Plod Blog

How many cops does it take to change a light bulb? Why we love police jokes……..

“The perfect crime was committed last night, when thieves broke into Scotland Yard and stole all the toilets. Police say they have absolutely nothing to go on” – Ronnie Corbett

That’s a fantastic, timeless classic, that’s guaranteed to raise a smile whether you’re nine or ninety years old.  And another from the king of the silly police gag:

“West Mersea police announced tonight that they wish to interview a man wearing high heels and frilly knickers, but the Chief Constable said they must wear their normal uniforms” – Ronnie Corbett

Cop jokes are funny – it’s an irrefutable fact. But just what is it about the boys and girls in blue that make them such good gag-fodder?

My grandparents grew up laughing at the Keystone Cops, my parents grew up laughing at Carry on Constable, and I grew up laughing at Officer Dibble. There were similarities: Keystone Cops were bungling fools, the Carry on Constables weren’t much better, and Officer Dibble was always being outsmarted by Top Cat.

Cue the first distinctive stereotype that form the basis of police jokes.

1: Cops are a bit thick.

Me: I got stopped last night by a policeman.
Cop: ‘I’m going to follow you to the nearest Police Station’.
Me: ‘What For?’.
Cop: ‘I’ve forgotten the way’- Tommy Cooper

This stereotype has been running for over 400 years and I tell you who I blame – Shakespeare! One of his ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ characters was a Police Watchman called Dogberry who was so thick that he used more malapropisms than a Donald Trump late-night Twitter rant! Who can forget the Dogberry thigh-slapping classic:
“We will spare for no wit, I warrant you. Here’s that shall drive some of them to a nonecome. Only get the learned writer to set down our excommunication, and meet me at the jail” – William Shakespeare

Even through your hysterical laughter I’m sure that you spotted the gag? Yes, he used the word ‘excommunication’ instead of ‘examination’. Okay, that joke could’ve done with a bit of an edit. I mean, far be it for me to criticise the Bard, but that man had longer set-ups than Stewart Lee!

To be fair, I could be said to have kept the stereotype running with this little beauty:
“I was speaking at a police conference the other day and a very senior police officer actually walked out. Turns out he was offended…after some of my jokes had been explained to him!” – Alfie Moore

So, is it really true that coppers are a bit thick? Put it this way – I’ve been a cop for over 20 years and I had to Google the meaning of the word malapropism!

2: Cops are a bit fat.

In this country we’ve always subscribed to the image of the rotund, avuncular, red-faced village bobby (with the exception of plain-clothes detectives – who are all portrayed as alcoholics!) For the experts on ‘fat cop’ jokes we have to go across the pond where the association between cops and doughnuts has been running for decades.  There are various theories behind this – cops working 24/7 had limited food options. Although, ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’ founder William Rosenberg actively encouraged officers into his premises to protect the stores. Tough gig! Whatever the reason the gags came thick and fast:

Cop: ‘Where are you going?’
Driver: ‘The donut shop’
Cop: ‘Why were you driving at 110mph?’
Driver: ‘Because if I don’t beat you there, there won’t be any donuts left’ – Anon

Once again, I’ve sometimes reinforced the fat cop stereotype on stage (but mainly in KFC outlets):
“I realised I was overweight when I recently chased an elderly shoplifter around Tesco …..and she lapped me!” – Alfie Moore

3: Cops are aggressive

‘How many cops does it take to throw a prisoner down the stairs? None, he fell Sarg’ – Anon

An aggressive police officer may even set their dog on you and if that happens try and follow this advice:
“If you’re being chased by a police dog try not to go through a tunnel, and then over a little see-saw, then jump through a hoop of fire. They’re trained for that”. – Milton Jones

Ironically our American friends seem to think the concept that UK cops are aggressive is ridiculous:
“In England the Police don’t have a gun and you don’t have a gun. If you commit a crime the police will say ‘stop, or I’ll say stop again!” – Robin Williams

4: Cops are corrupt

I’ve just got one response to this unfortunate stereotype:
“Anybody says that the police are corrupt can kiss my Rolex!” – Alfie Moore

5: Cops are a bit racist

Those with a nervous disposition and a penchant for political correctness should stop reading now:
“How many cops does it take to change a light bulb? None. They’d arrest the bulb for being broke and beat up the room for being black” – Anon

Stereotype? What stereotype?

Now, you’ve probably noticed that these stereotypes feel a tad on the negative side and you may be wondering how I feel about that?

The answer is that I’m absolutely delighted.

I believe that the British tradition of poking fun at authority figures is very healthy. The police represent power and authority and that attracts humour. We are allowed to make the jokes, and laugh at them, because we have freedom of speech. That’s why we share videos of the Baby Shark song playing over our Prime Minister dancing like she’s being tasered. It’s funny!

Sadly, not everyone has this basic human right. The most controversial joke, in fact the only joke, in North Korea today would probably be:
“Why did the Supreme Ultimate Leader cross the road? To get an official Democratic People’s Republic of Korea state approved hair cut” – Alfie Moore

I bet Dogberry would find that gag absolutistly hilarious… (as he realised that it was a clever malapropism callback :-))

Long live our love of police jokes and our freedom to tell them. 

Finally……….. a newsflash just in:
“After a series of crimes in the Glasgow area, Chief Inspector McTavish has announced that he is looking for a man with one eye. If he doesn’t find him, he’s going to use both eyes.” – Ronnie Corbett

For more of Alfie Moore taking a funny, and sometimes slightly irreverent look at policing tune in to the new series of IT’S A FAIR COP on BBC Radio 4 from Friday 7th September 2018