good one podcast

The Jokes Comedians Would Steal If They Could Get Away With It

Tig Notaro on Conan. Photo: Meghan Sinclair/Conaco, LLC for TBS

This post was first published in August 2018 and has been updated to include newer episodes of Good One.

Oooh doggy, joke stealing makes everyone so mad all the time. But, like all types of stealing, it sure seems like fun if you know you can get away with it. Which is why on Good One, Vulture’s podcast about jokes and those who tell them, we often ask comedians this very difficult question: If you could steal any joke from anyone ever, and nobody would know and you wouldn’t feel bad about it (so it’s like it’s your joke and has always been your joke), what would it be? Over the course of the podcast, comedians’ answers have varied widely — from the obscure to the classic, from witty one-liners to winding stories. But all of them are pretty damn funny, so we picked out some of our favorites. You can listen to the full archive of Good One podcasts through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Aida Rodriguez on Damon Wayans’s Christmas

It was from Damon Wayans, one time when he was working out. It was about how he didn’t celebrate Christmas because he knew that during the times of slavery that people were giving slaves for Christmas. He was like, “And they’d unwrap the gifts,” and then he’s like, “Now clean up this mess!”I was like, Wow that’s actually something that’s very deep to think about. It’s a really deep and a very dark joke. I’ve always thought that Damon Wayans was brilliant, and that’s a joke with so many layers.

Ali Siddiq on Charles G’s chicken joke

It’s this guy named Charles G — he has a joke on his favorite piece of chicken. It’s so stupid, but I just wanna do it! He goes through “who the breast people are, who the thigh people are” — he goes through the whole thing, and then he gets to the wings. And I’m only invested in the joke because I’m a wing person. I hate that I like it.

Amanda Seales on Yamaneika Saunders’s “Straight Parade”

Yamaneika Saunders the other day said, “The same people who are saying there should be a straight parade are the same people who think that there should be White History Month. There isn’t White History Month, because y’all have done so much terrible bullshit that ain’t nobody trying to celebrate that. And there can’t be a straight parade, because you all are boring. And don’t nobody want to watch you walk around in khakis and Starbucks down the street.” I was like, Damn, b, I could’ve had that.

Anthony Jeselnik on David Spade’s “JonBenét Ramsey Without Makeup”

My favorite joke of all time — that’s not mine — is David Spade’s joke from his HBO special [Take the Hit] where he says, “You know, JonBenét Ramsey’s not that hot without the makeup.” And it just destroyed me. It’s my favorite joke of all time.

Aparna Nancherla on Greg Johnson’s “Misgendering Dogs”

There’s one that Greg Johnson does about people messing up dog genders that really makes me laugh. I think it’s like, “People get so offended when you mess up a dog’s gender, where you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, is this your dog? He’s so cute.’ And they’re like, ‘Actually, it’s a she, and her name is Jeremy.’” It’s so silly but so funny.

Beth Stelling on Mekki Leeper’s “Dad Leaving” and Nicole Byer’s “Gay Male Flight Attendants”

I remember Mekki Leeper having some great joke that was just a new take on a dad leaving. I feel bad that I’m being so vague. But I remember being like, Nice twist. That was like a new way to say it.

And then Nicole Byer has a great thing about gay male flight attendants: “They’re just too good for the ground. [They’re] meant to be closer to heaven.”

Bert Kreischer on Dave Attell’s owl joke

I wish I had any of Dave Attell’s jokes. Any of them. But probably the favorite joke that I wish I had written is so quick, but Attell said, “Is it just me or does an owl look like an attorney for a parrot?” And I just thought Oh my God, that is fucking amazing. I mean, just amazing.

Bobby Moynihan on SNL’s “Juggernaut Force”

Oh, gosh, I mean, anything [Chris] Farley did. For some reason, the first thing that came to mind was the alien sketch with Deion Sanders with Farley, where his pants fell down. Anything Farley did, but I would never do it, if that makes sense.

Cecily Strong on SNL’s Sweeney Sisters

The Sweeney Sisters are great. I mean, I wouldn’t want to have been the one to do it. No, I want to just watch them do it.

Chelsea Peretti on SNL’s“Tarmac Talk”

You know what? The weirdest first thing that came to mind … was this sketch on SNL called “Tarmac Talk.” I think it was Tim Meadows, and it was just, like, a talk show on a tarmac at an airport. It was just very funny to me.

Chris Gethard on John Mulaney’s “The Salt and Pepper Diner”

“Salt and Pepper Diner.” John Mulaney. The Tom Jones joke. I love living a good ridiculous moment. And I love shitty teenage troublemaking. But with me it is a Jersey diner, driving everybody nuts.

Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider on SNL’s “Wells for Boys” and “Teacher Fell Down”

Sarah Schneider: “Wells for Boys.” I loved that sketch.

Chris Kelly: I know. Wait, I thought I was gonna give like an all-timer answer — a sketch from 20 years ago. But my first thing that I thought was a thing that I saw on the show this year that made me laugh so hard I watched it 50 times. I texted Kate about it. The “Teacher Fell Down.”

Schneider: Alison Gates.

Kelly: Where it just opens on Kate already on the ground. The teacher fell and she’s just like, “Class, I know this is weird for you. You’re so used to seeing the teacher above you but now I’m below you.” I actually went to go rewind my TV ’cause it looked like the setup was missing. But no, it just goes right in. It was so bizarre and felt so clearly like one person’s sense of humor. Who is it?

Schneider: She’s a new writer this year.

Kelly: I instantly was like, “Who wrote this?” It was just funny and it just stood out as …

Schneider: A specific voice.

Colin Quinn on John Mulaney’s 2020 SNL Monologue

He did that joke about going past the guy and the guy goes, “I’m uptown.” It was a real story that happened to him. He’s walking, and the guy’s walking by on the phone, and they’re downtown, and the guy goes to whoever’s talking on the phone, like, “Yeah I’m still uptown,” and then looked at John Mulaney and he winks at him. I was like, That’s a great thing. I just love that kind of stuff, you know?

Dan Harmon on 30 Rock’s pantomime bit

When I would watch 30 Rock, when it was part of the same comedy block as Community, I was so honored. I would rip off stuff. There was a joke in 30 Rock where Pete Hornberger is talking to Liz Lemon and he’s saying to her, “I don’t like what you’re doing. You’re doing one of these,” and he starts miming what in his mind is a perfect pantomime of something. She’s like, “What? I’m driving the bus?” He’s like, “You’re opening the floodgates.” It’s just like, “How do floodgates work in your mind?” I totally ripped that off in a scene where Keith David’s character comes to Britta’s bar, and there’s this whole thing where he’s trying to explain to her lowering drawbridges; he does a mime thing. She’s like, “I don’t understand it.” Not only did I rip it off like someone who covets being that funny; if I’m doing it, I’m not gonna do it right. It’s a two-minute scene instead of just a funny joke on 30 Rock.

Daniel Sloss on Bo Burnham’s “We Think We Know You”

“We Think We Know You,” Bo Burnham’s routine. That was one of the times … you want to talk about the best? As a comedian, I watched that routine and I went, Oh, Bo wrote that for me. Oh, that was real nice of Bo to write specifically a routine just for me. What a nice, swell thing of that lovely man to do! I’d love that one, yeah.

David Sedaris on Wells Tower’s “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned”

“Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” by Wells Tower. It’s a short story about Vikings, and you think, Oh my God, how do you write a short story about Vikings? And it is fantastic. Fantastic! The last paragraph of that — anytime I just want to raise the skin on my arms, all I have to do is read that.

David Wain on MacGruber’s sex scene and Play It Again, Sam’s blind-date scene

The first thing that popped in my mind is the sex scene in MacGruber. I’m just like, Yes. Perfect. Of course. Of course. So stupid, oh my God.

I certainly feel like there’s things that I’ve been right next to that I’ve been like, Wow. Whether it’s like other things that State people have come up with, or when I watched Burning Love, I was just like, Jesus, they really got that right. There’s a scene in Play It Again, Sam, where he’s on a blind date, and he’s nervous and trying to impress this woman and it goes wrong. And it is just perfect. I can’t ever stop watching it.

Dennis Feitosa a.k.a. Def Noodles on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Pop-Tarts”

Jerry Seinfeld had a five-minute bit about Pop-Tarts. Whenever you’re coming up as a comic, especially at open mics, everybody is trying to be super-edgy. Then you start learning that you don’t really get booked if you’re going blue all the time, so I was trying to learn how to be clean. And I watched Jerry Seinfeld tell a five-minute joke about Pop-Tarts, and I was like, If this guy could tell a five-minute joke about Pop-Tarts, you could tell a joke about anything. That has to be one of my favorite bits as of late.

Desus & Mero on Conan O’Brien’s “Clutch Cargo”

Desus: Conan O’Brien with the moving lips. I love that.

Mero: I’m not gonna lie, that’s funny.

Dulcé Sloan on Sam Jay’s “Hillary Clinton”

I had a joke about why Hillary Clinton didn’t get elected, and Sam Jay had a joke about why Hillary Clinton didn’t get elected. And her reasoning was way better than mine. So after I saw her do it, I quit doing the joke.

Emily Heller on John Mulaney’s “Happy Birthday Sign”

It is one of those things where it’s such a universal experience that it also feels like he’s reaching into my heart when he tells it. It’s just sort of like, Oh, fuck you, that’s such a big part of my life, and I didn’t even realize it. You know what I mean? Oh man, that’s such a good joke. It’s the perfect take on it, and it’s so relatable. I mean, yeah, his whole act, obviously, but that joke in particular, it just always struck me as, like, Goddamn it.

Eric Andre on Patton Oswalt’s “Bush Hates You” and Da Ali G Show’s Brüno

My favorite joke that I was like, Why? I wish I wrote that, is that Patton Oswalt joke where he goes, “I don’t get people that like George Bush and they’re not billionaires.” They’re like, “Hell yeah, man, I think George Bush is fucking awesome.” He’s like, “Holy shit, how much do you make a year?” “I only make like 30,000 dollars a year, man.” And he’s like,Well, fucking Bush hates you, dude. Are you kidding me? He wouldn’t be caught dead with you.” It’s just a perfect synopsis.

I like the Brüno prank on Da Ali G Show where he’s getting these frat boys all riled up. He’s like, “Yeah, get on the body pyramid, yeah we’re all partying, yeah.” They’re all hyped and shirtless on the beach, and they’re doing all this homoerotic, suggestive stuff. And then at the end, he’s like, “All right, give a shout-out to gay Austrian television!” And they’re like, “Wait, what is this for?” Honestly, anything Jackass or anything Sacha Baron Cohen, the majority of their stuff, it’s like, Why didn’t I think of that?

Felipe Esparza on Hannibal Buress’s “Steak Burrito vs. Jesus”

Rodney Dangerfield’s punch lines, and whatever Mitch Hedberg has written, those are all great jokes. But off the top, I would have to say Hannibal Buress’s joke about his favorite burrito restaurant closing.

Fortune Feimster on Ellen DeGeneres’s “Footprints in the Sand”

When I was growing up, I didn’t watch a lot of stand-up. But I did see the Ellen special where she did “Footprints in the Sand.” That was one of those stories that had a buildup, and it was a parable of something that we were all very familiar with. And her, you know, putting that twist on it was so clever. I always appreciate when comics come up with something really clever where you’re like, Oh, that’s a thing we all know, but I’ve never thought about that possibility with it.

Gabe Liedman on Ali Wong and Joe Mande jokes

Ali Wong has a longer, kind of older joke about sex and come coming out of her body after sex and it smelling like a turtle pond. I remember seeing her tell that on the stage in Williamsburg when we were very young and stupid. I think about it all the time, and I do wish that that was an observation that I made.

There’s a Joe Mande joke. We still hang out a lot, and every time we hang out I tell him how much I love this joke. He’s been in a relationship now, for probably like 15 years or more, with the same person. But he has a joke about the old MTV show Next, where people would go on a date, and you could have a dollar for every minute you spent together or go on a second date. And he has a joke about eventually asking his now wife, “Are you ready to cash out now that $10 million, or would you like to continue watching me have a panic attack every day for the rest of your life?” That’s a joke that absolutely kills me.

Garfunkel and Oates on Shayna Ferm’s “The Confidence Song”

Riki: There’s one we actually bought and used for the Garfunkel and Oates show. There’s this comedy singer called Shayna Ferm, and she wrote this song where the premise is encouraging herself. We were like, Oh, we wish we thought of that! So in the TV show, there was a band that was playing the porn version of Garfunkel and Oates, and we’re like, “They need a song.” So we got a hold of Shayna Ferm: “Can we buy your song and cover it for this show?” She was like, “Yeah, totally!” So I do wish we’d written that one.

Riki: I have two favorite bits. They’re not singular jokes, but it’s Tig Notaro’s “Taylor Dayne” bit. I really love Anthony Jeselnik’s abortion story. I love both of those. I’ve watched them multiple times. I love them.

Kate: I was just gonna say Tig Notaro’s “Taylor Dayne” too. I think I’ve seen her perform that bit 70 times, and it’s just the best.

Gary Gulman on Mitch Hedberg’s “What About the Dufresnes?”

Mitch Hedberg’s Dufresne, the Dufresnes. “People are missing.”

George Wallace on Richard Pryor’s Golden Gate Bridge joke

There’s this joke I tell people, talking about Richard Pryor, and I don’t even know whether it’s his joke or not. I don’t think it is, but it is such a good joke: Two Black guys were in San Francisco, and they were friends and they were talking about who had the biggest member — the biggest tallywacker. And they were bragging. They weren’t no freaks or anything like that, but they had to prove to themselves who had the biggest penis. So they went up on the Golden Gate Bridge. They was up there, and one of the brothers took his tallywacker out and hung it over the bridge. He says, “Ohhhhh, this water is cold.” And the audience goes crazy, and then the switch comes: The other brother says, “Yeah, and it’s deep too!”

Gina Yashere on Lynne Koplitz’s rape joke

There’s this joke that I love from this comedian named Lynne Koplitz; she is hilarious. She’s got this joke about raping a rapist. She does the set, and she used to, at the end of her set, go, “Oh, this is where I live. I live on blah blah blah,” and she completely says her address. She goes, “I challenge any dude to try and climb in my window and rape me. I will rape your rape,” and then she does the whole thing about this guy coming in through the window and her spooning him and kissing him through his leather gloves, and making him uncomfortable and her saying, “Yeah, you think you’re my rapist, but we’re together now.” It’s such a brilliant routine of just subverting the whole powerlessness of the woman in that situation. I wouldn’t steal that joke, though. I wouldn’t want to put it in my set, because I don’t think I could ever do it as good as her. But I just think it’s one of my favorite routines I’ve ever seen a comedian do.

Hannibal Buress on Eddie Pepitone’s For the Masses opener

You know who caught me off guard with their special? Eddie Pepitone. He starts off, he gets onstage, the crowd’s clapping, and he just goes, “I’m on Molly!” And that caught me. I’m like, That’s one of the best openers ever. “I’m on Molly!” He set the tone right away.

Hasan Minhaj on John Mulaney’s “Bill Clinton”

One of my favorite jokes is actually from The Comeback Kid, and it’s the story where John Mulaney talks about his mom meeting Bill Clinton. And it builds to this perfect moment, where he says, “’Cause Bill Clinton never forgets a bitch.” What I love the most about it is that it’s a long story. It’s a detailed story. He also gets to use the word bitch, which is so not in his persona. But it’s so perfect for that moment. It’s great. It’s just the best. And I’m like, Ah! I love that. It hits on all these different levels. And I’m like, I want to be able to tell stories like that. It’s a joke and a story that I still love rewatching.

James Adomian on Heather Anne Campbell’s “Ayn Rand” and The Golden Girlz at Casita del Campo

Heather Anne Campbell does this great Ayn Rand impression. And you’re like, Why would you do Ayn Rand at this time? When you see her do it, you understand why. It’s just soaking in someone’s awful point of view. And the timing — the timing is just perfect.

Kevin Pollak was iconic when I was growing up. My brother and I loved him. We’d see him on Comedy Central — I guess this predates Comedy Central. I think Jerry Minor is the highest caliber, highest class of impressionists. I always try to work with him whenever I can. Drew Droege is another gay comedian, and Drew Droege is the best, as good as it gets. They do a drag version of The Golden Girls at Casita del Campo here twice a year, and it is the funniest show I’ve ever seen. It’s a small, little room, and I don’t see all of them; they always bring it back with different Golden Girls episodes. Their impressions are so funny. Some of them are accurate, some of them are exaggerated, some of them are just goofy — funny in and of themselves. I love being able to sit back and watch it, rather than always doing it.

James Acaster on John Robins’s shower observation

I think about it all the time, and it’s not even a joke in his set. It’s something that he said on his radio show/podcast. The comedian John Robins mentioned on one episode years ago that Johnny Vaughan, the radio DJ, always practiced his radio monologues in the shower. So every time John Robins has a shower, he always thinks about Johnny Vaughan because of that. It was such a small observation, and now every time I have a shower, I think about Robins thinking about Johnny Vaughan. I got very jealous of that, mainly because he wasn’t doing it as stand-up. I was like, That’s such a good observation about things that we hear that are so inane, and then it just affects our entire life and it’s all we ever think about from then on.

James Corden on David Letterman’s Rice Krispies suit and “Beautiful Drums”

I really think it’s very, very funny when Letterman dropped himself into that big bowl of milk and Rice Krispies. That, to me, is so silly. It’s such a gloriously silly thing to do. I mean, just the thought process: “We’re going to cover you in Rice Krispies, and we’re going to lower you into a huge bowl.” I mean, there’s no way that that isn’t a funny image to me. There’s no way. And what I like about something like that is it excludes no one. It says, Everybody is welcome here. Everybody is welcome. My son would laugh at that, my dad would laugh at that, and my grandma would laugh at that.

And I also really love when he used to say, “Beautiful drums.” Have you ever watched the [supercut]? I can never say it with quite the same level of [deadpan] because my show’s sort of about a bigger energy. But some of the ways he used to do that: “Are these yours, or are they rentals? Look at those drums.” And what I love about that is it’s only a wink to people who watch every night. Not one bit of it is for a brand-new viewer. It’s just a nod to that.

Jamie Demetriou on This Country’s “The Station”

This show, This Country, there’s an amazing episode where they just sit on a train platform, and the whole episode just takes place with them sat on this bench, just talking to each other. I would love to work out how to make the deepest bottle episode imaginable. I love the idea of really knowing how to have faith in the tiny kind of thing.

Jamie Lee on Chelsea Peretti’s One of the Greats

Pretty much anything from Chelsea Peretti’s One of the Greats. I mean, God, when she’s talking about guys waking up in the morning and just doing finger guns in the mirror, and they’re like, “I’m awesome.” I just butchered the joke that I said I want to steal, but her whole run on that — she’s just so talented.

Jo Firestone on Manolo Moreno’s “Snack Dick”

I don’t think I would want to steal it, but I think I would just want to have it on recording. Manolo Moreno used to do this joke that was pretty awful called “Snack Dick.” He would stick his hand through his own zipper and then eat potato chips. I thought that was pretty cool. What is it? I don’t know what it is, but it’s something.

Joel Kim Booster on Naomi Ekperigin’s “Stop Jogging at Dusk and Dawn”

I can tell you three people that would fit in that realm, and it would be Naomi Ekperigin, Jacqueline Novak, and John Early for sure. Just because of the quickness and it’s fresh in my mind, Naomi’s “Stop jogging at dusk and dawn.” Oh God, she’s the funniest person. Naomi Ekperigin is so, so funny. The “Megans, Lindsays, Sarahs, you got to stop jogging at dusk and dawn” is something that I would steal and take for my own in a heartbeat.

John Early on Jacqueline Novak’s reincarnation joke

Jacqueline Novak has such a genius joke about reincarnation that is so funny — it would always be a Jacqueline Novak joke, by the way. She has a joke about reincarnation, how funny it is. It’s so brutal that you spend your entire life trying to get on Johnny Carson, and then you die and then you’re immediately coming out of a jackal’s vagina. You’re just like immediately birthed in the fucking worst conditions on earth, like the desert, and you’re an ugly animal who can’t talk, but prior to that you were trying so hard to get on Johnny Carson. I think that is genius.

John Mulaney on Earthquake’s “Michael Jordan,” Katt Williams’s “Jacksonville,” and Joe Zimmerman’s “Andrew Jackson” joke

I wish I had Earthquake’s joke about when Michael Jordan and his wife were gonna get divorced. He did a bit about the next guy that she dates. It’s just about what a loser the guy would be living in Michael Jordan’s house. And I can’t repeat so much of it, but one part is him trying to discipline their kids and they just say, “Fuck you.” And then they go, “You’re wearing our father’s shoes and shit.” It’s a great thing.

Also I wish I had the balls and the artistry to do Katt Williams’s opening 20 minutes on Jacksonville, specific to Jacksonville, in his last special. So many comedians I know were talking about it. That was mind-blowing. And it’s funny because you know that [the audience likes] it. Like, I was laughing the whole time, and I don’t know anything about Jacksonville. Neal Brennan and I use it now as a term for something that just is funny, despite like, “Well, how do they know about Jacksonville?” We just go, “It’s Jacksonville,” like Chinatown. Like, “Don’t overthink it, it’s Jacksonville.”

I would hook, line, and sinker steal this bit from a comedian named Joe Zimmerman about Andrew Jackson, where he just takes you through true facts of Andrew Jackson’s life and then has the best jokes about them. I’ve listened to it on YouTube like a hundred times. I have fantasies sometimes about doing it. I’ll be on the treadmill and I’ll be thinking about it being my joke. I wish it was mine so bad. I just love it. I was like, Oh, that’s so funny to take an audience through real facts about Andrew Jackson, who’s on no one’s mind, and then Joe Zimmerman brings him up and he tells you real things he did and has jokes off of them that are great, and it destroys. That is my absolute grand envy. I want that joke so bad.

Judd Apatow on the seduction scene in Being There

It would be the scene with Shirley MacLaine and Peter Sellers in Being There where she’s trying to seduce him and he’s watching some children’s show and then an exercise show on TV. He’s just mirroring what’s on the TV, and she thinks that it’s sexual. She doesn’t know what he’s doing. And the next thing you know, I think she starts masturbating because he’s telling her things to do, but it’s really things he’s seeing on the TV. It’s a pretty perfect, really inspired comedy sequence, like every moment in Being There.

Kelly Conaboy on Edith Zimmerman’s “Letters to the Editors of Women’s Magazines”

It would be Edith Zimmerman’s column from a long time ago, “Letters to the Editors of Women’s Magazines.” It was so freaking funny. Oh my God.

Kenan Thompson and Bryan Tucker on Key and Peele’s “Substitute Teacher”

Kenan Thompson: I would say any Kate McKinnon sketch. She does such incredible work. It’s incredible.

Bryan Tucker: The Key and Peele substitute-teacher sketch.

Thompson: Oh my God. Hell yeah, that’s a good one.

Tucker: And I know you would do that well, because you’re so great at messing up names.

Thompson: Oh yeah, “A-Aron.” “I swear if one of y’all says some dumbass name.”

Tucker: That’s just almost, like, a perfect sketch.

Kevin Hart on Eddie Murphy’s “Drunk Dad”

One of the funniest jokes ever told is, in my opinion, Eddie Murphy talking about how his dad used to get drunk and cuss everybody out at the house: “This is my house.” You know, he’d talk about other people. “Let me tell you something motherfucker: You don’t like it, you get the fuck out of my house.” Like the drunk voice. Everything about that performance showed me there’s punch lines within the character. It didn’t necessarily have a bunch of punch lines through the joke. He was a character, and that character made people laugh. He turned into his dad. And [when] you watch it, you learn so much. Some of the funniest shit that I’ve ever seen.

Kyle Kinane on Matt Knudsen’s “All You Can Eat” and Andy Ritchie’s “Huey Lewis”

There’s two, my two favorite jokes in stand-up. One is Matt Knudsen’s “Imagine ordering from a waitress everything that you get at a buffet.” And just him taking on the character of “Yes, I’d like to start with some spaghetti, two chicken wings, a Jell-O cube, and a few beets. And for my next plate, I will have a hard-shell taco filled with ham cubes — I will take one bite of that and realize it was a horrible mistake. I’ll have some ice cream, and I’ll have some salad.” And he just goes on and on and on about all the bullshit, and I was like, “Ooh, that’s so funny!”

The second one is Andy Ritchie. RIP, Andy Ritchie. He passed away about a year and a half ago, but this one is one of those ones that just caught me off guard. It’s “What if Ray Parker Jr. recorded the song ‘Ghostbusters’ without there ever having been a film Ghostbusters?” And he just pretends to be in the studio like, “All right, Ray. We’re ready to go on one, take one, rolling.” He’s like, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!” And they’re like, “Cut. ‘What’s he talking about? Are there ghosts? Is this a song?’” And just the idea of Ray Parker Jr. being a delusional paranoid schizophrenic singing about ghosts for no reason. Oh, that one, it still brings me joy. That premise brings me joy.

Lauren Lapkus on John Early’s Vicky

I would say John Early’s Vicky stand-up. I just love it. I mean, it’s just so him. You could never. But I just love that character.

Laurie Kilmartin on Mitch Hedberg’s “Purple People”

I did accidentally steal a Mitch Hedberg joke and did it on Comedy Central. We had a show out of Gitmo. I’m so grateful because, obviously as we now know but didn’t at the time, it was a place of horrors, so Comedy Central never airs it. But it was a Hedberg joke I guess I had heard and I just absorbed and thought I wrote. So, I guess that would be the joke. I was doing it in San Antonio and this guy named Josh Snead said, “You know that’s a Mitch Hedberg joke. I open for him.” And I was so mortified. It was a joke about when people say, “I don’t care if someone’s black, white, green, or purple.” And then it was something like, “If they’re purple, you should care. They’re choking to death.” Or something like that.

Lil Rel Howery on Eddie Murphy’s “Aunt Bunny”

That’s when you know it’s a good joke – when you don’t have to see a motherfucker do it. You could just hear it. And when I tell you, I don’t care how many times I’ve seen that bit, it makes me laugh so hard. Eddie Murphy’s fucking great, man. I wish he would come back. Shit. I would pay thousands to see that dude. I heard he’s still hysterical. People say he’s still the funniest motherfucker. It could be a room full of comics, Eddie’s still funnier than everybody.

London Hughes on Chris Rock’s Bigger and Blacker

The whole of Chris Rock’s Bigger and Blacker, like every single joke. I wish I wrote every single one. I can’t even think of one that just tops the other.

The Lonely Island on Seth Meyers’s “Prom Committee Meeting” and “Pranksters”

Andy Samberg: Oh man, he wrote one sketch — it’s not my favorite thing he ever wrote, but I just remember thinking like, God, Seth is such a good head writer. I want to say it was in a high-school classroom, and I think they were picking the theme for prom. And what he did was he got ten cast members in it, doing three or four lines each of a failed character they had tried at the table. So he kind of cherry-picked all the moments that worked about stuff people had done that failed, and made it into a sketch that really worked and played great. When he did that at the table, I remember thinking to myself, Holy shit, Seth is really smart. It was both a win for the show and also a personal win for every one those cast members to feel good about the character they created. Everyone came out being like, Man, I guess I can make it on SNL. You know? It was so positive.

Akiva Schaffer: Now I’m blanking on the name of it, but the prank-show one with Christopher Walken.

Samberg: “I pranked him to death with a tire iron.” I think it’s called “Pranksters.”

Schaffer: They called the victims of the pranks Stiffly Stiffersons, and it’s like [Seth is] the host and he kind of has, probably, bleached tips. It’s all very cheesy sound effects and very Nickelodeon. But it becomes clear that Christopher Walken’s character, like, pranked somebody to death with a tire iron.

The Lucas Bros. on Clark Jones’s MLK joke

Clark Jones has this Dr. Martin Luther King joke. He says, “Martin Luther King had to be a pastor. ’Cause could you imagine if he worked in fast food and they had the same voice?” It’s great.

Mae Martin on Tig Notaro’s Conan stool bit

There’s some Tig Notaro stuff that I really wish that I was brave enough to have. Her pace, sometimes, because I feel like I’m filling in every silence and just desperate to please. And when she went on Conan and did the thing where she dragged the stool around, I thought, That’s so cool! Some of her anecdotes as well have these long, long pauses that just get funnier the longer they are. It takes for-real confidence to be so controlled.

Marc Maron on Bill Hicks’s “Dating”

Generally, my envy used to fall around people who had the freedom and the innate ability, without even trying, to be incredibly physically funny or do voices and things. A lot of my favorite comics to watch are Al Madrigal or Maria [Bamford] or even Kevin James. Either they have a freedom of storytelling and doing characters or they just can’t help but be physically funny. I sort of wish that I could execute like other people. But sure, there are jokes that I’m like, Goddamnit, but I don’t do that so much that I recall. More what happens is, Oh, that’s too close to my joke. You know? Like, Who did it first? Were we working together? But eventually, I learned, Just get rid of it. Drop the joke.

Oh, there’s another joke that I really liked, and it’s a Bill Hicks joke. Hicks used to do this joke, “Yeah, I’ve been dating this woman for a year and a half. I guess it’s time to, you know, pop the big question: Why are we still going out?”

Margaret Cho on Amy Schumer’s HPV joke

I love Amy Schumer’s joke, something where she was hosting, I think, Glamour magazine awards, where she said, “I’ve never hosted anything except for HPV,” and I was like, That’s a great joke.

Martin Short on Steve Martin presenting at the 1979 Grammys

I remember seeing Steve [Martin] before I met him. It was 1980 or something like that, and I want to say he was [at] the Grammy Awards. He was presenting Best Album. He came out with a shirt, no pants, boxers, garters, high socks, and didn’t break. He said, “Now for the best comedy album of the year” — didn’t break anything. He names one, names two, and a little man came running out with a pair of pants on a hanger. Steve says, “Well, it’s about time!” Then he put the pants on and he continued to read. God, I never could think of that.

Max Silvestri on Greg Johnson’s “Frequently Asked Questions? (Security in the Basement?)” and Leah Beckmann on Jessi Klein’s “Break Up”

Max Silvestri: Greg Johnson’s joke about going to the Wellesley library and there being a frequently-asked-questions list at the front desk of the library, a pamphlet you can take, and one of the frequently asked questions is “Security in the basement?” And just the idea that there were so many people coming into this library just being like, “Excuse me. Security in the basement?” that they had to put together, like, “We need to get a frequently asked questions list here. This is so frequently asked.” I think of the phrase “security in the basement” so crazy often. I have friends from college that were life acquaintances that used to come to Rififi shows [and] happen to see him that still, 15 years later, are like, “Do you ever see that ‘security in the basement’ guy?” It’s such a line that sometimes he’ll do the joke and forget whole parts of it. It’s almost like an abstract work now where he’s like, “I was at Wellesley and there was this paper that just said, ‘Security?’” He forgets whole details. I wish I could just have that joke. I wish I was [that] type of concise joke writer. Like Louis [C.K.] believes comedy is just noises and Chris Rock [believes it’s just] repetition. I don’t agree with any of that. But the noise of “security in the basement” is so addictive that I wish in my act that I had things that were more rhythmic.

Leah Beckmann: Jessi Klein has this incredible joke about how when you break up with someone, especially when you’ve broken up with them, you kind of believe always that they are still playing games and still want you. I’m gonna ruin the joke. It’s basically like he’s married and she’s sort of like, “You still want me. I’m still the number one.” But then after his second kid, she’s like, “Okay, maybe you’re done playing games.” The first kid …

Silvestri: The first kid is still a little bit of tactic.

Michelle Wolf on Bill Burr’s “Airbags”

Bill Burr had a joke in his last special. I was so mad. I was like, That was in front of us. Any of us could have taken that joke. It’s the one where he’s talking about technology and advancements, and he’s like, “You know, it used to be that the driver was the only person with an airbag. So you get into an accident and then you’d survive and be like, ‘My whole family!’” I just love that joke. It was there for any of us to take since cars were built. And I was like, Oh, he got it. Oh, it was right there. We all could have thought of that joke. It makes me laugh every time I hear it.

Naomi Ekperigin on Chris Rock’s early work

I don’t have a specific one, but if I could take a Chris Rock joke from Never Scared or Bring the Pain, I would. There is so much of that where I am like, That is brilliant.

Natalie Palamides on Mike Myers’s Austin Powers

I love Austin Powers so much. I love Mike Myers, and I just love all the dumb gags that they do in those movies, with, like, the melon tits. Just the whole world. He’s like just this horny, lovable guy.

Nate Bargatze on Ben Bailey’s “Job Application” and Erik Myers’s “Taco Bell Application”

Ben Bailey had a joke about filling out a job application, and you fill out the wrong line, you mess it up. And he’s like, “So then you just got to go with it.” You sit down to the interview, and they’re like, “So your name is Ben Bailey?” And he’s like, “Yes, it is.” “And you live at 2235 Ben Bailey Boulevard?” It’s so funny. And he’s keeps going down every line. That’s a joke, like — God, dude, I love that stuff when it’s something that everybody’s done.

Erik Myers has another one about filling out a Taco Bell application, him breaking it down. It’s so funny, ’cause it’s like, “Do you do drugs?” And he’s like, “Of course. I’m applying for a job at Taco Bell. That’s insane.” I don’t even know the whole joke. He breaks it down in such a very funny way.

Nick Kroll on Roger Hales’s “Asshole at the Party”

My early days in New York, there was a comedian named Roger Hales who I came up through open mics with. It was like Roger and Chelsea Peretti and a couple other people. Roger had a joke that I think about all the time that I still love. I’m gonna butcher it a little bit, but basically, like, you know when there’s an asshole at a party, and you’re like, “That guy’s an asshole,” and your friend is like, “No, he’s not an asshole, he’s just insecure.” And you’re like, “If he’s so insecure, then why is he drunk and throwing raisins at me? Shouldn’t he be at home doubting himself?” That joke always struck me as so true.

Nicole Byer on John Mulaney’s “Delta Airlines”

Honestly, any John Mulaney joke. John Mulaney is so fucking smart and funny. He’s like a machine. Hmmm. I’m trying to think of a joke, I’m bad at remembering things. He’s got a good Delta bit, but I’ve also got a great Delta bit. Or not a great one, I just found shit in my blanket.

Nikki Glaser on Rachel Feinstein’s “Niece”

If I could steal someone’s joke? Boy. It would probably be Rachel Feinstein’s joke about … well, just Rachel Feinstein’s act in general I would steal. But she has this joke about her niece trying to get her to get in the tub with her and to get naked, because her niece is at that age where she just wants to see women naked and see what it’s like. She says that her niece coerces her like Howard Stern — like the way Howard Stern used to in the ‘90s. She’s like, “Come on, Rachel. We’re family.” Like she uses all these excuses, and Rachel’s like, “That doesn’t even check out.” Then at one point, her niece is coercing her and trying to woo her. Her niece goes, “You look like Wonder Woman.” Rachel is like, “Oh my God. I’ve kind of always thought that about myself. I’m glad someone said it.” Later on she was kind of bragging to her niece’s mom, her sister-in-law, like, “Cici said I looked like Wonder Woman.” She goes, “Rachel, she says that to everyone.” She goes, “You didn’t get in the bath, did you?” That line.

Patton Oswalt on Gary Gulman’s “Abbreviating the States” and Shane Torres’s “Guy Fieri”

Gary Gulman has a joke about trying to figure out the state abbreviations. It’s such a gorgeous piece of comedy writing. I love it so much. If it could exist out of time and be mine, I would take it.

My runner-up would be Shane Torres’s joke about Guy Fieri and Anthony Bourdain. Oh my God. I remember seeing that and going, That’s a joke that was so good, you can’t even go, “Oh my God, that was sitting right there.” It wasn’t sitting right there. It was so against what everyone’s conventional thinking was. He muscled through and got to there. Oh God, it’s so great.

Paula Poundstone on Pat Paulsen’s gross national product joke

I don’t watch other comedians, because the whole time I’m thinking, Why didn’t I think of that? How come I didn’t think of that? What’s the matter with me? There was a club, the Ice House in Pasadena, which is in the L.A. area. A great, iconic place. They were having some sort of anniversary, and I’m sitting in the green room with Pat Paulsen, and we’re trying to figure out what we’re gonna do. And I said, “Pat, you used to do that thing about how you would never want to be president of a country whose national product was gross,” and then he laughed and he goes, “I did that?” I said, “Yeah, yeah!” And he goes, “Well, that’s very funny!” I think he went out and did it that night. Now that he’s dead, I always wished he had left it to me.

Phoebe Robinson on Wanda Sykes’s “Waxing”

From Wanda Sykes I’ma Be Me special, she had this joke and I think it was about getting waxed. It was so funny. I’m trying to remember the imagery, but she said the feeling of the hair getting pulled out was just like when you see an animal running across the Serengeti and it just immediately gets eaten. It was just so funny. She’s really good at building bits like that.

Rachel Bloom on Inside Amy Schumer’s “Milk Milk Lemonade”

“Milk Milk Lemonade” from Inside Amy Schumer feels like a very me song. [When I heard it] I was like, “Ahhh, damnit.”

Ray Romano on Brian Regan’s “Log Trucks”

There’s one from Brian Regan. It’s so subtle. He says, “I was on the highway driving, and I saw a flatbed truck of logs going this way,” and he goes, “and then I saw another flatbed truck of logs going that way. And I mean, if you need logs over there …” That’s it, that’s the bit. And it’s so perfect because there’s no punch line and it’s so funny.

Ricky Velez on Chip’s “Cats vs. Dogs”

I heard this one that was from this comic — young kid. He got onstage and he’s like, “Dogs are better than cats!” And the crowd just starts. The cat people are like “Boo!” and he goes, “You wanna argue about it? Show me a video of a veteran coming home from war to his cat!” And I was like, That’s funny! That’s a great joke! His name is Chip, and he’s from Indianapolis.

Ron Funches on Mitch Hedberg’s “Search Party” and “Escalator” jokes

Mitch Hedberg’s “Search Party of 3.” That’s one of my favorites. Just a silly, funny joke.

Or “An escalator can only become stairs.” Most of Mitch Hedberg’s material I would steal and make as my own and people would be like, “Yeah, that still makes sense.”

Ronny Chieng on Fahim Anwar’s “Uber Driver”

Fahim Anwar — everything he does I’m like, Damn, I wish I thought of that. He has this great bit about how people would come into his car thinking he’s an Uber driver, and people won’t even care that he’s not. It’s a joke about how white women will jump into anyone’s car and just think that they’re an Uber driver. They think that it’s just like Agent Smith in The Matrix, like as soon as they come in, they just vroom.

Rory Scovel on Bo Burnham’s Inside

I wish I could steal and have and be credited for Bo Burnham’s last special, Inside. I’ve watched it two times. I’m probably gonna watch it five total at some point. I wish I had that creativity. I wish I had that work ethic. I wish I had that focus and that talent and that genius. It comes to mind because I specifically have just watched it twice in less than 24 hours; I was just so blown away by it. I love all of his stuff, but to me, that was like high art.

Rosebud Baker on Andy Haynes’s material about their marriage

The truth is, my husband has a bunch of jokes that I am furious about. He has a joke about how we both present so gay that it’s almost queer baiting — like I am so butch and he seems so feminine that we just look like two people denying our sexuality together. That’s not the joke, but the way that he tells it is so funny. I got furious the first time I heard it. I don’t even remember which one of us made that observation first. So when I hear jokes about our life come out of his mouth and they’re funnier than the ones that I tell, I get furious. I mean, I want all of those jokes! But it’s fine; he can have them.

Roy Wood Jr. on George Carlin’s “A Place for My Stuff” and Cedric the Entertainer’s running joke

If we’re gonna go way back, Cedric the Entertainer in Kings of Comedy: “When one Black person sees another Black person running, we all run. If I’m with you and you start running, damn it, I’m gonna start running. When we’re done running, I will ask you what it is we was running about. But for now, I’m gonna run.” That joke has been quoted so much by so many people over the last 25 years. It is an iconic, base-level observation of human behavior. It’s one of those jokes that was just right there. It’s not a joke you have to think about; it’s not a joke you have to conjure up an interesting point of view. You just had to have your eyes open and observe the world. Cedric the Entertainer is masterful with that.

George Carlin, “A Place for My Stuff.” That is one of the most masterful, in-depth jokes. He just breaks down how a house is just a place for your stuff, and then a suitcase is a smaller place for your stuff, and then a dresser, and then you get on an airplane — the layers. You sit back and look at it and you go, “Damn, he’s right. We’ve just got a lot of shit we don’t really need.” And it’s a joke that is timeless in the sense that you can play that for someone right now, not tell them that this guy died years ago, and they would go, “Oh, that’s funny. Where can I go see him?” That joke still stands up.

Sebastian Maniscalco on Brian Regan’s “Cup of Dirt”

Brian Regan does a joke about the science fair. The concept is he brought dirt to the science fair. And just the whole science fair thing really relates to me because in my science fair, I did popcorn. What pops better? Microwave popcorn or an air pop? This was a last-minute science project. I didn’t have the type of family that helped me with the projects. They were just like, “Just do something with food.” And I’m showing up to school with an air popper, and a lot of people thought that my science project was part of the catering for the science fair. They’d come by and get a bag, and I’d go, “Wait a minute, that’s my test sample.” I wish I could do something like the science fair.

Seth Meyers on SNL’s “MacGruber” and “Two Worlds Collide”

Oh man, I’d be really proud to tell people that I wrote the MacGruber sketches. I think that as far as sketches from my era that I go back and watch, that’s right up there.

Either that, or if I had written one digital short, I wish it was “Two Worlds Collide” where Kenan [Thompson] plays Reba McEntire.

Shane Torres on a stepdad joke and Richard Bain

This is true: There was a guy in Portland, when I started comedy there, who was like 50 years old. His name was Sean Connery. This sounds mean, but my favorite thing is a comedian who is not that great with one brilliant joke. It’s like putting your spoon in pudding and then finding out there’s cherries at the bottom; I just love it so much. But he had this bit where he would go, “My stepdad was a horrible drinker, and I remember one night he came home and he was so boozy and smelly. I could smell him through my bedroom door. I was 14 years old, I was in my underwear, and I stood up in front of my sister’s door and I said, ‘You’re not going in there tonight.’ And he punched me in the nose, there’s blood everywhere, and he took off his belt. I have scars on my legs to this day from when I was a boy. This guy beat the shit out of me with his belt. My mother was screaming, and my sister was crying. I guess you just had to be there.” I fucking love that joke so much.

Have you heard of Richard Bain? I started with him in Portland, and he was the funniest person ever. He opened for Patton Oswalt at the first Bridgetown Comedy Festival when we decided to have a local open. He was like the funniest guy, and he died this year. I just get sad I don’t hear his jokes anymore. But one of my favorite ones was — it’s so gross, and if you want to cut this and it offends everybody, I’m really sorry — he goes, “I read due to overfishing and pollution there might not be seafood in 20 years. And that really sucks, ’cause how is a guy going to describe stinky pussy with friends?” He goes, “I fucked this skank last night. It smelled like … I don’t know what it smelled like!” I’m fucking missing him so much, and I miss that joke a lot.

Tig Notaro on an unknown comedian’s shark-attack joke

I don’t know the guy’s name, if somebody can write in and tell me who this guy is. I remember when I first moved to Los Angeles over 20 years ago, I was at the Laugh Factory. In his set — it’s so dumb — he was like, “Apparently, whatever percentage of all shark attacks happen closest to shore,” and he’s like, “Well, that’s where all the people is!”

Vir Das on John Mulaney, Hannah Gadsby, and Tig Notaro

John Mulaney’s “Horse in the Hospital” I thought was the greatest Trump bit. It is really, really very well done. Hannah Gatsby’s second special, just in terms of structure, with the full disclosure about everything that’s gonna happen in this special. And then they actually do it — to spoil the surprise up top. That was a fantastic way to do it. And Tig Notaro’s Happy to Be Here special ended with a band coming out, which was just a really long, ridiculous joke that just kept going and kept going. I was like, That took some balls, you know? Well done.

Whitney Cummings on Jim Jefferies’s “Strippers” and Jimmy Shubert’s “Protein Scramble”

I just heard a Jim Jefferies joke that was so fucking good about strippers, how male strippers always keep their hat on when they get naked, ’cause women, even when they’re naked, still want to know they have a job. He’s like, “When men go see strippers, they want the stripper to have one job, and that’s stripping.” I think part of the reason it was so funny to me is ’cause I’ve heard so many jokes about strippers. I’ve written so many. The fact that I hadn’t heard that or thought of it made me kind of angry. I think that good jokes make me angry.

Jimmy Shubert has this joke about — and I could never do it, ’cause I don’t have the charisma — but about how chicken omelets, how it’s two generations of chickens. He does it in a whole way that it’s like a mob guy. I can’t do it.

Wyatt Cenac on Jerry Minor’s “Michael Winslow” bit

I don’t know if I would steal it. It’s one of my favorite jokes, though. There’s a comedian named Jerry Minor, and it’s not a stand-up joke. Jerry would do this thing onstage and he rarely would do it. He would come out and he would be introduced as Michael Winslow from the Police Academy movies. And so then he would say, “Hi, I’m Michael Winslow from the Police Academy movies, but I’m not here to talk to you about comedy today. I’m here to talk to you about something very serious. There was a man in Jasper, Texas, who was killed because of the color of his skin.” And he gets very serious and he starts to talk about it and he’s just like, “It’s horrible in this day and age that racists still exist and that they thought it was a good idea to just get in their truck [starts making sound of a truck].” And then he continues to tell the story doing sound effects, and every time the audience laughs, he gets mad and he’s like, “A man died! Stop it!” and then he gets back into the story. The first time I ever heard him do it, I was rolling on the floor. It was, to me, the perfect joke by being both pointed and talking about something that was truly uncomfortable but also exists and that people are kind of happy to just take and put in the back of their minds, and he’s bringing it to the front where you can’t ignore it, but then also making it so silly and ridiculous. It was such a great joke.

81 Comedians Reveal Jokes They’d Like to Steal If They Could