Millennials no longer answer the call of the classic Knock Knock joke
“Sorry… do you mean TikTok?
“No. Knock, knock….look, just say ‘Who’s there?’”
“OK, ‘Who’s there?’”
“Avenue heard this joke before?”
The response, from most millennials, will be an eye roll and a “No”. For, a survey has revealed, a precious part of our cultural heritage faces extinction.
Because we are no longer answering the call of the classic Knock, Knock joke.
Changing tastes in humour and entertainment fuelled by the popularity of social media mean 20 per cent of under 30s have never even heard of the gags.
And a further 75 per cent of all ages think the quips “old fashioned” or “not as funny as they used to be”.
As a lover of bad puns, and end-of-the-pier shows, I was always going to find these survey results depressing.
But with so many young people now locked indoors, feeling isolated and miserable, laughter feels like a tragedy.
Knock, Knock jokes are a part of our history, first used by William Shakespeare in Macbeth in 1606.
They flourished in the days of variety and musical hall and then on the radio shows of the 20s and 30s.
They have adapted to changing times (Knock, knock. Who’s there? Europe. Europe who? No, you’re a poo!) and cultural shifts (Knock, knock. Who’s there? A little old lady. A little old lady who? I didn’t know you could yodel.)
But they have always been hugely popular with children and, psychologists say, play a valuable role in cognitive and linguistic development.
The ability to grasp Knock, Knock shows a child or five or six is learning the rules of conversation.
It also broadens their vocabulary and teaches them riddles and word-play.
And, of course, it demonstrates that laughter is bonding and life-affirming. We all find different things funny.
The late great Sir Ken Dodd kept a “giggle map” of Great Britain, charting which gags went down best in different regions.
He knew comedy styles evolve and our personal “chuckle muscles” change as we grow.
But, he said, “laughter is the greatest gift that human beings possess” and we must never miss the chance to share it.
So it’s tragic that we are closing our ears to the gentle Knock, Knock joke.
He is still out there in the cold and dark, beaming his cheesy grin, waiting for us to answer.
So can’t we open the door, just a crack, and let the laughter back in?