Zeke the zebra was feeling kinda' philosophical, and so he began wondering.
One thought in particular kept running through his mind.
He went to the lion to get this little matter cleared up.
Tell me, are we zebras white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?"
The lion shook his head and admitted that he had no idea.
"You know what, Zeke? You should climb to the very top of the tallest mountain you can find,
and then you should ask God. I bet He'd know."
So Zeke climbed to the very top of the tallest mountain he could find. He yelled into the sky.
"Hey God! Are we zebras white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?"
"YOU ARE WHAT YOU ARE"
came the booming response from the heavens.
Zeke, looking satisfied, left it at that.
Later, he met the lion, who asked him whether he had found an answer.
When Zeke told the lion what God had said, the lion merely looked confused.
"I think it means we're white with black stripes.
If we were black with white stripes he would have said 'You is what you is,' right?"
There are jokes, you see, and there are jokes. This would, by definition, come under, well... one of those categories. This particular joke is perhaps the only one that I have found that can make everyone who hears it laugh1. There were people literally queuing up to hear it. I got to tell this joke so many times that by the end of it I was analysing people based on their responses to it.
1This may or may not be because of how I tell it, which changes every time. It is not my fault if this does not work for you.
On Laughter. The first, and least surprising, inference that I drew from my hasty and incompletely conceived social experiment was that people tend to laugh far harder, and for far longer, when they have heard that the joke is a funny one. These creatures of habit will laugh till they cry rather than put a joke that is well-regarded down by not laughing at it. Laughter is easily guaranteed for almost any joke, provided that you understand this. I, for instance, ensured that whenever I told this joke I was in the presence of a few people who had (experimentally) proven that they would laugh at it every time it was told.
On 'getting it.' Again unsurprisingly, many people simply cannot fathom what jokes like this are about. I merely provide this as a Public Service Announcement, I have no intention of explaining it. That would—to put it bluntly—kill it. A large percentage of the audience this joke was told to simply could not understand it2. They would(See above) laugh in any case, but come back later, looking sheepish, and ask me to explain. There is no correct procedure for this explanation. I found it simplest in the end to ask them to tell me what they *thought* was funny about the joke, and then leave it at that.
Racism? Since this joke's humour stems from the evident black/white conflict, it can be controversial, and indeed can be mis-interpreted completely. There were several people who told me that it had very racist overtones3 and that I "should perhaps stop telling it". What is indeed interesting to note is that a majority of these objections came from those people who had ostensibly failed to understand it. Perhaps a reflection on IQ and the relative sensitivity of teenagers, or more likely just an attempt to save face.
2Anonymous E2 reader, should you have understood it, pat yourself on the back. You are at least as intelligent as your average 15-17 year old.
3Which I personally do not see.
Bad jokes and the nature of racism