World’s worst joke book back by popular demand

Picture: Contributed
Picture: Contributed
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THE world’s worst joke book - written by eminent Scottish Victorian Lord Aberdeen- is to be republished by popular demand after his Lordship’s dry observations developed a cult following among comedy fans.

With his, granite face expression, shaggy beard and upright bearing, the Most Honourable John Hamilton-Gordon, first Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair, author of “Jokes Cracked by Lord Aberdeen” was not famed for his snappy delivery or sharp one-liners.

But despite this his collection of long-winded mildly amusing pithy gags is one of the most sought-after out-of-print books, routinely selling for over £100 on eBay. Clips from the book, has been dubbed “the least funny joke book ever written” are now on YouTube.

Lord Aberdeen, (1847-1934) seventh Governor General of Canada and who served twice as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, had a list of favourite targets including church ministers and Bishops, aunts, travelling by train and golf which featured in his book first published in 1929.

Scott Pack, publisher at The Friday Project imprint, HarperCollins Publishers, said the joke book, which is being re-leased next month, could put Lord Aberdeen on a par with William McGonagall, the Scots poet famed for his doggerel verse - came to light purely by chance.

“There’s a fabulous publisher here called Patrick Janson-Smith who stopped me in the corridor one day and showed me a copy of the cover of Lord Aberdeen’s joke book which was being sold as a greetings card.

“I thought it was amazing and googled it and thought “this is amazing” and saw how much it was selling for on eBay. I then held the photo of Lord Aberdeen’s face up at an acquisitions meeting and asked “do you think we should publish this?” The answer was “yes, absolutely.”

“Despite its reputation as being the worst joke book ever, it has a wonderful charm and is very much of its time. The illustrations are wonderful too.

“A lot of jokes lose something in translation from Scotland to the south perhaps, and some are very much of their time. But I think it will have wide appeal, not just the obvious Scots, curiosity and ex-pat market.”

Comedian John Finnemore, star of Radio Four sitcom “Cabin Pressure” and radio sketch show John Finnemore’s Sketchshow, a leading Lord Aberdeen fan who has written the introduction to the book, said Lord Aberdeen was an expert in taking “one very, very slight glimmer of humour, and relentlessly beating it to death.”

“I picked up this book to laugh at Lord A, rather than with him. But having read it, and as someone who knows all too well what it’s like to write jokes that aren’t as funny as you hoped they’d be, I find myself oddly protective of the author.

“I like that the enjoyed cracking jokes; I like that despite being a Marquess and a former Lieutenant Governor of Ireland he didn’t think it was beneath him to publish a book of them, and I quite like, ooh, at least six of his jokes.”

But Finnemore added that while Lord Aberdeen’s habit of long build-ups where he credited everyone who might have told the joke before him, was not a tactic which would work for comedians invited to appear “Live at the Apollo”, some of Lord Aberdeen’s material, if modernised, could work in the 21st century.

Tommy Sheppard, owner of The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh, said not all humour consisted of fast one-liners.

“There are some comedy shows which are like a bearpit, very gladiatorial. But here we go out of our way to have a more encouraging environment to let people take time to “get to the point”.

“Just because someone like Lord Aberdeen didn’t have a great hit-rate on punch lines it doesn’t mean he didn’t have something funny to say.”

• Jokes Cracked By Lord Aberdeen, published by The Friday Project, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, published 7 November 2013, £7.99.


1. Reservoir and tanks!

An Englishman, who was saying Farewell to a French acquaintance, and who wished to utter the appropriate expression, (though his knowledge of the French language was slender) said, “Au reservoir” to which the Frenchman, whose knowledge of English was likewise imperfect, replied “Tanks”.

2. He couldn’t say!

A lady remarked to a former Bishop of London on one occasion, “Oh! Bishop, I want to tell you something very remarkable. An aunt of mine had arranged to make a voyage in a certain steamer, but at the last moment she had to give up the trip; and that steamer was wrecked; wasn’t it a mercy that she did not go in it?”

“Well, but”- replied the Bishop, “I don’t know your aunt.”

3. An offender

On the way home from the Kirk_ “Did ye hear Duncan snorin’ i’ the sermon?”

“Aye did I; it wis disgracefu’; he waukened’s a’.”

4. The invitation

“Jock, will ye dine wi’ me the morn’s nicht.”

“Aye, Sandy, I will.”

“Guid! Eight o’clock at your hoose.”