1. I’ve never seen this strip before. Looking at it, it seems to be mostly a collection of aphorisms, some by famous people, some submitted by readers. Occasionally they attempt a joke, and make a pretty poor shot of it.

    The wasp joke is simply a very old joke. I don’t think there’s anything more to it. No reference to a philosophical point, as far as I can see. The shjop is called Satres because the strip is about philosophy, but I don’t think it’s referencing any of his quotes.

  2. Pete, what is the old joke you have in mind?

    Does it (either the old joke, or this comic if a different joke) have anything to do with taking WASP as an ethnic identity term?

  3. OK, maybe I should have gone with an explanation rather than a joke. The distinction between explanations & jokes is rather like the one Sartre made between prose (in which language is signifier) and poetry, in which language is object. Also like the customer who sees the wasp as a signifier (We sell wasps) versus the seller, who sees the wasp as a creature that happens to be on the window.

    So the real joke is that comics readers need to be familiar with Sartre’s philosophy of language.

  4. But which is the underlying fact-of-the-matter about the wasp in the window that we are shown?

    1– It is a giant paper-wire-and-celluloid (or whatever) model of a wasp, put in the window just as decoration or with no particular intended meaning.
    2– It is a giant paper-wire-and-celluloid (or whatever) model of a wasp, put in the window as advertising or promotion for the store in general?
    3– It is a giant paper-wire-and-celluloid (or whatever) model of a wasp, put in the window as advertising for their selling of actual wasps (despite the proprietor / clerk denying this)
    4– It is a small, real, living wasp, stuck in between panes and dying, despite the illusion we have of a smile on its face
    5– It is a small, real, living or dead wasp, placed there for reasons unknowable to us by the proprietor / clerk
    6– It is a small, real, living wasp, which has momentarily landed on the shop window, and not under the management of the proprietor / clerk at all

  5. I’m wondering if the joke is that we are supposed to be familiar with the old Wasp Joke (I had never heard it before) and this is a literal enactment in the framework of philosophy (did sarte philosophy over language signifiers).

    It’s be similar to a cartoon of a few panels of a chicken walking across a road and maybe the final panel is the chicken saying, “well, I got here”. Maybe.

  6. In the science fiction novel “Demon” by John Varley, one of the protagonist has to undergo serious brain surgery while conscious and the anesthetic made her very loopy so she made dumb jokes, and one of the jokes was “Doctor, when this is over will I be able to play the piano” and the doctor butts in with the punchline and says “that’s a really old joke” and then the other protagonist bursts out laughing because in his sci-fi backstory he had never heard the joke and… if you had never heard it it was actually pretty danged funny.

    Unlike the Wasp joke.


    This one’s pretty funny:


    But in general I prefer “Existential Comics”


  7. Maybe “Sartre’s wasp” is a Bizarroworld version of “Chekhov’s gun” — if you depict a wasp in the last act of your comic, you must refer to it in the first act.

  8. “Pete, what is the old joke you have in mind?”

    A man walks into a pet shop and says: “Give me a wasp.” The shopkeeper replies: “We don’t sell wasps.” He says: “There’s one in the window.”





  9. Thanks, Pete. I see it really was a commonly circulating joke! And indeed I had never heard of it.

    And honestly, I don’t get it still. Okay, I see (we all see) the switch between “in the window” implying “on display for sale” and just meaning “loose in the shop”. Is the joke in the danger/fear that a wasp calls out? Or is there another meaning of “wasp” for something like “buzzer”? Or is it a bit of absurdism? No soap, radio?

  10. “And honestly, I don’t get it still. Okay, I see (we all see) the switch between “in the window” implying “on display for sale” and just meaning “loose in the shop”.”

    And that is all there is.

    ” Is the joke in the danger/fear that a wasp calls out?”


    “Or is there another meaning of “wasp” for something like “buzzer”? ”


    “Or is it a bit of absurdism? No soap, radio?”


    It’s just the concept of “It’s in the window = We have it for sale” It’s a joke that a guy could indeed mistake a wasp being in the window for a wasp being for sale.

    it’s bit like “is your refrigerator running?” or “Do you have Prince Albert in a can”. ALthough its a bit reversed for tension as the strange (pun involved) misinterpretation is presented first and the sensible prosaic explanation is present at the end (as explanation).

    I guess in my case it’s a bit like the story of my cousin on a road trip to Washington state. After a long drive and going through the city streets my cousin says “When are we going to get to Addle’s house”. My uncle is confused and says “Addle? Who’s Addle” and my cousin said “I though you said we were going to Seattle…”

  11. I wonder if Pete and Downpuppy are both correct. Pete has shown that this is clearly an old joke. But that doesn’t mean that Sartre is irrelevant. Perhaps the cartoonist finds the old joke a relevant and humorous illustration of Sartre’s philosophy of language?

  12. The shopkeeper’s window reminds me of a joke that I may or may not have first read in “The Joys of Yiddish.” A fellow needed his watch repaired, and looking for a watchmaker he found a shop with nothing but an old clock in the window.
    He went in and asked the proprietor to fix his watch, but the proprietor said, “I’m sorry, I’m not a watchmaker. I don’t fix watches.”
    “Do you only fix clocks?”
    “No, I don’t fix clocks either.”
    “Well, what do you do?”
    “I’m a mohel. When a Jewish baby is born, they call me when it’s 7 days old and I go for the bris.”
    “You circumcise babies?”
    “So why is there a clock in your window?”
    “What do YOU think I should put in my window?”

  13. As far as wasps in the window, ones that get in the house will frequently try to exit what seems to them to a large opening but is actually a window. They will buzz about, running into the window repeatedly.

  14. to Mark in Boston:

    ““What do YOU think I should put in my window?”

    It certainly does sound like an old joke, but I’d never heard it before, so THANKS.

  15. Here’s what I don’t understand about this comic.
    I get an email whenever a new posting appears here on CIDU. I received the email for this post a week ago.
    Why is the post only appearing today?

  16. Two variations of the Moyel joke (not including the red painted herring that sticks to a wall and whistles) are

    1) Q: Why is an elephant large gray and wrinkled?
    A: If it were small white and smooth it would be an aspirin.

    2) Mr. Markowitz comes home early and finds his wife in bed flustered and his best friend Andy Phitzel in his closet naked.
    “Andy!” he cries “Why are you in my closet?”
    “Well” say Mr. Phitzel, “everything’s got to be somewhere.”

  17. jajizi, I got that email too. I think the system picked up on the post being edited and entered, because by accident it briefly got published before getting future-scheduled.

  18. Woozy, what Mark in Boston’s joke leads me too, more directly than your associations, would be the one about the guy walking on his own through the sewage treatment plant who falls in one of the giant vats and can’t get out. “Fire! Fire! Fire!” he shouts, and the workers in the next area come running and rescue him. When they ask how come he shouted “Fire!” he replied “Would you have come if I had yelled ‘Shit!’ ?”.

  19. jajizi/mitch4; Yep, I think I recall accidentally hitting “publish” for a second before retracting.

  20. Woozy, you might remember when “elephant jokes” were a very popular subgenre of their own. Also that label was seen to take in a variety of other riddle-style tropes that did not directly mention elephants — somehow “Moby Grape” was one of the other poles for that.

  21. Were elephant jokes ever not a subgenre of jokes?

    Let’s see…. there was the what’s the difference between elephants and grapes (grapes are purple), what did Tarzan say when the elephants came over the hill (“Here come the elephants over the hill”). Why do elephants paint their toenails red. What did Jane say when the elephants came over the hill (“Here come the grapes over the hill”), and what’s the most dreaded sound to low flying canaries (“boing, boing”) and how do you fit six elephant’s into a VW beetle (One in the drivers seat, one in the passenger seat, three in the back seat, and one straddling the emergency brake.)

    Yeah, i remember when there were elephant jokes…. but…. it’s dubious if they were popular.

  22. The explanation of the old wasp joke is funny, but the comic itself sure isn’t. As a native New Englander, I myself would have expected some variation of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant somewhere among the explanations. Not that that would have been funny, either.

  23. Big Chief, I think somebody did bring up what they called the ethnic sense of WASP, but it didn’t go anywhere in the comments.

  24. “My memory is that they were intensely popular for a few months, and Wikipedia suggsts that would have been in 1963.”

    Seems right. A child whose first memory would be a year or two later and whose schoolyard joke period a few years after that, I would have had a lot of throw back repetitions. As a child I wouldn’t have known these were jokes all invented in the last five years nor would I have thought there was anything noteworthy about them being about elephants. I would have just assumed elephants were always a standard subject for jokes.

    I have to wonder what cause the surge in, of all things, elephant jokes. Has there been any similar trend in joke subject (fads and tech breakthoughs don’t really count) since then. If so, … what?

    Hmm, I guess I remember light bulb jokes becoming very popular in 1979.

  25. I think the light bulb jokes came before the elephant jokes. Before there were light bulb jokes there were Polish jokes, one of which was about how many Polish people it takes to screw in a light bulb; the very first light bulb joke. This led to how many Republicans (1 to screw it in, 6 to complain how much better the old bulb was), how many Democrats (1 to screw it in, 1 to keep his knee from jerking), how many Jewish mothers (that’s all right, I will just sit here in the dark, as long as you’re happy), and how many mice (two). But the elephant jokes eclipsed them all in popularity, to the point where there was a series of elephant joke bubble gum cards which I collected but no longer have.
    Then after that there were the non-elephant variations that woozy mentions. Jane was colorblind, that’s why she said “here come the grapes”, and here come the grape jokes. What’s purple and rules the waves? Grape Britain. Then there was a joke about Moby’s Dick, and it crossbred with the grapes to produce: What’s purple and swims through the ocean? Moby Grape. Which became the name of a rock band and the rest is rock-and-roll history.
    The joke “What’s red and white on the outside and gray on the inside?” has two answers: An inside-out elephant; a can of Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Elephant Soup.

  26. You still get light bulb jokes, offered not entirely in a spirit of irony or nostalgia. The “how many therapists” one, though I don’t see how it could go back to the origins of the trope in the 60s, is still quite old, yet shows up currently as though fresh.

    (BTW for anyone not familiar, the answer is One but the light bulb has to really want to change.)


  27. “I think the light bulb jokes came before the elephant jokes.”

    Completely subjective and totally unverifiable but I disagree.

    Lightbulb jokes (including “Californians don’t screw in lightbulbs; they screw in hot tubs”) were exceedingly popular in the mid seventies to early eighties. I brought them up as they really are the only joke trend I can remember distinctly occurring (I can think of trends of delivery and structure “Oh, did I say that out loud” was very popular for 2008 to 2013 but actual genres I’m drawing blanks on.)

    As a child may favorite elephant joke was: What times is it when an elephant sits on your fence?

  28. “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know.”

    ― Groucho Marx

    This one I’m guessing would predate the c. 1963 craze.

  29. Recipe for Elephant and Rabbit Soup: Take equal parts of both ingredients: one elephant, one rabbit. Boil until done. Note: it is sometimes better to leave out the rabbit and use just the elephant because some people do not like to find a hare in their soup.

  30. This retro Beetle seems to be saying elephant jokes were well known, and widely-disliked:

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