If you’re an English-speaking foreigner living in Japan and are prone to cracking jokes, it won’t be long before someone responds to something you’ve said with a shrug of the shoulders and the phrase “American joke”. This used to confuse me immensely (“but, but, I’m not American!”) before I realised that an Amerikan Jōku doesn’t have to be told by an American, or be related to the United States in any way. It’s just what you say in Japan when you have the feeling the person you’re talking to is making a joke, but you don’t really understand what’s funny – and want to avoid the potential awkwardness of explicitly saying so.

Today we bring you 10 “American jokes” posted to Japanese website 2channel. Impress and appall your Japanese friends in equal measure by trying out one of these painful puns on them. Who says humour doesn’t translate?

1. Shakey ground



Totti’s girlfriend tells him: “Everyone’s talking about how dumb you are. You should read more. What about Shakespeare? You must’ve read Shakespeare, right?”

“Of course I have! Who was the author of that again?”

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2. Puzzling


ジグソーパズルの箱をみると「3 years+(3歳児用)」

Totti is showing off his jigsaw puzzle to his team-mate. “I’m so smart! I finished this in only three months!” On the box, it says ‘3 years+’”

Not sure why “American jokes” seem to consist of laughing at Italian footballers? Me neither, but apparently he’s quite the wise-cracker.

3. So sorry…


Girl: What’s up?

Guy: I’m worried about something. Leave me alone, would ya?

Girl: Hmmm. Sorry to change the subject, but is your hairline thinning?

Guy: I thought you said you were gonna change the subject…

▼ Fact of the day: in Japanese this gentleman has “bā-cōdo hea” (barcode hair).  



 4. The good news


Wife:  Darling, I have good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?
Husband:  Really? …. Erm, OK. The good news.
Wife:  The good news is, your car’s airbags work perfectly!

Casual sexism: About as funny in Japanese as it is in English.



 5. Call me Mike


A guy goes to the city office to pay his taxes.
“Next please! Your name?”
“M-m-m-m-m-m-m-michael S-s-s-s-s-s-s-smith.”
“Alright buddy, try to calm down.”
“I’m fine, but my dad was a bit nervous when he went to register my birth.”

6. Easy as pie


“Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a hundred times.”



7. Do as I say…

A 「ものすごく嫌いなやつに会ったら、おまえどうする?」
B 「もちろん無視して逃げるさ。・・・おい・何処行くんだよ、おい!無視すんなよ!」

A: What do you do when you meet someone you really don’t like?
B: I just ignore them and try to escape… Hey! Where are you going? Don’t ignore me!

8. You learned what?!


Student: Teacher! I learned how to count in the winter vacation!
Teacher: That’s great! Go on, show us.
Student: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King…

9. If you want to…


Taking his eight-year-old son to school, a father makes an illegal turn at a red light.
“Oh no! I just broke the law!” he says.
“It’s ok, Daddy. The police car behind us just did the same thing.”


10. English time

先生:「I go to Tokyo」を過去形にしなさい。はい、太郎君!
太郎:「I go to Edo」

Teacher: “I go to Tokyo.” Change this sentence to the past tense, Tarou!
Tarou (student): “I go to Edo.”

It’s a bit hard to see how this is supposed to be an “American joke”, as it’s a joke in Japanese, about Japanese people, in Japan, talking about Japanese history. But I’ve left it in because it’s kind of clever in a painfully enjoyable way.

Which of these “American jokes” works the best (read: worst)? What’s your favourite Japanese joke? Let us know in the comments!

Source: 2channel via Tetsugaku News nwk
Top image: syrianperspective