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Knock Knock!

The History of Knock-Knock Jokes

Alice Rosenberg

8th Grade


Who’s there?


Banana who?


Who’s there?


Banana who?


Who’s there?


Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”

This is probably one of the most famous jokes, - humor set aside - and is repeated millions of times per year. However,  the history behind knock-knock jokes has much more below the surface than we might think. 

Knock-knock jokes started out as “do you know” jokes.  For example, “Do you know Arthur?” “Arthur who?” “Arthurmometer!” This eventually evolved to knock-knock jokes which only grew as the years went on. 

Another early example of knock-knock jokes appears in William Shakespeare's Macbeth when a drunken porter centers his monologue around a knock-knock joke. An article by NPR History discusses how around 1934 knock-knock jokes had become a parlor game, sort of like charades, in which you had to guess what the punchline would be. 

The jokes were further popularized when Alf Landon was running for president in 1936, his running mate Col. Frank Knox, made his name known through using knock-knock jokes during interviews when asked about his stance on certain issues. 

At the end of 1936, Fred Allen, the radio/comedy show host invented a fictional character named Ramrod Dank who he said was, “the first man to coin a knock-knock joke.”

Knock-knock jokes aren’t only used by politicians - they can also be used as icebreakers or fun ways to pass time. 

Nicole, a seventh grade ELA teacher and advisor said, “Everybody likes a knock-knock joke! It brings people together!” 

Scientists have said that jokes are good for your health. An article by HealthGuide stated, “Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress.” Knock-knocks, while corny, almost always make us laugh, which as you’ve seen, is wonderful for our health.

Teens already have enough stress piled onto us with high school/college applications, homework, and overall life, so jokes can help lower our stress and boost our mood even more than they will for adults. 

Researchers at Mayo Clinic said, “When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces positive physical changes in your body.” Positive physical changes will lead to a positive mood, and increase our overall happiness.

Knock-knock jokes have come far since Shakespeare's day and are shared worldwide, and boost mood worldwide. So, if someone says “knock-knock,” answer the door. 

Fun Facts:

Repetitive jokes used to be considered a sign of serious sickness or upcoming death. Repetitive jokes used to be considered a sign of serious sickness or upcoming death...:)

In Hebrew, “knock-knock” is written טוק טוק 

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