How many light bulbs
does it take to change… um, wait…
I may have that wrong…
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YouTube video: “Is It A Good Idea To Microwave a Giant Mercury Light Bulb?“
A lightbulb joke is a joke that asks how many people of a certain group are needed to change a light bulb. Generally, the punch line answer highlights a stereotype of the target group. There are numerous versions of the lightbulb joke satirizing a wide range of cultures, beliefs and occupations.
The original formulation of the joke was used to insult the intelligence of the (often ethnically defined) target group:
Q. How many [members of the target group] does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Ten — one to hold the light bulb and nine to turn the ladder around.
Most variations follow this scheme:
Q. How many [insert target group here] does it take to change a light bulb?
A. N — one to replace the light bulb and N-1 to [behave in a fashion generally associated with a negative stereotype of that group].
Often the stereotypical behavior will involve elaborate decision-making processes, and/or Byzantine management and supervision of the bulb-changing. The actual bulb changer may be last in the list for extra punch, especially when following a long recital of various supporting roles, each employing more [members of the target group] than the previous one.
Although lightbulb jokes tend to be derogatory in tone, the people targeted by them may take pride in the stereotypes expressed and are often themselves the jokes’ originators. Lightbulb jokes applied to subgroups can be used to ease tensions.