American Humor Part 2 – Knock-Knock Jokes

by | Apr 1, 2024

Understanding American Humor – Part 2: Knock-Knock Jokes –

Understanding what people think is funny—and why—is difficult in any language. The goal of this short series of articles is to help you recognize American humor, and maybe even join in the fun!

Part 1 of the series was about the foundational form of humor known as puns. If you haven’t taken a look, you should take a look at that article as it will help you with the focus of Part 2: the knock-knock joke.

 

Building Block Number 2: The Knock-Knock Joke

Knock-knock jokes have been a popular form of humor in English-speaking countries for a very long time.  In fact, you can even find them in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, which was written around 1606.

In the United States, the modern era of knock-knock jokes began during the 1920s and 1930s, following the widespread use of radios for entertainment. These days, while they are especially popular with kids, even adults enjoy a knock-knock joke occasionally, and the style of humor is foundational to other, more sophisticated forms.

The 5-Line Knock-Knock Joke:

These jokes take the form of a conversation. The joke-teller starts by announcing, “Knock, knock!” and the joke develops as two people exchange dialog:

  1. The joke-teller: “Knock, knock!”  In this moment, the receiver imagines being inside a house while an unknown person outside knocks
  2. The receiver: “Who’s there?”  The first two lines of the joke are always the same: the joke-teller knocks and the receiver tries to understand who is standing outside the (imaginary) door.
  3. The joke-teller: A response. The response often involves a name, but not always. There is a lot of variety because it’s this response that sets up the pun at the end of the joke.
  4. The receiver: A repetition of the response followed by “who?” Again, this part of the joke is always the same: the receiver repeats what the joke-teller said, and adds the word ‘who’ to make it a question.
  5. The joke-teller: The ‘punch line.’ The joke ends with a pun based on the information in line 3. As with other puns, the humor may be in creating a double meaning, or in connecting to a word or phrase that sounds almost the same as line 3.

Example 1: Knock-Knock Joke Using a Name

Take a look at this short, punny question and answer:

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?

Ken!

Ken who?

Ken I come in? It’s freezing out here!

Understanding American Humor - Knock-Knock Jokes

Get it? Like most punning jokes, saying it out loud will help you hear and recognize the humor. In this joke, the spoken word ‘Ken’…

  1. Is a man’s name
  2. Sounds like ‘can’: “Can I come in? It’s freezing out here!”

See how it works? Here’s another example:

Example 2: Knock-Knock Jokes Using Place Names

Not all knock-knock jokes use the names of people; some get quite creative! See if you can follow this one:

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?

Hawaii.

Hawaii who?

I’m fine, Hawaii you?

Understanding American Humor - Knock-Knock Jokes

When you say, “Hawaii who?” out loud, does it sound similar to anything?  Imagine that the first sound is not ‘haw,’ but rather ‘how’…  And that the final sound isn’t ‘who,’ but rather ‘you’…

“Hawaii who?” sounds like, “How are you?”  And what’s the standard answer to that question?  It’s: “I’m fine, how are you?” Isn’t that pun-derful?

Now that you see how knock-knock jokes work, read on for some additional examples!

 

More punning jokes

Now that you’ve seen how puns work, try to understand some of the following. Which ones are Type 1 puns and which are Type 2? And which ones do you think are funny?

After thinking about the meaning, click the button below for an explanation.

Knock Knock!
Who’s There?
Ashe.
Ashe who?
Bless you!
Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Alec!
Alec who?
Alec coffee, but I don't like tea!
Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Pencil.
Pencil who?
Pencil fall down if you don't wear a belt!
Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting co...
MOOOOOOOOO!
Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Police.
Police who?
Police let me in, it's cold outside!
Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Boo.
Boo who?
You don't need to cry about it!
Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Candace.
Candace who?
Candace be the last joke?

Try sharing some of these knock-knock jokes with a friend! Also if you have questions or additional jokes, feel free to post them below.

Thanks for taking a look at this guide to American Humor.

 

For even more jokes, take a look at
Knock Knock!: The Biggest, Best Joke Book Ever (available here on Amazon)

You might also enjoy this article about 4 Steps to Confident Conversations in English

 

Note: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you. Recommended resources are carefully selected and help support the operation of my blog.

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Mark Pedrin

Mark Pedrin

Author

Mark is an English instructor and communication specialist. He loves helping people develop language skill and insight so that they can reach their personal and professional goals.