London Bus-How to be British

Which brings us to that most British of traditions, the knock-knock joke. A tradition that’s all about someone being ‘let in’. Get to grips with it and while you might not have made it into the house of Britishness, you’ll definitely have your foot in the door.

Locked door So what do you need to know about the knock-knock joke? Well, the first thing to remember is that it’s never funny. Ever. A knock-knock joke isn’t meant to provoke laughter. Instead it’s meant to create an exaggerated groan of disappointment at how crap it is. And everyone understands this.

The structure of the joke involves a ritualised conversational exchange between the person telling the joke and the person listening to the joke. And the scenario is of one person knocking on an imaginary door asking to be let in, and the other person on the other side of the door trying to find out who wants to be let in.

The most traditional version goes like this:

‘Who’s there?’
‘Isabel who?’
‘Isabel necessary on a bicycle.’

Like I said, utter, utter crap.

The correct and thoroughly British reaction to a Knock-Knock joke - absolute despair. The correct and thoroughly British reaction to a Knock-Knock joke – absolute despair.

But that doesn’t matter. Because a knock-knock joke isn’t about making someone laugh. It’s about creating a shared moment of connection in which the two people involved have a part to play.

So if someone starts telling you one of these jokes, all you have to do is reply ‘Who’s there?’ after they’ve said ‘Knock-knock.’ Then add the word ‘  – who?’  on to whatever name they give in reply. Then give an exaggerated groan after the punchline is delivered.

But it’s worth remembering that if someone does start telling you a knock-knock joke they have, in fact, already let you in.

If you haven’t yet read all our posts on How to be British, get reading!  So far we’ve covered Queues, Tea and Britain’s greatest football achievement back in (ahem!) 1966 so why not take a look!