Czech humor is limitless. Czechs laugh at anything and like there’s no tomorrow. Their unique and often ironic sense of humor helped them survive very dark periods of their history. So come and have a peak, learn some typical jokes and maybe understand the humorous side of Czech nature. But be warned, this is not an article for those who are ready to be offended by anything! Because, as a famous Czech joke says, the sense of humor is like legs – some people have it, others don’t…
(The featured picture is the work of Vladimír Renčín, Czech master of joke sketches. Visit his gallery here.)
Monty Python’s Michael Palin once said that Czechs have the world’s best sense of humor because they feel everything is up for laughter, and do not have a laughter ceiling like other nations. It’s no surprise that this came, from all of the nations of the world, from an Englishman. The English humor is actually quite close to the Czech one.
They just have a feeling that everything is up for laughter, which the British have as well, and which some other countries just don’t have. There is a sort of laughter ceiling in certain countries. But not here, and not in the Czech Republic for some reason.
– Sir Michael Palin (Channel 5 in June of 2019).
When Czechs go to the theatre, they usually dress up for this social event. And if they go see a comedy, they laugh until they slobber and bray uncontrollably no matter the nice dress and jewelry they’re wearing.
Czech humor during oppression
The jokes came from everyday situations and also as a reaction to the political situation. During WWII and the 40-year-long communist period one could be executed for expressing an opinion and the jokes often mocked the political establishment.
The CIA sent an agent to destroy our economy. After some time the agent wrote a report saying: My work is useless here. They have an organization here with that purpose, it’s called KSČ (Communist Party of Czechoslovakia).
Communists are like chandeliers – good for nothing if they’re not hanging.
And the jokes didn’s stop there, they dared to touch the untouchables:
Radio report from Kremlin at 6 am: Our beloved comrade Lenin has just urinated. Radio report from Kremlin at 7 am: Our beloved comrade Lenin has just defecated. Radio report from Kremlin at 8 am: Our beloved comrade Lenin has just woken up.
And there were, of course, the stereotypical Jewish jokes like:
Two Jews are in a dessert, dying of thirst. One of them says: I wish we had fifty bottles of water! To which the other one replies: Yes, imagine the profit!
The 1990ies were a time of freedom the Czechs haven’t experienced for years. It included freedom of speech and nothing was too sacred to make fun of. And so besides language jokes and political satire there were jokes about race, religion, death and famine.
What are the 2 smallest books in the world? The Gypsy labor code and the Somali cookbook.
Very Black Czech Humor
Jokes like the one from the introduction to this article are very common in the Czech humor. There are jokes about death, injuries and accidents, traumatizing experiences. Sometimes also reproduced by people who suffered these losses. The following is the best example of the most black humor possible:
What is the best present for a dead child? A dead puppy.
Some people say it helps them keep their positive attitude to be able to laugh at the life adversities. By no means are we saying that every Czech person feels like this but this kind of humor has been a huge part of Czech culture.
– Children, do you like grandma?
– Yes, we do, a lot!
– So go take another piece, there’s some left in the oven!
Children, stop poking grandpa’s ear! Children, stop putting peas up grandpa’s nose! Children, better close that casket and go play elsewhere!
Johny, dear, stop running in circles or I’ll nail your other foot to the floor as well!
Black and morbid humor doesn’t leave Czechs in hard times, in fact, hard times are perfect for inspiration! When the Prague cake shop Černá Madona (Black Madonna) started selling a dessert that looked like the COVID-19 virus, many other shops followed and started serving it alongside with two other famous Czech desserts – rakvička (“little coffin”) and věneček (“little wreath”).
Humor in Advertisements
Czech humor is also very apparent in advertisement. Take this for instance:
This is an ad on a mobile WC booth saying “Your shit – our bucks”.
And here’s to give you an example of Czech black humor per excellence combined with national stereotype jokes (English subs):
Jokes about other nationalities
Czechs love jokes about other nationalities and of course they’re based on the stereotypes!
An English lord is in his mansion talking to his servant.
– Jean, would you be so kind as to bring me a glass of water?
– Yes, of course, sir.
– Jean, please bring me another glass of water.
– Yes, of course, sir.
– Jean, another glass of water.
– Yes, of course, sir. Might I ask why the lord needs so much water all of a sudden?
– (calmly) The house is on fire, Jean.
A German, an American and a Russian meet in heaven and speak about how they died. The German says: I got a fast BMW for my birthday and crushed into the nearest tree. The American says: I got a jet for my birthday and crushed into a rock. And the Russian says: My brother got a new bicycle for his birthday and I starved to death.
And if there’s a nationality the Czechs love to mock, it’s themselves:
Three sharks talk about what they had for lunch. The first one says: I had a German tourist, he was delicious, though a bit fatty. The second shark says: I had an Italian tourist, he was all bones and muscle. And the third shark says: I had a Czech tourist, he was tender and no spine at all!
And there are – of course – several spiteful jokes directed at Prague:
A Praguer is drinking from the Parnas fountain in Brno when a local comes to him and says: Why you do that, pal? Gypsies make piss in there. The Prague says: Excuse me sir, I don’t understand you, you know, I’m from Prague. And the local replies: Drink slowly, it’s cold.
A Praguer asks a local in Ostrava: Howdy mate, d’ya know how I can get to the center of this village? And the local replies: With that accent, you won’t.
And a short video at the end of this chapter:
“Die Simulantenbande – Češi”
“A bunch of malingerers – Czechs”
Recently, the political correctness has become more evident in the Czech Republic, people are practicing more auto-censorship and especially young people are starting to ostracize others for jokes they consider insensitive.
Moreover, the events of the recent years on the international scene showed that some jokes are not just unacceptable in certain societies but may also be a thread to one’s life. And so certain jokes are once again told only in a intimate company, just like their were during WWII or the communism.
Let’s remember a show called Česká soda (Czech Soda) which was hugely popular in the 1990ies. It was the perfect example of the fact that humor has no boundaries. No topic was a taboo and although such a show wouldn’t be allowed on TV today, people still love it. Here’s to give you a little example (YouTube is eliminating the Česká Soda videos for violating its policies):
One of the videos recently eliminated by Youtube is the mock advertisement on a washing powder called Árijec in which a housewife bathes a gipsy child in this powder and makes him into a white child. What would today be considered an insensitive racial joke was actually more of a wordplay (the name of the washing powder Ariel resembles the word Árijec which means “Aryan”). Before actually eliminating the video, Youtube restricted it because you can see a little child in the bathtub. Nobody would consider it sexual in any way in the 90ies. At least not in the Czech Republic where seeing small children run around naked especially in summer was something very normal.
The political satire is omnipresent in the Czech Republic. No one is spared, not even the president:
In the 90ies there was a famous show called Gumáci making fun of the highest political charges of that time:
Currently the most popular object of jokes is the absurdity of the covid-restrictions introduced by the Czech government (discos can open but it’s forbidden to dance there) as well as the fact that Ministers of Health keep changing almost every month (5 ministers in 2021 by May).
Jokes don’t mean hatred
What people from other parts of the world sometimes don’t understand is that Czech jokes, even the insensitive ones, have nothing to do with hatred. You’ll hear elderly Czech men in a pub telling wheelchair jokes. And then they’ll go and remodel the pub entrance in their free time so their wheelchair-bound friend can come to the pub with them.
You’ll hear jokes about earthquakes, tsunami and about famine in Somalia from people who send billions every year to help poor people in other countries. And from people who decide to go to those countries to do charity work.
How to enjoy Czech humor
So how to actually enjoy Czech humor or at least survive it without having your feelings hurt? First of all, remember that it’s all just jokes. They’re not meant seriously and they weren’t invented to offend you.
Enjoy that you’re among people who tell jokes about anything and YOU can joke about anything! Don’t forget that laughter is the best medicine and it makes you live longer! Remember how short life is and that it’s not worth getting angry because of a joke.
And if you think you still don’t have enough, just look for “Česká soda” on YouTube and let’s see where your limits are!