Jokes that only Tennesseans get

I’ve just begun an on-site consulting job at a place where three other Tennesseans work–including my boss. It’s always a delight to discover former residents of the Volunteer State living west of the Mississippi. We talk about food, country relatives, and all manner of things. Best of all, I have a chance to tell jokes that I don’t normally tell in Colorado; people here just don’t get them. Here are three of the better ones, the first with a seasonal bent.


Joke Number One:

This ambitious preacher went back into the hills of East Tennessee and organized a church. When December came, he challenged the community to organize a Christmas pageant. The people said they would, and after much work and practice, they held their opening night. It was a beautiful telling of the old story, complete with angels, real animals, and a live baby. The only odd thing was that the three Wise Men were dressed as firefighters. The minister asked the pageant director about the fireman outfits, and she replied that she got the idea straight from the Bible, where it said of the Wise Men, “We have seen his star in the East and have come from afar.”

Joke Number Two:

People from Tennessee always begin by asking where in the state then other person is from. I sometimes begin my response by saying “I grew up so far back in the woods that the Episcopalians handle snakes.”

No one in Colorado laughs at that line.

Joke Number Three:

A not-so-bright fellow runs his car off a country road and hits a tree in the yard of an old lady whose pride and joy is her flowers. He gets out of the car and begins pulling up blossoms and putting them on his car and then strews them along the road. Utterly apoplectic, she runs out and demands, “What in the Sam Hill are you doing?”

The guy, putting his hands on his hips and talking as if to a child, replies, “Ma’am, didn’t you ever take driver’s training? They told me that anytime you have an accident you are supposed to put out flares.”

I once told that joke at a Colorado dinner party. A couple from Knoxville threw back their heads and laughed, but the other people didn’t get it at all.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

6 Responses to Jokes that only Tennesseans get

  1. Ezzy says:

    You are right. I don’t understand the jokes. I’m from Cali. Could you possibly explain them?

  2. tennesseeguy says:

    OK, for the infidels.

    Joke Number One hinges on the tendency of East Tennesseans to pronounce “fire” as if it were spelled “far,” as in “that far was so hot it like to have burned me up.” The pageant director dressed the Wise Men as firemen because she thought the Bible said they had come from a fire.

    Joke Number Two humorously associates Episcopalians, the Protestant denomination with the highest level of education and income, with fundamentalists–usually on the opposite end of the education and income continuum–who handle snakes during services. The joke is that if you come from a place where the high church folks handle snakes, you are indeed from back in the woods.

    Joke Number Three is akin to Joke Number One in that some Tennesseans pronounce the words “flare” and “flower” and “flour” in exactly the same way. The guy in the car heard the driver’s ed instructor say to set out “flowers” when the instructor actually said “flares.”

    That’s why these jokes don’t fly in Colorado or Massachusetts or California.

  3. Byron says:

    No explaining needed here! I’ll have to tell that one about the 3 firefighters next Sunday at our Christmas play practice!

  4. Jay says:

    I’m from Henry co., Virginia and I completely understand. Thanks for the laugh!

  5. Gary Carden says:

    When I was a kid, I used to hear a local band play a song that was about the words like “far” for “fire,” that had a verse about a groundhog in a hollow (holler) log and we could get him out by “twisting a war (wire) in his har (hair) and that’s how we’ll get him, I know.

  6. John says:

    Having moved from Cincinnati to Greeneville, TN at the age of 9, I was attempting to adapt to the differences. Although my parents hailed from nearby Erwin, I was nevertheless taken aback when during my first 4th grade daily devotional at school, a classmate led the class in prayer. My eyes opened wide when I heard him say, “…for Thine is the pear.”

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