Back to So Long, And Thanks For Laughing
From my entire childhood, there is one memory that stands out among all other memories - the phenomenon that is the Panda Joke. Read on to discover this lost treasure of the comedy world.
I think I was told this joke many many many years ago by my father, who has probably since forgotten it. I think I kept it to myself, chuckling inside, for quite some time before I began to tell it.
I don't remember exactly where I was, or why I decided to, but I told this joke to one of my friends and he burst out laughing (much to my surprise - I had no idea the Panda Joke was that funny) and just couldn't stop for several hours afterwards. Well then he and I spent some time raising the profile of this soon-to-be-cult joke, telling it to friends, relatives, neighbours, passers-by, hamsters, whoever. Quite quickly a pattern became evident in who found it funny, and who didn't. The people I told it to laughed, and the people I didn't, didn't.
It soon became obvious that what makes the Panda Joke funny is not the punchline at all, but how the joke is told. So I ask you please, read this joke slowly and imagine every full-stop lasts an age. If you're telling this joke to other people, the key is timing. Make sure you say it slowly, dead-pan and leaving enough pause at each dramatic moment.
Now, for your consumption, the Panda Joke:
Picture a bar. Not a particularly special bar, but reasonably posh. The menu oozes with cocktails of all varieties, and panini and capuccino adorn multi-coloured cardboard triangles on the tables. In the corner is a shiny black grand piano, and a tuxedo-wearing gentleman stands behind the bar, waiting to take your order. Several groups of suit-wearing individuals are gathered around the tables, drinking quietly and making polite conversation with each other, minding their own business.
Suddenly, in walks a panda1. He swings the door open, almost hitting the doorman in the face, and storms towards the bar, totally disregarding the other customers. He slams his fist down on the bar and shouts "FOOD!". The other customers stop talking and turn momentarily to see what the commotion is, returning to their food when they realise it is just an angry panda.
"I'm dreadfully sorry, sir. We cannot serve food to customers unless they are drinking here," says the barman, politely. The panda's only response is to slam his fist down on the bar and once again, shout "FOOD!".
"I'm really sorry, sir. If you are not going to buy a drink, there is no way we can serve you food," says the barman again. The panda's response is different this time. He reaches into his fur, and casually pulls out a 9mm handgun. He points it at the barman, and once again shouts "FOOD!".
"Um, certainly sir. We shall get the food to you as soon as we can. Please, take a seat," says the barman with a frightened look on his face. The panda replaces the gun in his fur and sits at one of the vacant tables.
A few moments later, a waiter brings the food out of the kitchen door and places it on the panda's table. Almost immediately, the panda begins to guzzle the food very noisily. The whole plate is finished in a minute or two.
A few minutes later, the panda still sitting at the table, a pianist2 walks out of the kitchen door and begins to play a happy ragtime tune at the grand piano.
The panda appears displeased with this change of events, and reaches once again into his fur to draw the handgun. Before anyone can make a move, the panda shoots the pianist in the back of the head, killing him immediately. The pianist falls flat onto the keyboard of the piano, making a discordant "thunk" noise on the keys.
The panda grins to himself3, and starts to collect himself to leave. At this point, the barman snaps. "I've had enough of you, son," he says. "You walk into my pub, you demand food without a drink, and then you shoot my best pianist. And on top of that, you're going to leave without paying?" he screams. The panda simply nods his head and says, "I'm a panda". With that, he storms towards the door.
The barman quickly chases after the panda, but is too late. As the panda makes his way out of the door, he throws something in the barman's direction. The mystery object just misses the barman by a few inches, but still manages to stun him for long enough to allow the panda to escape. As the barman regains his whereabouts, he notices the mystery object was in fact a dictionary, with a bookmark in it.
Opening the dictionary, the barman notices the page that is bookmarked is the very page that contains the entry for "panda". Suddenly, it dawns on him why the panda behaved the way he did, as he reads "panda, n. Large black-and-white mammal from East Asia. Eats shoots and leaves."