Why do we ask ourselves why the chicken crossed the road?
To get to the punch line in a hurry.
It may also be a way to explore the human condition without the human.
Why did the chicken cross the road? Peer pressure.
One reason the chicken joke thrives is its simplicity. Its accessibility. Kids tell chicken jokes. As adults, they remember being the kids telling the jokes. As extraordinary adults, they teach their kids chicken jokes.
We have a lifetime of chicken joke experience. And so when we see a chicken, whether or not that chicken is near a road, neurons in our brain automatically transmit the setup to the joke.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Adults never remember reading Dante’s Inferno or Matheson’s What Dreams May Come at five years old because a sad group of adults early on determined the exploration of hell’s many levels is best reserved for Sunday school. As if hell is a poorly lit sub-basement of the church. Which is about the only thing I thought they were right about.
Another reason, of course, is that most five-year-olds are still trying to figure out whether Pat is the bunny’s name or what you’re supposed to do to the bunny.
I could use some help with that one myself.
But I digress. Back to the chicken joke.
Even when it merges with another form, the knock-knock joke, the chicken joke is mercilessly simple.
Why did the chicken cross the road? To visit the village idiot. Knock knock. Who’s there? The chicken.
Why do we ask why the chicken crossed the road? Because asking who or what the chicken crossed the road doesn’t make sense. And because asking how, when and where results in obvious answers.
The chicken in the picture, a rooster, walked across the road in front of our tandem at 10:30 a.m. this past Sunday southwest of Edelstein, Illinois.
(That’s not a chicken joke, by the way. I just really like using an italic font at regular intervals.)
Because there were witnesses to this crossing, the rooster becomes another data point in historic road-crossing chicken research.
I saw the best chickens of their generation distracted by their desire to reach the other side of the road, ignoring community, eggs on the nest and the neighbor’s indifferent Labrador in search of another mindless quest.
This was not one of those chickens. This was no quest. We know why this crossing happened.
The rooster, shorn of most tail feathers and all the feathers on its back within two inches of the tail, crossed the road to get away from the bigger, meaner rooster on the south side of the road.
Been there. Done that.