I am kind of an expert in bad jokes. That's what happens when you are German Eurocrat – you hear quite a lot of them. Unfortunately, not many of them are extraordinarily funny (see infographic). Which is weird, given the current state of the Union. Jokes are some sort of Carthasis, so there should be many more EU jokes around.
And don't tell me this is because the corrupted politicians & eurocrats censor the net. We don't. Things have changed. No need to hold back in public anymore.
Things were slightly different when I was a kid in Eastern Germany. I remember that it was very popular to make fun of people from Ostfriesland, a small region at the German-Dutch boarder. Those jokes were strictly non-political and not funny – they could be told in public without a problem.
Why do people in Ostfriesland stand at their windows smiling during a thunderstorm?
They think someone is taking their picture.
When I grew older, I started getting the more delicate jokes that grown-ups told after dinner when they had a few beers too much. The stuff they told you not to tell at school.
The first of these I ever heard was about Erich Honecker (last leader of the GDR and defender of world peace), Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan surviving a plane crash that left them stranded in a jungle among cannibals. I cannot repeat it here for reasons of decorum.
More refined but equally political were the jokes about Radio Yerevan (now capital of Armenia, back then part of the USSR). Their basic idea was turning central Communist propaganda messages – "We are better of then the Imperialists" – upside down. You can find loads of them on the Internet.
Why is our government not in a hurry to land our men on the moon?
What if they refuse to return?
Similar stuff existed in all Eastern Bloc countries. Here is one from my home:
What is the favourite sport of Eastern Germans?
Bob slide: a wall to the east, a wall to the west and its always downhill.
Well, it had to end. Cracking jokes only helps so long; people finally wanted something else. When the wall came down in 1989, jokes changed as well.
For Germans, the new jokes were about Ossis & Wessis, now more or less happily reunited (Ossi = people from Eastern Germany). There are two versions of these, always depending on the perspective.
Why are Chinese people always smiling?
Their wall is still standing.
This one was told more often by Wessis (e.g. check the "My first banana" cover of Wessi humoristic magazin Titanic). Ossis took their revenge:
Ossi, Wessi and an African wait for their women to give birth. After a while a nurse comes and says: "It's all good, but I am afraid we made a little mistake and swapped the babies." The Ossis runs into the delivery room and grabs the black baby. On his way out, the nurse stops him: "This surely can't be your child!" Ossi: "Doesn't matter as long as it's not a Wessi!"
Despite such gems, being German remains tough humor-wise. I got used to the Nazi jokes, what really hurts is the ignorance towards our humoristic capabilities. Ask any German about great political humorists from the country of Goethe & Schiller and they will rattle down a few names (Loriot, Gerhard Polt and others that I do not remember now). Behold the famous German proverb: Who laughs last, laughs best.
Becoming a Eurocrat added insult to injury, in a manner of speaking. The question is: has the current European crisis improved the standing of EU or Eurocrat jokes? I asked around to see if some of my colleagues had heard something funny about the EU. My Greek colleague didn't answer. My Polish colleague found this:
What has to change to make Polish roads meet EU standards?
And because they are very short, another one:
What do EU funds have in common with aliens?
You hear about them, but you never see them.
I know, this doesn't make you roll on the floor, but it's a start. Even with the demise of communism, political jokes still have a future in Europe. So let me close with my very own contribution to the European History of Political Jokes:
What's Germany's latest attempt at promoting austerity in Europe?
We are only making cheap jokes now.