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Sunday, June 23

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What makes a good local joke? Many popular jokes follow some sort of formula: the blonde jokes, the ethnic jokes, the bar jokes and even the knock-knock jokes. But although these jokes might feature Chicago or Chicagoans, they are not local jokes. One could just as easily substitute another city, another sports team or another local celebrity, and the joke would still work just fine.

True local jokes are different. The place is integral to the context of the joke. And local jokes are treasured because they reveal something unique about where one lives and the everyday absurdities one encounters.

Chicago has a long tradition of local wit and humor. Here are just a few jokes collected from friends, strangers, fellow Chicagoans and other sources.

Blasts From the Past

This first joke was popular in the mid-19th century, when many of Chicago's streets were little more than mud pits.

A man passing down the street finds a gentleman in the middle of the street buried up to his shoulders in the mud. The man asks the gentleman, "Do you need help?" "No, thank you," replies the gentleman. "I have a fine horse under me."


The next joke was well-known in the late 19th century during Chicago's unparalleled building boom.

A man from New York was visiting his friend in Chicago. One morning, the two of them were walking up Michigan Avenue together. The Chicagoan was filled with pride over the speed with which his magnificent city had been built, and was boasting about various important buildings to his friend from New York.
The New Yorker pointed to the Auditorium and asked, "How long did it take to build that?" "Oh, about two years," answered the Chicagoan.
"Not bad," replied the New Yorker, "but we could have built it in half the time in New York."
A little further on, the New Yorker pointed and asked, "How long did it take to put that up?"
"Oh, you mean the Art Institute?" the Chicagoan replied. "Less than four months," he boasted, trying to impress his friend.
"Hmmph. We could have finished it in two," the New Yorker said.
Moments later, the New Yorker pointed to the public library and asked again, "What about this one?" Now the Chicagoan hesitated. "I don't know," he finally replied. "It wasn't there last night."

(Historical footnote: The public library building mentioned in the joke is now the Chicago Cultural Center.)

Short Jokes

The Pope, Richard Nixon and Mayor Daley in are in a lifeboat, lost at sea. Unfortunately, they only have enough drinking water for one person. The three of them decide to vote to determine who should get the water. They vote, and Daley wins 6 to 2.


Man A: "I just got back from the islands."
Man B: "Oh, the Caribbean?"
Man A: "No. Goose Island, Stony Island and Blue Island."


Man A: Does dis bus go todaLoop?
Man B: No, it goes "beep-beep."


Q. Do you know the difference between Chicago-style jazz and New Orleans-style jazz?
A. About a thousand miles.


Q: What's orange and sleeps six?
A: A streets and sanitation truck.


Q: How do you keep a bear out of your back yard?
A: Put up a goal post.


Q: What three streets in Chicago rhyme with vagina?
A: Paulina, Melvina and Lunt.

Popular Humorous Observations

Chicago has only two seasons: winter and construction.


If they can dye the river green on one day, why can't they dye it blue the other 364?


You know Elvis is dead because he's registered to vote in Chicago.


In Chicago politics, if you're losing, you can always go dig up a couple more votes.


Chicago was founded when someone visited New York and said, "I like the crime, the crowding and the poverty, but I think it should be colder."

You Know You're From Chicago If...

One can find lists like this one for just about every place, profession, hobby or interest one can possibly imagine. Dozens of variations exist of the Chicago list. The following version is just a short sample of the theme.

You know the difference between The Loop and Downtown.
You measure distance in minutes. As in, "it's about fifteen minutes from here."
You can name three or four extra taxes nobody else pays.
You know dead people who voted.
You know how to pronounce Des Plaines.
You end your sentences with an unnecessary preposition. As in, "If you're going to the store, I wanna come with."
Da is a proper definite article.
You expect corruption in local politics.
Anything south of I-80 is southern Illinois.
You can distinguish between the 312, 773, 630, 708, 815 and 847 area codes.
You know what Kennedy, Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, Edens, and Bishop Ford, have in common and curse one of them daily.
You carry jumper cables in your car.
You have used furniture to guard your parking space in the winter.
You drink "pop."
You understand what "lake-effect" means.
You know what goes on a Chicago style hot dog.

Do you know any more local Chicago jokes? Send to me at , and I may feature them in a future column.


Join the Gapers Block Book Club! Just sign up for the email list for news, announcements and more. This month we are reading Crossing California by Adam Langer. We will be meeting to discuss the book on Monday, July 11, at The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. The meeting will begin at 7:30pm.

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About the Author(s)

Alice Maggio is a Chicago librarian. She welcomes questions and topic suggestions for her column at . Due to the volume of email received, she may not reply to every query, but you may be contacted if your question is selected for the column.

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