After moving to Seattle in 1978, when I offered ironic comments in everyday conversation, people eyed me strangely and asked, “Is that a joke?” Back then, Seattleites regarded humor much as New Yorkers regarded hiking. They understood that some people enjoyed it, wondered if they should try it, but didn’t know what equipment they needed.
Today, Seattle is more sophisticated has developed a keen ironic sensibility. Seattle now savors a subtle, pithy wit, as evidenced by these archetypical Seattle jokes:
- Two Seattle Mariner fans were talking. “We should have a great team this year,” the first said. “Who plays first base. What is on Second, and I Don’t Know plays third base.” The second fan chuckles and says, “Those are unusual names.”
- Did you hear about the Polish Seattleite? He changed the light bulb.
- A priest, a rabbi, and Buddhist monk walk into a Seattle bar. The bartender looks puzzled and says, “I don’t get it.”
- A Seattle man bought a parrot at a pet store. The parrot was dead. The man complained.
- Why did the Seattle chicken cross the road? To escape species-ism.
- The Pope and a Seattle Rabbi had a silent debate. The Pope began by holding up three fingers. In response, the Rabbi pulled out an apple. With that, the Pope admitted defeat.
- A brunette, a redhead, and a blonde met for lunch in Seattle. The blonde made a dumb remark.
Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer walk into a bar and order vodka martinis. “That will be $48,” says the bartender. “Say, we don’t get many billionaires here.” “At these prices, they’re probably not billionaires when they leave,” Ballmer replies.
“That is incorrect, Steve,” Gates interjects. “Take the highly simplified case where a person worth exactly $1 billion has it all invested in tax-free municipal bonds yielding 5%. At this rate, the billionaire earns $5,708 an hour for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. He or she would have to consume 238 vodka martinis priced at $24 in one hour to no longer be a billionaire.
“You could argue that he would incur other expenses at the same time, but even if these expenses consumed 90% of his income, it would still take 24 martinis in a single hour to place him below the billionaire threshold. And remember, most billionaires have more than $1 billion to start with. In fact, given the equity market’s long-term upward trend, it is much more likely that a non-billionaire becomes a billionaire while consuming a $24 martini than the reverse.”
“I was making a joke,” Ballmer explains.
“Why didn’t you say so?” Gates responds.