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What does this joke mean?

"I don't even know what comedians read! Comic books?!"

This is a quote from the famous manga "Dragon Ball Z". It is from the scene where the protagonist, Goku, tries to make his master laugh at a joke of his, but I don't understand what is funny about this. Is this something native English speakers find funny?

There's another one:

Do you have pig's feet?

Yes, I do.

Wear shoes and maybe nobody'll notice.

I don't understand this either. I'm sure it meant to be a joke, but I don't get what is funny about it.

I don't understand them probably because I'm not a native English speaker. Please tell me what makes them jokes.

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    I don't find the first one funny. The second is mildly amusing if asked at a butcher's shop or restaurant. Jan 1 at 8:48
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    It should be noted that none of the jokes in this chapter (DBZ Ch 16, or DB Ch 210 in the Japanese order) are intended to be actually funny. At least in the fan-translated (not localized), King Kai introduces himself with a truly terrible name pun and follows up with another terrible joke "free of charge" because Goku missed the first one. King Kai's sense of humor is so awful that he's the kind of person to laugh at these sorts of bad jokes, and tells them too! See also Tien's later jokes like "You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish." Jan 1 at 20:25
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    @KateBunting mathmeticians read math books; geologists read geology books; computer nerds read computer books; comedians read comic books.
    – RonJohn
    Jan 1 at 22:59
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    @RonJohn - I didn't say that I didn't 'get' it, just that I didn't find it at all funny. Jan 2 at 8:48
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    Not really an answer, but a side point- English is unusally rich in synonyms, so puns have a disproportionately big place in the humour of English speakers. Puns and punners exist in other languages, but because the opportunity space is much larger in English, there are significantly more puns. The mere placing of surprise meanings together is often called a joke, but the humour is often very limited, ie a 'dad joke'. Jan 2 at 15:10

4 Answers 4

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Joke 1
The word "comic" has three different definitions that are used in this joke:

1 adjective: funny
2 noun: comedian
3 noun: the art form of images in sequential panels to tell a story

A "comic book" is a book or magazine filled with comics from definition 3. However, the term sounds like it could mean "funny book", so it would make sense that a comic (a comedian) would read it.

[ Edit: As JavaLatte has pointed out in a comment below, this joke could be interpreted even simpler, using only definitions 2 and 3, that a "comic book" sounds like it's a book for comedians.]

Joke 2
"Do you have pig's feet?" could mean, "Do you have pig's feet in your possession?", especially in a butcher's. This is what people would normally infer.

"Do you have pig's feet?" could also mean, "Does your body have pig feet rather than human feet?*". This meaning only becomes clear because wearing shoes could cover them.

The humour comes from the image of a person having the feet of a pig, and accidentally admitting it.


They say that the best way to ruin a joke is to explain it. But these jokes were terrible before I got here. :D

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    There is another possible explanation of the first joke, using meaning 2 to make a compound noun "comic book", which would mean a book intended for comics.
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 1 at 8:47
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    @JavaLatte Oooh yeah! Edited my answer to add yours
    – gotube
    Jan 1 at 8:48
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    Cooks read cookbooks, so it makes sense that comics would read comic books.
    – Barmar
    Jan 1 at 17:59
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    The multiple definitions of the English definition of "comic" may be irrelevant; you may need to see the text in the original language.
    – Kaz
    Jan 2 at 18:57
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    @Kaz I would guess that the original Japanese joke is completely unrelated.
    – Tashus
    Jan 2 at 21:28
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These are both puns, based on the way English uses similar phrase structures with different meanings depending on context.

The phrase "comic book" has similar structure to "cookbook". A cookbook is a book that cooks read, so by analogy a comic book would be one that comics (another word for comedians) read. But a comic book is not instructions for comics, it's a book full of comic strips.

The second joke is based on different ways that the verb "have" is used. When you talk to the proprietor of a store, asking if they have something asks whether they sell that item; in this case, "pig's feet" is a food item that a butcher shop might carry.

But you can also use this word to refer to a person suffering from a condition or having something on their body. For instance, you might say "I have a broken leg" or "I have a tattoo on my arm". So asking if someone has pig's feet could be interpreted in this sense, to ask if their feet are literally like those of pigs.

As others have commented, neither of these are very funny. It has been said for centuries that puns are the lowest form of humor. These are typical examples of dad jokes.

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    I want to upvote, but that last paragraph is an insult to my entire sense of humor. :D It's unnecessarily pun-itive. Jan 1 at 20:59
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    @ChrisBouchard I take it you're a dad. :)
    – Barmar
    Jan 1 at 21:22
  • I parse "cookbook" to mean "a book about cooking" rather than "a book for cooks to read". Books that tell you how to do something are typically named by the action, not the person. So there's "plumbing/carpentry/roofing/knitting/drawing books", but no "plumber/carpenter/roofer/knitter/artist books".
    – gotube
    Jan 1 at 21:59
  • @gotube Cooks read books about cooking, just as plumbers read books about plumbing.
    – Barmar
    Jan 1 at 22:47
  • @gotube the English language is... flexible.
    – RonJohn
    Jan 1 at 23:00
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Comic books can be both action type (think super hero) as well as humorous. The first joke is referencing that second type.

The second is using the idea that the first speaker has pig's feet rather than normal human feet, saying that shoes could be used to hide that deformity.

Honestly, neither strikes me as particularly funny. (The second might be if delivered right in an in-person setting but not in any sort of printed media).

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This is possibly something that may have been lost in translation from Japanese. You need to find the passage in the original language.

There might be no joke or pun there; might it just be a sarcastic remark from some character who doesn't think much about the intellectual abilities of comedians? A character who agrees with the view might laugh with him or her, but that doesn't mean it's a joke.

However, if "comic books" is actually "manga" in the original, it might not be intended as a disparaging remark. There is some anti-manga snobbery in Japan but it's not the same as disparagement of comic books in the West.

This is really straying off topic for this site; but in general, analyzing jokes, or possible jokes, in English texts that are translations of foreign prose is going to be dodgy.

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    Localisation and translation aren't direct for this sort of thing. If there was a bad pun there in Japanese a bad pun with the same spirit will be put in the English, but it won't be the same pun, it may well not be the least bit related.
    – Separatrix
    Jan 2 at 19:17
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    I'm afraid your deduction is wrong. The original Japanese jokes are completely different from the English localized version and very easily understood because they are very simple puns using words with similar pronunciation. The original Japanese jokes are "Denwa ni daremo denwa" (Nobody answers the phone) and "Futon ga futton da" (The bed mattress flew away), both of which every single Japanese would have no difficulty in understanding.
    – kuwabara
    Jan 3 at 7:42

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