Today the New Yorker released its “Best Jokes of 2021” list, which celebrates “moments that brought relief—or at least a diversion, some bafflement, or a rueful chuckle—in 2021.” This is the fourth year the magazine has compiled such a list. The annual tradition began in 2018, and its inaugural roundup included Hannah Gadsby saying “I identify as tired.” I am on the floor convulsing from laughter just from typing that out. God she’s good.
Writing out and contextualizing someone else’s joke is famously the best way to consume and think about comedy, especially when it’s the kind of joke that people who chuckle at New Yorker cartoons enjoy. What’s even better is offering a second opinion on those jokes by rating them on a scale of one to 10. And guess what, baby? The doctor is in.
An Actual Joke from Roy Wood, Jr.
The Joke: “You ever been somewhere, and there’s too many American flags? It just feels… Like, how many American flags equal one Confederate flag?”
The Score: 8/10
This is a good joke. It has a set up and a punchline, and it has what those in the biz know as “truth in comedy.” If you watched Wood’s special, you know it’s delivered perfectly. We’re off to a strong start, but this is how they get you. Just wait.
Facebook, Am I Right?
The Joke: This tweet from writer Ben Schwartz (not of Parks and Recreation, a different one):
The Score: 6/10
I guess this is funny. Is it one of the top ten funniest jokes of the year? Probably not, but it did go mega-viral and sometimes we as a culture confuse that with hilarity. The funnier part of this entry on the list is that New Yorker writer Kyle Chayka’s description of Mark Zuckerberg (“With waxen skin and glazed eyes, clothed in a signature dark long-sleeved shirt and jeans, Zuckerberg seems little more human than the replicant avatar he uses to demonstrate immersive 3-D experiences,”) is used as an example of the “sparks of humor” that make all the evils of Facebook a little less awful. Now I’m really laughing.
“Let’s Go, Brandon”
The Joke: Remember when conservatives were using “Let’s Go, Brandon” as code for “Fuck Joe Biden?” Well, that’s not what is funny here, what’s funny (apparently) is the actual moment where a TV interviewer misheard “Fuck Joe Biden” as “Let’s Go, Brandon.”
The Score: 2/10
The internet is littered with hilarious mishaps on live TV and this is just not up to par with all time greats like “But, he’s gay… He’s blind” or “Keep fuckin’ that chicken.” More than anything this seems like an excuse to remind us that the Right does not know what a good joke is, but I’m starting to doubt that the New Yorker does either.
The Line from Reservation Dogs
The Joke: A character is asked by her father why she wants to move to California, to which she says, “Snoop Dogg’s from there. Dr. Dre. Shit, even fucking Dr. Phil.”
The Score: 5/10
Comedy is subjective, sure, but to say that this joke is one of the funniest of the year (and therefore the absolute funniest on Reservation Dogs) is a stretch. This is getting such a low score because I find it absurd to think this is funnier than, say, when a warrior guide who died at Little Bighorn appears and says “The spirit world, it’s cold. My nipples are always hard, I’m always hungry,” is just silly. I get that you want to talk about the breakout performance of Paulina Alexis, but let’s save that for the Best TV Shows of 2021 list, shall we?
A Norm Macdonald Joke from 2015
The Joke: On his last Letterman appearance, Macdonald talked about how we have so few images of our ancestors, that the ones we do have become precious objects. “Fifty years from now, people will be going, like, ‘Hey, you want to see a hundred thousand pictures of my great-grandfather?’”
The Score: Disqualified
What are we even doing here? This might be one of the funniest jokes of 2015, but to include it on the list is… como se dice… bullshit. On to the next.
Martin Short’s Fad Diet
The Joke: On Only Murders in the Building, Short plays an old theater director way past his prime. At one point, in a musical number, he talks about his new idea for a diet, “Dips for dinner. Dips for dinner. I’m a nut for dips.” Then later, explaining his dip diet, he says, “I bet I have not had a regular entrée for years. Granted, I’ve lost fourteen pounds and a significant amount of hair, but it’s totally worth it.”
The Score: 9/10
I haven’t even seen Only Murders in the Building and I’m laughing. One of the most brilliant things about Short is that he has so finely honed his comedic voice that I can read that joke, hear it in his voice, and chuckle out loud. So we now have a total of two jokes on the list that are legitimately funny and from the year the list purports to be representing.
Brett Goldstein on Kimmel
The Joke: Ted Lasso writer and actor Brett Goldstein went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and discussed the popular belief that his character Roy Kent is CGI. ““When I found out I was C.G.I., it was quite disconcerting,” he said. “ ’Cause I’ve seen a lot of sci-fi films, and I started to be, like… Maybe I am, ’cause they’d implant memories to make me think I wasn’t.”
The Score: 5.5/10
This is a classic situation of the joke not being funny when written down. You gotta watch the clip to really be charmed by Goldstein. However I am once again asking, is this actually one of the funniest jokes in a year? Or did we just want an excuse to say “Goldstein was the year’s best late-night guest.” Even Goldstein himself had a better joke this very year in his Emmys speech when he said, “I was very specifically told I’m not allowed to swear, so this speech is gonna be fucking short.”
The New York City Mayoral Race As a Whole
The Joke: I mean, you pick. The New Yorker highlighted mayor-elect Eric Adams driving on the sidewalk and Republican nominee Curtis Sliwa getting hit by a taxi and then showing up to the polls with a cat who was denied the right to vote. Other memorable moments included Adams saying he’s seen Lion King on Broadway five times, Andrew Yang saying that the LGBT community is “so human and beautiful,” and the implosion of the Dianne Morales campaign just weeks before the election.
The Score: 10/10
A perfect score in the sense that New York politics are always one big joke, and this year continued to deliver on that promise.
Getting Political with Rosebud Baker
The Joke: “I’m thinking about having kids, ’cause I’m pregnant. Just kidding. I was when I wrote that joke. Only one of those got delivered.”
The Score: 8.5/10
As with Wood, this is a joke delivered by an actual comedian that has a set up and a punchline. A funny one at that. Congrats to the New Yorker for taking the edgy stance and including an abortion joke on the list.
A Political Cartoon, Of Course
The Joke: This cartoon, titled “The Aghast Supper,” from The Onion depicting Jesus being turned away from a Hooters due to COVID restrictions.
The Score: 3/10
I’m sorry, there has never been a funny political cartoon. Not even one riffing off of the idea of political cartoons. It gets points because I’m sure some kids will have fun using this for an A.P. U.S. History DBQ in fifty years.