Doing the normal internet procrastination rabbit hole thing, I came across an old article on ancient jokes. Apparently this is the oldest known joke (Sumerian, 1900 BC – 1600 BC):
Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did not fart in her husband's lapHowever, the one that caught my eye was from the Philogelos (oldest known joke book) 4th/5th century AD:
Wishing to teach his donkey not to eat, a pedant did not offer him any food. When the donkey died of hunger, he said "I've had a great loss. Just when he had learned not to eat, he died."I think this is a pretty wicked little one-liner. The black humor and brevity even feels pretty modern. In fact, it instantly reminded me of one of my favorite jokes from one-liner king Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005).
I bought myself a parrot, but it did not say "I'm hungry", and so it died.
Some more ancient short jokes from the Philogelos:
Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied: "In silence."
A young man invited into his home frisky old women. He said to his servants: "Mix a drink for one, and have sex with the other, if she wants to." The women spoke up as one: "I'm not thirsty."
When an intellectual was told by someone, "Your beard is now coming in," he went to the rear-entrance and waited for it. Another intellectual asked what he was doing. Once he heard the whole story, he said: "I'm not surprised that people say we lack common sense. How do you know that it's not coming in by the other gate?"
A rude astrologer cast a sick boy's horoscope. After promising the mother that the child had many years ahead of him, he demanded payment. When she said, "Come tomorrow and I'll pay you," he objected: "But what if the boy dies during the night and I lose my fee?"
A man with bad breath, kissing his wife over and over, said: "My Lady, my Hera, my Aphrodite." And she said, turning away: "My - o Zeus an ozeus!" (Ozeus means someone with bad breath)
Lastly, an ancient hipster joke?:
An intellectual bought a pair of pants. But he could hardly put them on because they were too tight. So he got rid of the hair around his legs.