath was agony.
[To heckler] Hey, I don’t come down to where you work and expose the bureaucratic machine in which you’re embedded as the dehumanizing monolith it is.
A horse walks into a bar. The bartender asks, “Why the long face?”
“I was born into servitude, and when I die, my feet will be turned into glue,” replied the horse.
The bartender realized he would not be getting a tip.
[Holding a rubber chicken] Behold this mockery of food.
Yo momma’s so fat, that she hasn’t left the flat in three years. Her only solace is the figurine of the ballet dancer that she stares at day in day out. One day, you slip on a banana peel, destroying it.
If the system has no place for you, and you’re forced to live on its fringes teetering between poverty and anarchy… you may be a redneck.
[Wearing arrow through head] This arrow does not bring the release I so desperately crave.
Take my wife, please. I can no longer support her and don’t wish to since we lost the child.
What’s black and white and red all over?
The prisoners in the penal colony. The sun was especially brutal that day, and the warden had taken their roofs as punishment for an unnamed crime.
A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die. Am I right, ladies?