Humor is one of those concepts that is impossible to translate literally. So much more depends on the jokes told than the mere words used. Nuances and cultural context add invisible layers that can trip non-native speakers up. In the past, when I watched humoristes (comedians) with my family and even when I understood the words, often, the punchline fell flat. I’d sit there wondering how those around me were giggling. As time passed, I began to find myself also amused as opposed to bewildered.
When you find yourself laughing at a French joke, you can feel proud of the accomplishment and secure in the knowledge that you have truly learned the language and its culture. In the meantime, here are some jokes that might lend you some insight into the French mentality, and thus, its humor. Regardless, hopefully a few of these French jokes make you smile, if not laugh.
A Closer Look at Some French Jokes
First French Joke
Who hasn’t begged their parents for ice cream? Points to this precocious French boy for at least attempting to appeal to his father’s empathetic side and twist buying ice cream into doing a good deed!
French: Julien demande 10 euros à son père.
– C’est pour quoi faire?
– Pour donner à une vieille dame !
– C’est très bien de vouloir l’aider ! Et où est cette vieille dame?
– Là-bas, elle vend des glaces !
English: Julien asks his dad for 10 euros.
– What is it for?
– To give to an old lady!
– It’s very good to want to help her! So, where is this old lady?
– Over there. She sells ice cream!
A Little Absurdist Humor
Don’t overthink some jokes. The French have a flair for absurdity and wry humor that sometimes sounds just silly enough. Hint: the answer might make you roll your eyes and shake your head, it’s so obvious and groan-worthy.
– Qu’est-ce qui est petit, rond, vert, et qui monte et qui descend ?
– Un petit pois dans un ascenseur !
– What is small, round, green and goes up and down?
– A pea in an elevator!
A French Joke for Alphabet Practice
This play on words will help you not only practice your French alphabet, but review or learn a new word! Remember to read it out loud and pronounce the alphabet in French to get the French joke! Don’t forget that the French word for “aged/old” is âgé.
– Quelles sont les deux plus vieilles lettres de l’alphabet?
– C’est clair: A, G
– What are the two oldest letters in the alphabet?
– It’s obvious: A, G
More Humor from France
A pressing dilemma for some is amusement for others. If you’re in a hurry, the phrase être pressé will serve you well, as it means pressed for time. Of course, as English also has borrowed many words from French, presser is “press”. This fruit maman is clearly worried about the well-being of her yellow, round babies being rushed to an unfortunately pressé ending.
– Une maman citron dit à ses enfants : “Pour vivre longtemps, il ne faut jamais être pressé !”
– A mother lemon says to her children: “To live for a long time, you must never be pressed!”
A Joke to Demonstrate French Sarcasm
French people are smart alecks and sarcastic, and their French jokes can reflect this often. Sarcasm is shared by the young and old in France, even present in small children, as the poor teacher in this following joke is soon to discover.
– La maîtresse dit à son élève :
– “Jules ! Je t’ai dit de dessiner ton animal préféré ! Et tu n’as rien fait ! “
– Jules répond : ” Mais si, Madame ! J’ai dessiné mon chat noir en pleine nuit !”
– Teacher says to her student:
– Jules! I told you to draw your favorite animal. You haven’t done anything!
– Jules answers: “But I did, Madame! I drew my black cat on a dark night!”
A Final French Joke for the Day
I think you could guess that many languages enjoy poking fun at delusions, and the occasional therapy session is also a target for a French joke. Exaggerating everyday situations is something that the French enjoy doing, especially if they can point out potentially silly situations in a clever way.
– Le psychanalyste: Qu’est-ce qui ne va pas avec votre frère ?
– La sœur : Il pense qu’il est un poulet.
– Le psychanalyste : Et il se comporte comme un poulet depuis quand ?
– La soeur : Trois ans maintenant. On serait bien venus plus tôt, mais on avait besoin de ses œufs…
– The psychoanalyst: What’s wrong with your brother?
– The sister: He thinks that he’s a chicken.
– The psychoanalyst: And how long has he been behaving like a chicken?
– The sister: Three years now. We wanted to come earlier, but we needed his eggs…
This list is by no means exhaustive nor fully representative of the types of French jokes that you can come across, but hopefully you have enjoyed them and learned a few useful new words, as well as gained a deeper understanding of what French people consider funny.
Jokes are really useful not just for your own entertainment, but also in ice breaker situations, and push you to delve deeper into French culture. Watching French TV series is a great way to be exposed to casual French conversation and humor, and our experienced French language instructors are also right here at your disposal to assist in your language learning process!