San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Can You Take a Joke?

Jokes are heard around the world. Humor emerges even under stressful conditions as a way of enduring the intolerable. Here in peaceful Costa Rica, humor ranks high and conversations are spiked with laughs and uninhibited comments.

The driver of a tour bus reminds passengers he will stay with the bus and they can leave things with him, such as lunch and snacks. And a vendor at the farm market calls out that all products are vastly reduced “por motivo de viaje” (travel reasons) – he wants to go home.

Here are some local jokes garnered from various sources.Not all jokes can be translated, but these are funny in English or Spanish (at least I think so).

If humans are descended from apes, and dogs are descended from wolves, and cats are descended from tigers, from where are spiders descended?

The ceiling.

How many famous men were born in Costa Rica?

None. Only babies are born.

What animal eats with its tail?

They all do. They don’t take their tails off to eat.

What do you give an elephant with diarrhea?

Lots of room.

A reporter asks a man on a fishing boat, “Has the government’s new fishing policy produced any fruit?”

“No, ma’am. Only fish.”

A woman asks a passerby, “What’s the quickest way to get to the hospital?”

A man answers, “Step in the street and get hit by a car.”

A man falls into a deep ravine and can’t climb out.

“Help!” he shouts. “Anybody up there who can get me out of here? Somebody help me!” After yelling for a time he hears an echoic voice from above: “Son, I will help you and bring you up to heaven with me.”

The man shouts back,“Isn’t there anybody else up there?”

A woman standing in a crowded bus looks around at all the men seated and says, “Aren’t there any gentlemen here?”

One of the comfortably seated men answers, “Sure there are gentlemen here. The problem is there aren’t any seats.”

A poor man courting a lady friend presses her to set a wedding date.

Primero de enero (first of January),” she promises.

When January arrives with no wedding, he asks what happened.

Primero de enero, no,” she responds.

¡Primero el dinero! (First the money!)”

Pepito jokes are notorious, but most run into several pages. This one fits:

Pepito ran home crying because a workman at a construction site fell from the scaffold and broke his neck. “It was an accident,” said his mother. “Why are you so upset?”

“Because his last words were for me,” answered Pepito.

“Really? What did he say?”

“Don’t shake the scaffold.”

Colmo jokes are not really jokes, but everyone knows some. A colmo is best described as the worst thing that can happen.

These take more imagination to get:

What is the colmo of a druggist?

Having to close the drug store because there’s no other remedy.

What is the colmo of a panda?

Having pictures taken in color and having them come out in black and white.

This anecdote is not really a joke and in all probability is apocryphal. It’s taken from Miguel Salguero’s book on the war between Cartago and San José following independence.

According to the story, the josefinos (San José folks) knew that most of the men from Cartago were named Fernando, so they would yell out “Fernando!” and, when all the Fernandos stood up, shoot them down.

However, the cartaginenses (Cartago folks) knew that most of the men in San José were named Juan, so they would yell out “Juan!” But the wily josefinos would call back, “Which Juan?” and when the cartaginenses stood up to point, they were shot down. As a result, Cartago lost the war and the capital.

Someone suggested that these sound like fifth-grade jokes. Very well. You can all safely tell them to your 10-year-olds.


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