If you’re anything like me, your pun-o-meter for dick jokes is off the charts right now. It’s been turned up to 11 thanks to the latest indiscretions of New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. And while the headlines in major papers this week, since he told the truth about his wang, aren’t nearly as salacious (or funny) as last week’s, the American people at large have taken it upon themselves to keep the dick joke trend strong and, er, erect. (Sorry.) And while I admit sometimes it seems a bit like overkill when it comes to all the penis-related humor saturating our culture lately, still part of me always seems to find something worthy of a snicker. Example: “Breitbart Scours Internet For More Weiner Pics.” That’s fucking brilliant.

Indeed, the United States loves a good dick joke, perhaps more so than any other type of joke, judging from the near universality of them in the past few days. But why? They’re often unintelligent, debased and mostly pretty corny compared to other types of humor, so what’s the deal?

And so finally I had a good excuse to Google the phrase, “origins of the dick joke” on an office computer. And boy am I glad I did because I learned in the UK they’re apparently called “knob gags,” which sounds even more lewd than “dick jokes.” I also had the privilege of of coming across a messageboard chock full of what I would guess to be teenage videogame enthusiasts, who posed the same question I had: Where do dick jokes come from? And while their discussion ended up at one point turning into an inquiry about monkey sex (don’t ask), I gleaned that most on the board believed dick jokes have been around since, well, “people with dicks have been around.”

Considering the cognitive abilities of early man, though, I’m not sure that’s exactly true. However further research shows that perhaps they weren’t far off. We do know that many of the oldest recorded jokes had to do with bodily functions and body parts, including the male anatomy, according to a 2008 study by a group of academicians at the University of Wolverhampton:

The Dave Historical Humour Study defines a joke as having a clear set-up and punch line structure — this definition enabled the team to plot the history of the joke as far back as 1900 BC.  The results provide a unique and compelling insight into how jokes have evolved over the years…

And while the very first joke on record has to do with farting (I’m already sold), the first recorded dick joke didn’t seem to appear (at least on paper) until the 10th century AD on the Exeter Codex in Great Britain: “What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before? Answer: A key.” This also happens to be the oldest recorded joke in the UK.

So, what does that say about us? Are English speakers more prone to dick jokes than other nations? Considering the first fart joke was recorded in the Middle East, I think it’s safe to say that dick jokes probably play a part in every culture’s humor. In Russia, I know the word for dick (hui) sounds auspiciously Chinese, which creates a whole genre of culturally offensive dick humor. Speaking of China, that country’s got Little Shenyeng. (And no, that sentence itself is actually not a dick joke.) South Africa has dick jokes, too, but apparently they’re not very funny…neither are Mexico’s. Yes, it seems despite their mixed appeal, dick jokes exist in every corner of the globe.

What’s especially interesting about them here, though, is their propensity and how much the whole of society seems to be embracing them regardless of gender, class, geographic location or any other qualifying factor. Nary another subject besides the penis makes for such crass, yet somehow acceptable and embraced headlines in not just scandal-driven tabloids like the New York Post, but also in smaller town papers like the Kansas City Star, which published, “The Lesson of Weiner’s Schnitzel: Delete, Delete, Delete.” (Good one.)

Really, the only thing people seem to get upset about in the United States when it comes to dick jokes is if there’s not enough of them, which is exactly what happened after Daily Show host Jon Stewart failed to throw his dick-laden comedic daggers Weiner’s way on Monday night. Taping just hours after a press conference took place where the Congressman admitted he’d lied, Stewart largely skipped the Weiner scenario, opting instead to focus that evening’s show on non-dick-related roasts of John Edwards and Sarah Palin. Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore Sun wrote:

I expected Stewart to dig into Weiner with…comedic ferocity last night, now that Weiner had finally admitted the truth.

Instead, Stewart used the occasion to compliment Weiner’s penis and pectoral size. He then ducked any further criticism of Weiner and transitioned to making fun of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

The most upsetting things to Stewart were that Weiner is “packing jumbo heat” and “ripped,” he said.

“I can’t believe this guy and I are the same f—– age,” Stewart joked. Stewart somehow managed to turn Weiner’s actions and subsequent lying into a compliment. Strange.

Similarly, Ken Tucker for Entertainment Weekly also complained:

Jon Stewart may have been the only television news commentator in America on Monday who did not pounce on Rep. Anthony Weiner and beat him up verbally for admitting he lied about his Twitter gaffe. Stewart was in an awkward position, having acknowledged last week that Weiner is an old friend, but even so, his restraint was striking…

[I]t was fascinating to see how a satirist in Stewart’s position finessed it. He showed the Twitter photo of Weiner’s bare chest and joked that he was jealous that “a, he’s packing jumbo heat and b, he’s f—in’ ripped.” Which led to a segment called “Jon Stewart Unloads on Anthony Weiner’s Chest,” ostensibly ridicule of Weiner’s torso (he had such deep cleavage, a tiny James Franco was shown trapped in it) but really, in the way the segment was worded, a joke on Stewart himself. In a comic sense, Stewart took a bullet for his pal.

Of course, not ever one to disappoint the comedy-seeking masses, Stewart took to his show last night to finally roast Weiner the day after his press conference. But aside from jabbing his friend (and cutting his own wrist), Stewart’s bit, in which he staged a mock press conference, served more to defend his comedic honor on the issue. He basically underlined his love for a good dick joke: “We’ve done over 59 jokes: nine penis puns, we used an R Kelly impersonator to provide Trapped in the Closet-style commentary, and I personally said the word cock [bleeped out] 10 times.”

In fact, it was Stewart’s defense of his own prowess at crass humor that makes this bit culturally interesting and not whatever jokes he actually told about Weiner, good or bad. Indeed, it proves even a comedian as sharp-witted and smart as Stewart still must play to the more basic our comedic instincts. Indeed, the dick joke remains, um, firm in American comedy. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, a compliment or a diss on our culture, I’m sure will be interpreted differently depending on who you ask. For me, while I admit dick jokes and other forms of crass humor are often, er, limp when it comes to sophistication, I think they’re evolutionarily intertwined with comedy. That is, they’re here to stay. So, God bless America and God bless dick jokes.

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