Professors aren’t exactly comedians. But when both are paid to stand in front of an auditorium full of people who pay to hear them speak, it’s clear why many try to blur the lines. Prof jokes are like dad jokes with all the secondhand embarrassment, but none of the familial shame. Although, luckily for students, it’s much harder to be caught rolling one’s eyes in a lecture hall than at the dinner table. Here’s a list of jokes made by profs that have become so cliché, we’re surprised Ross from Friends didn’t use them in his Paleontology class.
Using celebrity photos
It seems to be a rite of passage for older profs to take photos of famous actors and put them on the “About Me” slides of their introductory PowerPoints or to insert them right into lecture presentations as the lead-up to a well-rehearsed “How did that photo of me get in there?” It’s practically required for tenure.
Of course, this joke is at its funniest when profs use a celebrity who is still “hip with millennials” (ex. George Clooney, Tom Cruise or anyone born after 1965).
Joke answers on i>Clicker questions
Inserting a joke option for an i>Clicker question is perhaps the most awkward way to try to be relatable since telling people that you are relatable. But if it means one less answer to switch frantically between as you count down from 10, then your students are with you 100 per cent. Please accept some polite laughter and a few furtive eye-rolls as payment.
And then of course, there are the profs who include farcical “F” and “G” options. I have nothing to say to you guys other than to seriously evaluate your life-choices and size of font.
Bringing up Donald Trump
Although it’s admittedly relevant in psych classes, bringing up Donald Trump during a lecture is a bit lazy. “So Donald Trump, am I right?” can be loosely translated to “I planned a 30-minute lesson for a 50-minute class.”
Using obscure subject puns
If you thought your high school science teacher’s chemistry cat posters were cringeworthy, just imagine the number of obscure puns that can be achieved when dealing with upper-level physics jargon.
Putting memes on Powerpoint slides
Or in notes. Or on tests… In fact, the less suitable the context, the better. Keep perusing those subreddits and asking your teenage daughter to keep you up-to-date on pop culture because anything’s better than another clicker question. And while we’d beg you not to use it, we’ll admit that “textbooks out for Harambe” is technically a valid way to start a lecture.
Just keep in mind though that we’re not going to buy the newest version of your notes package simply because you’ve added “fresher memes.”
Using weird token phrases
All professors have mannerisms that liken them to the adorably awkward protagonist in a romantic comedy. While there are some profs who play up their idiosyncrasies to become the “ultimate persona” — existing solely to entertain and occasionally confuse their students — usually this quirkiness manifests itself in a few off-handed catchphrases.
Whether they ask, “Questions? Comments? Concerns? Criticisms?” at least four times per lecture or “Shoooooooot” is five times more frequent than “and” in their word cloud, we admittedly love it when profs have token slogans because it makes them much more fun to imitate.
Pretending that “this will be on the midterm”
Every UBC student has experienced this to varying extremes. But whether your prof goes off on a tangent and then jokes just a little too dryly that “this will all be on the midterm,” or he reads randomly from a children’s book for 10 minutes in the middle of a lecture while encouraging you to “take detailed notes for your exam” — looking at you Gateman — the small part of you that always wants to look up when someone tells you “gullible” is written on the ceiling still scrawls “the teddy bear wore blue ribbon” furtively in your notebook.
Telling students they’re in the wrong class
This is the sort of joke that can never be passed off as “spur of the moment.” In fact, there’s a 100 per cent chance that the prof has it written on a cue card and that they spent the last 10 minutes before class excitedly asking every student if they are there for ECON 201.
Since profs can only wheel this one out at the start of every semester, this is also the same prof that will scare you into thinking your assignment is due this Friday instead of the next.
Making students do things for dramatic effect
After days spent telling students to bring their rough drafts to class on Friday, this is the professor that gets everyone to stand up and rip their drafts in half like some bizarre paper death cult. Would saying “first drafts are never good enough, so keep rewriting” have been sufficient? Probably. Is it as funny to watch? No.
Just generally inciting panic
Sometimes it feels as though our professors are selected based on equal parts teaching skills and sadism — “fear and terror” seem to be their most utilized tactic for humour. But even if it’s markedly less fun to be messed with than it is to mess with others, we have come to accept that trickery plays an important role in the “prof joke” art form. As if students didn’t feel duped enough by tuition prices and grading on the curve.
As much as we try to hate them, prof jokes, like the jokes our dads make, somehow manage to endear our profs to us even further — which is pretty much the only way we'll survive all of those final papers. So thank you, profs. You're all the real MVPs.