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Intro to Rec.Humor.Funny

Have you ever wondered how jokes spread around the world? How a simple joke can zoom around the entire country in just a few days? You're about to discover a part of the answer. That answer is that, to a small extent, We do it.

We coordinate an on-line electronic humour magazine over a computer networks like the Internet and USENET. Each day, scores of people from all over the world tell us the latest (and not so latest) jokes that they have heard. We pick the best ones and send them out over the network. They estimate that over 500,000 people, spread all over the world, read the jokes that are selected.

The jokes are published in two ways. One is via a USENET newsgroup, and the other is on this world-wide-web server.

Networks & USENET

Millions of people use computers today, and for many, one of the most important uses to which they put their computer is communicating with other people. The world is full of vast networks of computers, and while those networks are often used to send computer data around, one of the most common things they transmit is plain old text for people to read.

This is done either on online services, where users call in to central computers using networks for remote connections, or through distributed networks like USENET.

USENET is a totally unstructured network of close to 80,000 computers of all sizes. It exists solely for the communication of people. It has no single owner, and nobody runs it, but somehow it works.

There are many thousands of discussion categories on USENET, and most of them allow anybody to write directly into the discussion. If you want to say something, you compose it on your keyboard and tell your computer to post it under a specific discussion category. (Discussion categories are called "newsgroups.") Your computer sends it to the computers that it talks to, and they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on until the whole world has the message.

When you sit down to read, your computer will have collected all the messages that have come to it from other computers, and it presents them to you. The results are truly amazing, sometimes hyperactive discussions where none of the participants are present in the same place, or even at the same time.

The Oral Tradition

In today's document-heavy world, jokes are the modern oral tradition. The USENET computer network is a unique merger of the oral and written modes. The medium is a written one, but the character of the discussion is very oral.

Since USENET's early days, it has had an unmoderated joke exchange called rec.humor, which might be categorized as, well... too oral. People just post anything they feel like there, without regard for whether it was posted last week by somebody else, and without regard for whether it should be in the newsgroup at all. Indeed, about 70% of the postings in rec.humor aren't jokes at all, but rather simply inanities or comments on jokes. (They also post without concern for spelling, grammar or punctuation.)

This led to my (Brad Templeton's) creation of an edited or "moderated" group. In such a group, all people who want to post send their messages to the moderator by electronic mail, and he or she posts them according to whatever rules have been set out.

Most USENET moderators take the rather thankless job of simply weeding out duplicates, misdirected messages and pointless diatribes, passing through all other messages without comment. I decided to do more. I wanted to edit for quality -- to be more like a comedy newsmagazine than a bulletin board.

And thus, rec.humor.funny was born. The name, of course, was itself a joke on the rec.humor newsgroup's poor reputation. The motto was, "It's like rec.humor, except it's funny." Others had tried before with moderated joke mailing lists, but had failed. We're proud to say that rec.humor.funny has been a success, and its jokes are probably the most widely read material on USENET or the Internet today.

I moderated the newsgroup until mid-1992, when I passed on the task to Maddi Hausmann. In 1995 her family life made her step down, and the task went to the current moderator, Jim Griffith. Meanwhile, all the scripts and systems which kept the group ticking are my work.

You can also read the story of how rec.humor.funny led to the creation of ClariNet.

It hasn't always been easy, and having 500,000 readers who can write back to you at the touch of a button is an interesting experience. Fortunately, most of the readers are polite and understanding. Sadly, sending out over a dozen rejection slips every day, We do tick some people off.

In spite of all this, it gets done, and it's enjoyable. Perhaps there is a secret thrill at playing a part in propagating jokes around the world. Of course, I'm hardly the only one -- TV talk shows, magazines, comedy clubs and networks of people who phone one another play an enormous part.

Checkered Past

One of Rec.Humor.Funny's early claims to fame (or infamy) came in 1988 when it was one of the first net forums to be banned because of outside influences. People often ask about the ban, how it happened and how it was undone. Read all about the ban here. You can also read the history of RHF's creation.

Not #1 On Earth.

Thanks in part to the bannings and controversy, the growth of USENET and the Internet Rec.Humor.Funny became for some time the world's most widely read computerized forum! It is read daily on every continent and that includes daily posting at the South Pole.

Around 1992, however, a forum devoted to the discussion of (what else?) sex surged up the charts and became the leader. Another area devoted to job ads (on a network that some people mistakenly believe is non-commercial) is surging and has similar readership to Rec.Humor.Funny. However, these groups (along with the most popular pages on the World Wide Web) contain many postings per day or vast trees of data. As such, the typical reader only reads just a few percent of the items present. Rec.Humor.Funny contains only 1-2 jokes per day, so except for the long jokes, almost every reader probably reads each message. This easily makes Rec.Humor.Funny messages the most widely read items on USENET, and probably the most widely read material on the Internet/WWW as well.

Frivolous, you say? Perhaps -- but underneath there is something deeper. Computer networks aren't just for sending bank transactions and software patches. They have the potential to link distant human beings, and to entertain. There's nothing more human than a good laugh. In the end, to what better purpose could we put our networks?


This collection is copyright © 1987..2008 by Brad Templeton.

Joke Headers

The jokes all come with special headers. Read the guide to decoding the joke headers & bodies for more information.

Caveat Reador

Here's a message you'll see repeated many times on this page:

This is not a joke archive for children. It contains many jokes with offensive words, explicit sexual references and sick or offensive themes.

The Nasty joke section includes jokes with racial or sexist themes, and these jokes are so keyworded. If you are potentially offended by such material, do not read these jokes. If you do, you bring any offense upon yourself.

Unless you know you can tolerate sick and nasty jokes, don't read that section.

All jokes draw their humour from something in life that we fear. A joke collection that didn't poke fun at things dear to some people would not be much of a joke collection. If I excluded everything I got a complaint on, half these jokes would be missing.

In the case of the racial and sexist jokes, I have often included them because I laughed at their sheer offensiveness and audacity, which is to say I was laughing at the racism, not with it. Others are funny because a popular (if usually incorrect) stereotype is necessary in the construction of the joke. (Where this is not necessary, the term "<ethnic>" or "JEDR" is often used.) No personal slight is intended against any of the people or groups lampooned in this collection. My editorial policies, explained on the net, actually seriously reduce the level of hateful humour on USENET.

In the end, I feel it is very important to be able to laugh at the evil in the world. I feel it is much better to have a world where we can do this freely than to have a world where nobody gets offended.

It's also worth noting that, because on USENET, people interact only through their written words, it is the world's first "community without colour." You can't tell a person's skin colour, weight or appearance unless they tell you about it. To longtime netters, race has left the arena of human interaction--and the stereotypes of the "old" world can be made fun of without harm, as long as no malice is involved.

How to Read a Jokebook or Joke Archive

A joke collection is far better read slowly, a joke or two at a time, than all at once. It's certainly true that standup comedy and comedic theatre can be carefully crafted so that each joke builds on its predecessors. This is not true, however, with most written comedy, and it's certainly not true with a collection of jokes from hundreds of authors.

Each of these jokes was meant to be viewed on its own, by a reader with a fresh mind. Read too many jokes in a row and you get quickly bored with them, to the point that only the best ones will barely crack a smile on your face.

When these jokes were presented on the computer nets, they were all carefully spaced, with approximately one joke every 12 hours.

If you can, take a few months to read this archive. Read it a few jokes at a time, a few times a day. You'll enjoy it a great deal more.


The home page illustration is by Ty Templeton, noted comic book artist and editor's brother. Ty is the creator of the popular Stig's Inferno series, along with several other independent comics. He has drawn many important titles for D.C. Comics and currently works freelance. Yes, this panel comic also appeared inside Volume I -- due to time constraints a new one wasn't ready.

Thanks to Grant Robinson and especially Harriett Hardman for helping proofread the jokes in the formatted (non-monospace) sections of the archive. Thanks to George Doscher, Jane Ring, "BARBARA," who assisted when Rec.Humor.Funny was on GEnie as the TeleJoke Round Table.

Thanks of course to Maddi Hausmann and Jim Griffith for carrying the flame.


- Brad Templeton

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