A priest, a rabbit, and a minister

… walk into a bar. And into a Walk Into Bar joke, which then goes doubly meta. The rabbit brings a really big beer to the event. The joke has been around in print, in one form or another, for maybe 20 years. The image is a fantasist painting “Bunny with Beer” (from 2017) by the artist Omar Rayyan. The two joined in happy union by an unknown hand, during the past few days, in the form of a texty cartoon:


(Three big hat tips to Michael Palmer.)

The image. Rayyan’s 2017 painting, apparently done as a bewery illustration or bar decor (Rayyan does works on commission):


From the Studio Rayyan site on the artist:

Upon graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design many years ago, Omar Rayyan settled on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. The bucolic surroundings compliment and help inspire his “old world” aesthetic toward painting. He enjoys looking to the past for inspiration and guidance from the great oil painters of the Northern Renaissance and the Romantic and Symbolist painters of the 19th century.

… Nowadays, Omar is concentrating more on doing personal works and commissions for collectors. Paintings of whim and fantasy made to indulge his own personal tastes and humors and to hopefully entertain and please the viewing public.

Pure whimsy: “Mists of Oolong” from 2010:


The bar-rabbit joke. From Barry Popik’s site on 2/21/20, on the topic (Barry’s title):

“A priest, a minister and a rabbit walk into a bar…” (bar joke)

with examples back to 2003 and plenty of very recent ones. I looked at the general joke form (Walk Into Bar, in my terminology) in a 8/13/17 posting “Reduced coordination, joke forms, and sociocutural categories”:

There are a number of conventional forms (formats, schemas) for jokes. The knock-knock joke. Joke verse forms: the limerick, the double dactyl, etc. And there are more open forms, allowing great latitude in their presentation.

The Walk Into Bar form is one of these. The only requirement is the set-up, which has one, two, or three characters (the bar-goers) going into a bar (mostly commonly the verb used is walk, in the jocular simple present tense, though go and other verbs of motion are possible, as is the simple past tense); sometimes the set-up specifies more about the bar-goers — what they look like, what they have with them — or about the bar and its location. The follow-up typically involves conversational exchanges between the bar-goers and the bartender or other patrons of the bar, or else a series of actions on the part of the bar-goers, these exchanges or actions incorporating a pay-off joke.

… In standard three-bar-goer Walk Into Bar jokes, the bar-goers belong to one sociocultural category of significance: three members of the same profession, three adherents of different religions, three notes of the diatonic musical scale, three grammatical tenses, and so on.

Early on, Walk Into Bar spawned a meta-joke, a joke about the joke. From Popik’s collection, this example, with 3 bar-goers, all religious figures:

A priest, a rabbi, and a monk walk into the bar. The bartender says, “What is this, a joke?”

The bar-rabbit joke is meta in this way, but it’s also meta in that it has characters talking about the form and content of the joke they are in, while explicitly recognizing that they are in fact characters in a joke — just as cartoon characters so frequently do.

Specifically, the rabbit entertains the possibility that its character has been misspelled, that it’s a typo for rabbi. (Note that it in that sentence refers simultaneously to the rabbit and the (printed) word rabbit.)

This is a perfectly reasonable thing for the rabbit to speculate about, given that the sociocultural-category condition on Walk Into Bar jokes appears to be quite strong; it’s markedly aberrant for a rabbit to be in a bar-joke trio with a priest and a minister. That rabbit has to be the point of the joke somehow. Imagine a joke beginning:

Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and a kangaroo walk into a bar …

I haven’t seen a joke like this one, but it would be quite striking, and it would be immediately clear that it’s all about that kangaroo, in some way to be made clear in a moment.

A final little point: the version of the bar-rabbit joke in #1 above has the rabbit folded into the middle of the bar-going trio, where it seems especially likely to be an accidental intrusion: a priest, a rabbit, and a minister. In contrast, Barry Popik’s version has the rabbit coming as a zinger at the end, a surprise shift away from the religious-figure category established by the two previous characters: a priest, a minister, and a rabbit. Similar jokes, but different effects, and the version in #1 is subtler.

And so the rabbit says, tentatively, “I might be a typo”. Maybe I don’t belong here.

How sweet. (And it’s overshadowed by that giant glass of beer, an Alice in Barland.)


2 Responses to “A priest, a rabbit, and a minister”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    That last parenthetical made me wish that the rabbit had been white.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    And now, from Alex Elliott on Facebook on 9/25/20, another variant:

    A priest, a rabbit, and a minister all walk into a bar. “I’m only here because of autocorrect,” said the rabbit.

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