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Vonnegut's Funniest Joke

Vonnegut, Kurt.  Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage. Berkley, 1992. 176-77.

An eccentric British millionaire died and left what was to be an enormous prize for the wittiest original limerick. He acknowledged in his will that the wittiest limericks tended to be the bawdiest as well, so that ribaldry (even of the coarsest sort) was not to disqualify any entry for the prize. So a blue-ribbon (but not bluenose) jury was formed and limericks arrived by the ton. People (being British) could talk of nothing else. The jurors at last announced that the contest had been won by a housewife in East Anglia. Their decision was not only unanimous but hilarious. The winning entry was surely the wittiest limerick in the world, but unfortunately so obscene that it could never be made public in any form.

The country of course went mad with curiosity, as would anybody upon hearing the premise of this perfect tale. The judges were adamant in both their delight with the winning limerick and their belief that the civilized world could never weather its indecency. So everybody went after the author, a suddenly rich and famous housewife, the seeming soul of propriety. She agreed with the judges that her prize entry was so offensive, although brilliantly witty, that there was no alternative to their and her carrying the five lines to their graves. Winston Churchill himself, however, since the war effort had come to a halt because of her, prevailed on her to go on the BBC and recite her limerick, using the empty sound "dah" for the syllable of any word unfit for the ears of a family audience.

So she did it.

This was the bowdlerized limerick which went out over the air:

Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah,

Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah!

Dah dah dah dah dah,

Dah dah dah dah dah!

Dah dah dah dah dah fucking cunt.