Chocolate milk!

On Sunday evening, I finally remembered to tell the "chocolate milk!" joke:

There are two penguins on an ice floe, drifting north into warmer waters. These penguins are very fond of each other, but they don't speak English very well. Suddenly, with a terrific crack, the ice floe splits in half, right between the penguins. As they begin drifting apart, one penguin sadly waves a flipper and calls out, "Chocolate milk!"

It's been a long time since I've told it in person; I had forgotten how disconcerting it is to finish the joke and have a room full of people look at you blankly.

It's a joke that gets funnier over time. The first time people hear it, most of them will look at you blankly. But then (if I remember right; it's been a while since I've done this) if you tell it to a mixed group of people who've heard it and people who haven't, the ones who've heard it before will sort of smile to themselves. And the next time they hear it, they might laugh a little, struck by the absurdity of the joke and by the blank stares of the people who haven't heard it before.

Eventually, it passes into folklore, and people start using "chocolate milk!" as a phrase of fond farewell.

I meant to tell this joke to Jay's extraordinarily charming five-(and-a-half-)year-old daughter Bronwyn, who might've been the right age to laugh at it even the first time (and, incidentally, who appears to be able to levitate), but I forgot.

25 Responses to “Chocolate milk!”

  1. Joe

    Hee hee hee… I don’t see why people need to hear it multiple times before appreciating the humor. I thought it was great right away when I read it. I actually laughed out loud, which, of course, prompted my coworkers to ask me what was so funny. Tragically, none of them got it. <sigh>

  2. Joe

    D’oh! I’ve developed this habit of writing &rt; instead of &gt; for the closing angle bracket, which is, of course, wrong. <sigh>

  3. Jed

    Edited your first comment to make the angle bracket come out right. I can see why you’d write “rt,” though: if “lt” is the left angle bracket, why wouldn’t “rt” be the right one? 🙂 (For those unfamiliar with these entity names, the abbreviations actually stand for “less than” and “greater than”.)

  4. Will

    Er . . . um . . . I don’t get it 🙁

  5. Jed

    There isn’t anything in particular to “get.” It’s just silly. And like I said, it gets funnier over time, and with retelling.

  6. SarahP

    The telling of the telling of the joke was definitely funnier than the original telling. Well, I laughed, anyway!

  7. Jenn Reese

    Nope, still not getting it. But maybe a few dozen more times and I’ll crack a smile.

    But, you were definitely very cute when you were telling it, if that helps. 🙂

  8. David Moles

    It’s like the joke about the number of surrealists it takes to change a light bulb, only without the light bulb or the surrealists.

  9. Heather Shaw

    Ditto Sarah on it getting funnier.

    Ditto Jenn on how you were cute when telling it.

    Chocolate Milk for now!

  10. Dan

    Oh! How strange.

    One of my favorite jokes as a kid was strikingly similar to this, except with even less patina of almost-logic. They were polar bears instead of penguins, there wasn’t any mention of them not speaking English very well, they weren’t being parted (just walking along at the top and the bottom of a ridge on the glacier), and the phrase was “ice cream cone.” Between the polar bear joke and “what’s the difference between a duck?”, I could consistently induce uncontrollable giggles in myself and baffled looks from those around me.

    I’d love to know how the two versions diverged. When/where did you hear the penguin joke?

  11. David Moles

    I thought everyone knew that the difference between a duck is that one of its legs is both the same.

  12. Jed

    I believe that I heard the penguin joke in college (so southeastern Pennsylvania), probably sometime around 1986-1987, from Rob Smith. I assumed he’d learned it back home in Tahoe. But when I asked him for more information about the joke some years later, he said he’d never heard it. So maybe someone else told it to me and I just attributed it to Rob, I dunno.

    Re David’s duck comment: see column G, “Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?“, for some more surrealist riddles. See column W, “Gang Aft Agley,” for two more penguin jokes, one of which is much funnier.

  13. Vera

    Not gettin; it… 🙁

    Ok, so is the joke in the fact that there is really NO joke and it is the reaction of the people that makes it a joke?

    Or am I once again missing something from Basic American Culture here? Hate it when that happens… 🙂

  14. David Moles

    No, Vera, I don’t think you’re missing anything.

  15. Jon Hansen

    Vera, think it’s the first and not the second.

    Reminds me of a joke my friend used to tell when I was in high school; can’t remember what it was called (something to do with blue elephants), it took twenty minutes to tell, and the punchline was not worth it. Amusement came from watching the frustration of those who didn’t know how it went and wanted him to hurry up and get to the end.

  16. Dan

    See, I always heard that one leg was twice the same… 🙂

    Vera: to me, the funny aspect of the polar bear joke (here, the penguin joke) was that it set itself up as a joke but didn’t wrap up like one. The pleasure came from the feeling of expectations being redirected, not so much from audience reactions — it was just as funny told silently in my head. Of course, I’ve always had a soft spot for the whimsically surreal: Rene Magritte, Shel Silverstein, playing audio tapes at double speed, peach ice cream with pickled beets on top (just the once, it was a crime of opportunity)…

  17. Nao

    It’s always been the surreality of it for me. And something about the penguins being so wistful and not thinking of swimming to join each other… The memory of Jed’s expression while he tells this always helps, too.


    *double take*
    peach ice cream with pickled beets on top!?!

    “Crime” is the word, I think. Have you ever pickled hard-boiled eggs in with the beets? They’re excellent. And they turn such a lovely shade of magenta.

  18. Jed

    I think for me a lot of the appeal has to do with the penguins being fond of each other but not speaking English very well. Both of those things are endearingly odd things to say about penguins, and the juxtaposition of them (as if they’re obviously connected) tickles my funnybone.

  19. Dan

    Nao: I *love* the beet-pickled eggs. It’s been forever since I’ve had them. Given that I keep company with a philistine beet-hater (both pickled and non-), I doubt I’ll be having them any time soon. They were part of the main meal just before the criminal desert, which I do remember being tasty. The memory is slightly hazy; I was seven or eight at the time.

    Jed: I forgot to mention above that I like your penguins version better than the polar bear one I knew because it adds a cute sort of pathos to the funny frame shift.

  20. Nao

    Dan: I’ve got a recipe for pickled beets (and eggs). They’re easy. Want a copy? You can make yourself a huge jar and eat them at your leisure. Mmm. Now I think I want to buy some beets…

  21. Dan

    Yes, please, send it on!

  22. Nao

    Dan: Sorry, it took me a while to find the pickled beet instructions. I ended up having to ask my mother!

    I’ve posted them to my LiveJournal.

  23. Wayman

    Huh … on August 26, 2003, I apparently totally didn’t get this joke, but this is the previously-by-me referred to joke that I have conflated with whatever joke has the end-line “No soap, radio!”, and have always replaced “chocolate milk!” with that; and the resulting new joke I have found the absolute funniest thing ever.

    Weird. Humor is weird. I’ll have to experiment with it as “chocolate milk!” and see if that works for me now.

  24. Jed

    For comparison, the version of the No soap, radio joke that I’m familiar with was in one of my columns (which is also the first place I posted the chocolate milk joke). “No soap, radio” also involves two penguins talking to each other, so it’s not surprising that the two jokes might get mixed.

    (That column also features my other favorite penguin joke, about the truckload of penguins on the way to the zoo.)

  25. Shmuel

    I apparently missed the later comments in this thread before… I’d always heard the “No soap radio” joke as being about two elephants in a bathtub.

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