Have you heard the one about….

Complete Book of Ethnic HumorComplete Book of Ethnic Humor

Submitter: I found this ridiculous gem in our humour section: The Complete Book of Ethnic Humor by Larry Wilde, copyright 1978. Amazingly, we own not just one, but two copies of this, and it has been checked out as recently as 2008. The table of contents lists ethnicities in alphabetical order (although ethnic classifications such as “Gypsies” may be up for debate.) Each chapter is prefaced with a highly insensitive cartoon drawing of the group engaging in some stereotype.

My favorite part is the Foreword which says “Ethnic humor in America has a strong heritage…At first, white men blackened their faces and made people laugh.” Yeah, ha ha.

Holly: Oh. My. Gosh.  Again, I am just floored by what is out there on library shelves!  I can take a joke.  Really, I can.  But TWO copies??

Mary:  This picture doesn’t look like any of my relatives at all.  They are a lot taller. (Weed this pronto!)


  1. OMG. We had this book when I was a kid! I remember reading it and not really understanding why it was funny to put people down. I think the same guy also had a “Complete Book of Dirty Jokes,” but I wouldn’t swear to that.

  2. haha! I found this book a few years ago (garage sale I think) and had to have it – it sits in my collection of historical books, but it remains unread except for the occasional flick-through and wince.

    I think it’s value is now primarily as a history of society’s values

    Interestingly, this book was also featured on TripleJ radio’s “hack” journalist/current affairs show last year.

    1. In junior high there were these two boys who’s company I had to often endure. One had a father who was racist so he told nothing but racist jokes. The other told nothing but sex jokes. So I bought every single “Clean Jokes” book I could find – all by the same author. All the books had a section dedicated to a made up country called Smogaria and the people are Smogarians.

      A few years ago when going through those books for the first time since jr. high I realized that all he did was take every single Polish joke and substituted the word Smogarian.

  3. I can’t believe that this book was actually published as recently as 1978 (only a year before I was born) !

    1. TF…the 70’s were at the height of perfectly acceptable “pollock” jokes….don’t be surprised at all.

      Re. Gypsies or Romani people are very much a distinctively ethnic people and more than a few people (unfortunately) still use the term “gypped”.

      1. Wow, I really had absolutely no idea that the term “gypped” came from the word gypsy. In fact, if you had asked me how to spell it, I would have guessed “jipped.” Time to cut it out of my vocabulary.

  4. Haha, I need to get a copy of this book. My husband and I are of two totally different cultures and we’re running out of things to make fun of each other about, this should come in handy!!!

  5. Many years ago I worked for the publisher who published these Larry Wilde joke books. Yes, he did do the Book of Dirty Jokes, and MANY other unsavory titles (Official Sex Maniac’s Joke Book, Official Polish Joke Book, Official Book of John Jokes, Official Black Folks Joke Book, etc. etc.). But back in the day, we didn’t bat an eye at these, and they sold like hotcakes! Now, probably most people would be embarrassed to bring something like this up to the register!

  6. I guess I’m unpretentious enough to find it funny. Sorry, I’m a bad person. At least its equal-opportunity and the caricatures are well drawn.

    “Comedy and stereotypes go hand in hand…That’s why intellectuals have a hard time with humor” — Nelson George

    1. I’ve noticed that Swiss people often have a problem with humor too. ha ha ha

      I’m a liberal but I still like to laugh at jokes like Seinfeld, but all this PC hand wringing by post-modern folks is REALLY annoying. There’s a reason why the sixties could never happen again—nobody would allow it. We’ve become sanitary napkin-ized as a society.

  7. In Europe, Gypsies are very definitely considered a separate ethnic group.

  8. The closest thing I’ve read to a book of “ethnic humor” was German Humor: On the Fritz. As a German American myself, I found it hilarious and often embarrassingly true. But anything that discusses blackface as though it were something to celebrate is a good weeder for a public library.

  9. Good to see the bartender is pouring whisky into a pint glass! The artist has obviously done their research on Irish drinking habits.

    Being Irish the only fall I can see is normally the bartender is drunk too. Unless he’s from.. another ethnic background! There ya go, it goes deeper than I thought.

  10. Ugh. If someone brought this book up to me to check it out, I’d be so horrified and embarrassed that my shame would cause it to burst into flames.

  11. I doubt very much that this book is that complete… there have been innovations in raciest humour since 1978… maybe they have a newer addition?

  12. Re: Brian, Pretentious: I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  13. The ‘jokes’ CAN’T be more offensive than the cartoons, can they?

    In the UK it became politically correct to refer to Gypsies as ‘Travellers’, but until quite recently some pubs actually had signs which said NO TRAVELLERS. This would definitely lead to prosecution for illegal racism today, Gypsies are a recognised ethnic group.

    We do some library outreach work with travelling communities and they do not mind being called Gypsies. It’s from the word ‘Egyptian’, which is what Shakespeare would have called travelling folk. Note that they were much persecuted in the Nazi Holocaust.

  14. I always wondered how those dated raciest jokes kept making the rounds. Now I know: nefarious libraries!

    But really, are there WASP jokes?

  15. I didn’t realize librarians were so ready to censor books that people want because they don’t like the ideas in them. That wasn’t the impression I got when the American Library Association fought a law that would have required libraries to limit minors’ access to internet porn, when they fought to keep Madonna’s Sex book on the shelves, when I see the latest explicit rap CD’s in the media collection, etc., etc.

    1. Hey, just because we work in libraries doesn’t mean that some of us don’t wonder why some things are allowed on the shelves. Sometimes because the subject matter is offensive to us – like books by Holocaust deniers – and sometimes because the writing is so God awful bad you wonder who the “author” slept with to get that drivel published. *coughmumbleTwilightcough*

    2. Frank your comment is so true. I bet that most if not all of the people who are so offended by the ethnic jokes have taken part in demeaning Sarah Palin by mocking everything she says and does.

      1. Jean, there’s a difference between 1) being offended by ethnic jokes, 2) censorship, and 3) questioning whether a thirty-year-old book is still reflective enough of a community’s needs and beliefs to justify the shelf space it takes up.

        There is also a difference between mocking people because of their genes and mocking people because they think New Hampshire is in the northwest (I’m not saying that’s OK, I’m just saying it’s a very different thing to do). The jokes in this book have more in common with jokes mocking people with disabilities.

  16. A friend gave me a copy of this book for Christmas, some time in the 80s I think. She handed it over with that typical “I know you are going to LOVE this” remark that always accompanies a truly dud gift.

    In case you are wondering no, I did not love it, and no, it wasn’t funny. I had managed to bin it before the year was over.

  17. Ralph, Travellers and Rom/Sinti are not the same. Travellers are a cultural and/or linguistic group (and perhaps an ethnic subgroup, depending on which sociologists and anthropologists you agree with) of Irish people; Rom/Sinti are a distinct ethnic group as well as a distinct cultural, linguistic, and religious group.

    The Rom and Sinti were the “Gypsies” targeted for extermination by Hitler; Irish Travellers have also been called “Gypsies” but they do not self-identify as related to the Rom and Sinti (and vice-versa).

  18. These are perfectly funny and acceptable. This was what people said/talked about a lot in the 60’s-70’s…think Archie Bunker…it’s stupid,and funny. I’d keep it,it’s a social commentary.

  19. That bartender reminds me of Jackie Gleason’s character in the sketches with Crazy Guggenheim.

  20. Does this library also have a book of Helen Keller jokes?

    …just wondering because I might have to hit up the next Friends sale, and I’d have to start making travel plans…

  21. OK, I’ll admit it. I like ethnic jokes, especially the witty ones (Irish vs. Scots, Ole and Lena jokes, Thibideaux and Boudreaux jokes) because of the element of truth in a number of them. Yes, there are a fair number that are offensive to someone, which is probably why the book is still being checked out – the lure of the forbidden. I’d probably find the book entertaining. And my ancestry is Scottish-Irish-Cherokee-French-German-Jewish-Southern Baptist-Cajun, but we don’t talk about the Aggie in the family.

  22. “Miami-Dade County Library system has a copy…AND IT’S CHECKED OUT!!!!”

    I’m with Frank. The fact that it’s still being checked out, that it’s on a topic as nebulous as humor, that it’s still in good condition… these would all signal I need a second opinion, if my own sensibilities were (albeit justifiably) outraged.

    Find someone on staff who adores South Park and if (more likely when) they guffaw, sigh and leave it until it has to be weeded for condition.

  23. “But really, are there WASP jokes?”

    In a word, yes. Obviously, I can’t repeat them but I remember thinking “I don’t get it” because they were things I did.

  24. Showing it’s twisted sense of humor once again, Google Ads seems to be advertising “good Jewish one-liners”.

  25. I think these books enter too high in the “how awful” ratings. They are just stupid.

    I’m Irish and Italian and such jokes never bothered me a bit.

    I bet he also did “How to speak Southern” which my father bought when we moved to Florida in 1977.

    Now we know better. We only mock Asians and elderly people.

    Before you judge the past, rembere, you are the past of the future.

  26. During my Sociology undergrad, I did a very large research based focus group about the Sociology of humor and how it pertained to race. This book would have been invaluable to me. I checked out numerous books just like this one. The older and more jaded the discussion in them, the better.

    This shouldn’t be thrown out…but perhaps not in the humor section?

  27. Hey my library doesn’t have this. Can someone scan and upload it? Racist jokes are hilarious, as long as they don’t go too far.

  28. Jim – go to your library’s website and Inter Library Loan it.

    Others: it’s a good question – do we weed because it is politically insensitive even though it has been checked out and is still popular?

    Think about – The Indian in the Cupboard – love the concept of the story with the magic cupboard that brings a plastic toy to life. Child becomes a stronger person through his adventures with the Indian. However, the Indian that is portrayed is so stereotypical as to be offensive to Native Americans. To weed or not to weed?

  29. larry wilde used to set up a card table at colleges and buy jokes for $1 each, then publish the above mentioned titles; now living in hospitable quarters in sea ranch, CA.

    not a racist per se and better company than most bankers or business types i’ve met.

  30. I had the “interesting” experience of working with Larry Wilde, once upon a time, many many moons ago. For someone with such an extensive background in “humor”, he seemed to be a pretty angry guy.

    It was not a good experience, and one I never sought to repeat.

  31. Ethnic classifications such as ‘Gypsies’ may be up for debate.
    Did I restate that correctly?
    I find that comment more disgraceful than any jokes about Roma that *I* can imagine.

  32. This native Texan (read: mix of numerous cultures and races) just read the comment by LittleRed1 and can’t stop laughing … for all kinds of reasons.

  33. Oh man, I’m not defending the subject matter of this particular book, but I love Larry Wilde’s joke books, and the fabulously drawn caricatures. My father’s a professional comedian, and Larry Wilde’s esteemed oeuvre is among the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of joke books that filled my childhood home. I basically taught myself how to read with this book and the Official Virgin’s / Sex Addict’s Joke Book. (Surprisingly, I turned out okay.)

  34. Well, I thought it would be funny. I like making fun of people for inappropriate reasons. So I bought this book from a reseller on Amazon for like 15 cents.

    It’s not funny. Not at all. At. All.

  35. Thanks for helping to keep just one of the 53 humor books I’ve done in the public eye. We’ve sold over 12 million copies. The New York Times calls me “America’s Best-selling Humorist.”