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Lightbulb joke
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Lightbulb joke

The lightbulb joke is an example of an endless-variations joke and has possibly thousands of versions covering every imaginable culture, belief, occupation and special-interest group. Generally the punchline is not complimentary to the group providing the subject of the joke.

The generally acknowledged "original" goes as follows:

Q: How many [insert chosen group here] does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Ten - one to hold the lightbulb and nine to turn the ladder around.

Even the original is subject to variation, the most common involving more people turning the entire house around. There is no uniformity as to the target of derision: in America it has been the Polish people, while in Britain it is the Irish who are lampooned. The jokes are by no means limited to English-speaking countries. For example, the Russians tell the same joke about the Moldavians, Chukchi and Ukrainians. The Ukrainians, in turn, tell it about Russians; the Spanish make fun of the inhabitants of Lepe, while the Colombians make fun of the inhabitants of Nariño, and the rest of the Spanish-speaking population laugh at the Galicians; the Norwegians laugh at their Swedish neighbours, and, ironically, the Swedes tell the same joke about Norwegians; the Germans target the East Frisians; The Dutch target their Belgian neighbours and the Indians target the Pakistanis.

Standard British bulbs are bayonet fitting rather than screw fitting.

This generic usability prompted one commentator to create the "all-purpose ethnic version" which reads as follows:

Q: How many members of a given ethnic community does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Ten - one to hold the lightbulb and nine to behave in a fashion generally associated with a negative stereotype of that group.

A comprehensive listing of known variations has been provided. Note that in many cases multiple answers are provided. The following list of joke variants is broadly grouped into four categories: See "essay-style" versions of the joke below under "Long lightbulb jokes".

Table of contents
1 Geographical or ethnic variations
2 Philosophical or religious variations
3 Occupational or behavioural variations
4 Too-odd-to-categorise variations
5 Long lightbulb jokes
6 See also

Geographical or ethnic variations

Nations and their armies - Q: How many armies does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: At least five. The Germans to start it, the French to give up without really trying, the Italians to start, get nowhere and try again from the other side, the Americans to finish off the job and then claim credit for the whole thing, and the Swiss to pretend that nothing happened. (See WWII)

Californians - Q: How many Californians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A1: Six. One to screw it in and five to share the experience.
A2: None. Californians don't screw in lightbulbs; they screw in hot tubs!

Northern Californians - Q: How many Northern Californians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Hella.

The French - Q: How many Frenchmen does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Only one. He holds the lightbulb while the world revolves around him.

Jewish mothers - Q: How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None, I'll just sit here in the dark, and this pain I have - oy vey you should never know...
also used for Welsh mothers - "Don't worry dearie, I'll just sit here in the dark, alone."

Jews - Q: How many Israeli Extremists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Twenty Five, One to change the lightbulb, one to shoot the man that sold him the lightbulb, twenty to invade the vilage of the man who sold the lightbulb and demolish all the homes in the road he lived in, and three to denounce as anti-semitic anyone who thinks it is an over-reaction.

Q: How many Lubavichers does it take to replace a lightbulb?
A: Three, one to screw it in and two to convince everyone else to do it too.

Q: How many Satmarers does it take to replace a lightbulb?
A: Two, one to screw it in and another to denounce it as a Zionist plot.

Q: How many Bratslavers does it take to replace a lightbulb?
A: Bratslavers don't replace lightbulbs, because they know they'll never find one as good as the old one.

Q: How many Zionists does it take to replace a lightbulb?
A: Four, one to stay home and convince someone else to do it, a second to donate the bulb, a third to screw it in, and a fourth to proclam that the entire Jewish nation stands behind their actions.

New Jerseyites - Q: How many New Jerseyites does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Just one, but he has to take all the crap from the New Yorkers and Philadelphians who are too stupid to figure out that he is perfectly capable of doing it all by himself.

Oregonians - Q: How many Oregonians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Three. One to screw in the lightbulb and two to fend off all those Californians trying to share the experience.

Quebecers - Q: How many Quebecers does it take to change a lightbulb? A: Fifty percent, plus one

San Francisco: - Q: How many straight San Franciscans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Both of them.

The Spanish: - Q: How many Spaniards does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Juan.

Valley girls - Q: How many valley girls does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Oooh, like manual labor? Gag me with a spoon! Fer shure!

Virginians - Q: How many Virginians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Three. One to screw it in and two to talk about how wonderful the old one was in the good old days.

Philosophical or religious variations

Calvinist Christians - Q: How many Calvinist Christians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. God has already decided whether the bulb is destined for light or eternal darkness, and nothing we can do will change that. (See Predestination (Calvinism)).

Catholics - Q: How many Catholics does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Three, but they're really only One. (This is a reference to the Trinity.)

Christians - Q: How many Christians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. Though we can facilitate the change, you must remember that light can only be redeemed by the Grace of God through his only son Jesus Christ.

Existentialists - Q: How many existentialists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two: One to screw it in and one to observe how the lightbulb itself symbolizes a single incandescent beacon of subjective reality in a netherworld of endless absurdity reaching out toward a maudlin cosmos of nothingness.

Feminists - Q: How many Feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A1: One, and that's not funny!!!
A2: Two. One to screw in the lightbulb and one to berate any men who offer to help
A3: Three: One to screw in the lightbulb and two to discuss how the bulb is exploiting the socket.
A4: Two. One to screw it in, and one to suck my dick.

Greek Orthodox Priests - Q: How many Greek Orthodox priests does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: What do you mean, "change"!?

Liberals - Q: How many liberals does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Five. One to screw it in and four to screw it up.

Libertarians - Q: How many Libertarians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None, the free market will take care of it.

Marxists - Q: How many Marxists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A1: None: The lightbulb contains the seeds of its own revolution.
A2: The bulb cannot be changed — it has to be smashed.

Methodists - Q: How many Methodists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: CHANGE?!

Narcissists - Q: How many narcissists does it take to screw in a light-bulb?
A. Just one ... but he has to wait for the entire world to revolve around him.

Nihilists - Q: How many nihilists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Who the fuck cares?

"Pro-lifers - Q: How many "pro-lifers" does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: 6: Two to screw in the bulb and four to testify that it was lit from the moment they began screwing.

Quakers - Q: How many Quakers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: None; Quakers have the Inner Light.
A2: 12: We must form a committee about it.

Socialists - Q: How many socialists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One to petition the Ministry of Light for a bulb, fifty to establish the state production quota, two hundred militia to force the factory unions to allow production of the bulb, and one to surreptitiously order an American lightbulb.

Sound engineers - Q: How many sound engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One-two, one-two, one-two.

Stoners - Q: How many stoners does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Woah dude, so that's where the light comes from!

Surrealists - Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: Fish.
A2: To get to the other side.
A3: Two: one to hold the giraffe, and one to put the clocks in the bath tub.
A4: Three: one to change the bulb, one to hold the ladder.

Ufologists - Q: How many ufologists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: It's *NOT* funny.

Unitarian Universalists - Q: How many Unitarian Universalists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a lightbulb. However, if, in your own journey, you have found that lightbulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your lightbulb, and present it next month at our annual lightbulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of lightbulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life, and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Wikipedians - Q: How many Wikipedians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: 3, one to change the bulb, a second to write a lengthy article about the historical ramifications of changing light bulbs, and a third to start an edit war with the second.

Yuppies/WASPs - Q: How many Yuppies (WASPs) does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two, one to mix the martinis and the other to call the electrician.

Zen Masters - Q: How many Zen Masters does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: A tree in a golden forest.
A2: Two. One to change and one not to change.
A2a: "One to change and one not to change" is fake Zen. The true Zen answer is "Four. One to change the bulb."
A3: Three. Two to fetch the wood and one to enlighten the novice.

Occupational or behavioural variations

Accountants - Q: How many accountants does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: What kind of answer did you have in mind?

ADD kids - Q: How many ADD kids does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Wanna go for a bike ride?

Apple Newton users - Q: How many Apple Newton users does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Foux! There to eat lemons, axe gravy soup.

Black Cab drivers - Q:How many Black Cab drivers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: (Sucks teeth) All the way up there? At this time of night? You must be joking, guv!

Bluegrass Musicians - Q: How many bluegrass musicians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One to screw it in, and five more to complain that it's electric!

Brewers - Q: How many brewers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: About one third less than for a regular bulb.

Beta testers - Q: How many beta testers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. They just find the problems, they don't fix them.

Central Intelligence Agency - Q: How many CIA agents does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Ten thousand: one to change the bulb, one to botch the job, and the rest to form a massive cover-up.

College students - Q: How many college students does it take to screw a lightbulb?
A: I don't know, will this be on the test?

Committee members - Q: How many committee members does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: This topic was resumed from last week's discussion, but is incomplete pending resolution of some action items noted in the minutes. It will be continued next week. Meanwhile...

Computer programmers - Q: How many computer programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Sorry, that's a hardware problem! (But also see Programming language variations.)

Consultants - Q: How many consultants does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One, that'll be $50 please.

Country and Western Singers - Q: How many country and western singers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: 2: One to change the bulb and one to write a weepy ballad about how good the old one was.

Cryonicists - Q: How many cryonicists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. They just sit in the dark and wait for technology to screw it in.

Economic Theorists - Q: How many Economic Theorists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two. One to screw in the bulb and another to hold all other conditions constant.

Free-market Economists - Q: How many Free-market Economists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None, they just sit in the dark and wait for the Adam Smith's invisible hand to do it.

Neo-classical Economists - Q: How many Neo-classical Economists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. Obviously, if people wanted a bright room, someone would have changed the light bulb already.

Electrical Engineers - Q: How many electrical engineers does it take to change a lightblub?
A: This can be solved in software. Get a computer programmer to do it.

Football players - Q: How many football players does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The entire team! And they all get a semester's credit for it!

Fraternity brothers - Q: How many fratboys does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: None; fratboys don't screw in lightbulbs; they screw in pools of vomit.

Freudians - Q: How many Freudians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two; One to change the bulb and one to hold my penis... I mean, my mother... I mean, the ladder.

Graduate students - Q: How many graduate students does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Only one, but it may take upwards of five years for him to get it done.

Hipsters - Q: How many hipsters does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: (with disdain) You don't know?

Lojbanists - Q: How many Lojbanists does it take to change a broken light bulb?
A: Two: one to decide what to change it into, and one to figure out what kind of bulb emits broken light.

Mathematicians - Q: How many mathematicians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: None. It's left as an exercise for the reader.

A2: In a recent article, Robertson states:

A: One. He gives it to six Californians, thereby reducing the problem to an earlier joke...

However, in earlier work, Wiener [1] has shown that one mathematician can change a lightbulb:

If k mathematicians can change a lightbulb, and if one more simply watches them do it, then k+1 mathematicians will have changed the lightbulb.

It is vacuously true that 0 mathematicians can change a lightbulb. Therefore, by induction, for all n in the positive integers, n mathematicians can change a lightbulb.

Bibliography -
See also : Internet humor[1] Wiener, Matthew P., <11485@ucbvax>, Re: YALBJ, 1986

Mensa Members - Q: How many members of mensa does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One.

Microsoft executives - Q: How many Microsoft executives does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Microsoft doesn't change lightbulbs; it declares DarknessTM the new standard.

Middle managers - Q: How many middle managers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: I'll have to get back to you on that.

Movie Directors - Q: How many movie directors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Just one, but he wants to do it thirty-two times and when he's finished everyone will think that his last lightbulb was much better.

Mystery writers - Q: How many mystery writers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two: One to screw it almost all the way in and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

Pentium owners - Q: How many Pentium owners does it take to change a light bulb?
0.99987, but that's close enough for most applications.

Psychologists - Q: How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.

PMS sufferers - Q: How many women with PMS does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Three.
Q: Why?
A: BECAUSE IT JUST DOES -- OKAY?

Slashdotters - Ask Slashdot: How many Programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: FIRST POST!

Slashdot Trolls - Q: How many Slashdot trolls does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: IN SOVIET RUSSIA, THE LIGHTBULB CHANGES YOU!!

Software engineers - Q: How many software engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Just one. But the house falls down.

Tabloid Editors - Q:How many tabloid editors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: A VAST AND TEEMING HORDE STRETCHING FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA!!!!

Therapists - Q: How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.
A2: How many do you think it takes?

Trumpet players - Q: How many first trumpet players does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Six, one to change it and the other five to go on about how much better they would have done it.

Supplementary: Q: How many second trumpet players does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None, we don't go up that high.

Unimaginative people - Q: How many unimaginative people does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One.

Vietnam veterans - Q: How many Vietnam veterans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: YOU DON'T KNOW! YOU WEREN'T THERE, MAN!!! YOU'LL NEVER KNOW!!!!!

White House Interns - Q. How many White House interns does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. None, they are too busy screwing the President.

Xerox PARC researchers - Q: How many Xerox PARC researchers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: What lightbulb? They invented the lightbulb years before anyone else, but then discarded it because they didn't think anyone would be interested.

Trekker variations

These variants use the fictional alien races of Star Trek. At times, "lightbulb" is replaced by "transtator tube" for flavor.

Vulcanss - Q: How many Vulcans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A1: Two, but it has to be a very large lightbulb and they can only do it once every seven years.
A2: Just one, and he fails to see any humor in the situation.
A3: Approximately 1.00000000000000000....

Klingons - Q: How many Klingons does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two: one to change the lightbulb and one to kill the other and take all the credit.

Borg - Q: How many Borg does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: Changing lightbulbs is futile. Resistance is voltage divided by current.
A2: None. They just self-destruct the malfunctioning equipment.

Bajorans - Q: How many Bajorans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two: One to change the lightbulb, and one to request a vision from the prophets in order to thank them.

Ferengi - Q: How many Ferengi does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two: One to screw the new one in, and one to sell the broken one to an unsuspecting customer.

Programming language variations

Even though most programmers contend that this is a hardware problem, there have nevertheless been speculations over the amount of lightbulb changers that would be required coming from a background in a certain programming language, and how they would go about it.

APL - Q: How many APL programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Thirteen. One to change the bulb and twelve to figure out how the new bulb works in the first place.

Assembly language - Q: How many assembly language programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One, but he'll have to figure out the laws of physics first, then arrange the molecules in proper order to create a new bulb.

C++ - Q: How many C++ programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: As many as are required to express the different views on programming. Additional lightbulbs may get smashed to accommodate them all.
A2: 3: One to write the LightbulbSocket class, one to write the Lightbulb class, and one to write the LightbulbSocket.Insert(Lightbulb&) member.

COBOL - Q: How many COBOL programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One. He will, however, replace your light switch by a huge lever that takes three men to operate and comes with a sign that says "PULL LEVER BACKWARD GIVING LIGHT -- PUSH LEVER FORWARD GIVING DARKNESS".

FORTRAN - Q: How many FORTRAN programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Lightbulbs are for wimps. The FORTRAN programmer puts up some landing lights from an abandoned military airfield. He is surprised when you voice complaints -- wasn't giving off light the primary function?

Java - Q: How many Java programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One, but he'll have to install what he calls a "Lightbulb Virtual Machine" that takes up half the basement. The bulb itself will be twice as big as a normal bulb, but you can control it from anywhere in the house.

Pascal - Q: How many Pascal programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One, but he only knows how to make the bulb. You'll have to get a fitting socket somewhere else.

Prolog - Q: How many Prolog programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: no.

Visual Basic - Q: How many Visual Basic programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: They don't know how. They have C++ programmers to change their lightbulbs. They make wonderfully decorated light switches, though.

Hardware Engineers - Q: How many Hardware Engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: None. "We have an identical lightbulb here and ours is working just fine."
A2: None. "We'll fix it in software."

Too-odd-to-categorise variations

Self-reference - Q: How many lightbulbs does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One, if it knows its own Gödel number. (See Gödel's incompleteness theorem)

Gorillas - Q: How many gorillas does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Only one, but you need a shit-load of lightbulbs.

Mice - Q: How many mice does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Only two, but nobody knows how they got in there...

Dragon Ball Z - Q: How many Dragonball Z characters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: One, but it takes him ten episodes to do it.

Quanta - Q: How many quanta does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: One and a half.

Schrödinger's cats - Q: How many of Schrödinger's cats does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Three and none, simultaneously.

Carl Sagans - Q: How many Carl Sagans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Billions and billions.

In the Known Space universe of Larry Niven's science-fiction stories, Jinx is the largest human-inhabited planet. Jinxians are therefore physically strong due to living under high gravity, and tend to move slowly. This has led to the stereotype elsewhere of Jinxians as being mentally as well as physically ponderous, a popular joke asks "how many Jinxians does it take to paint a skyscraper"? The answer is "two: one to hold the paint sprayer, and one to move the skyscraper."

Lore Fitzgerald Sjoberg devised the Lightbulb Exemption List (http://www.brunching.com/lightbulb.html) - "There exists X such that the answer to the question 'How many members of the group X does it take to change a lightbulb' is 'One, but the member in question may need to stand on a chair or something.'"

Long lightbulb jokes

Lawyers

Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Such number as may be deemed to perform the stated task in a timely and efficient manner within the strictures of the following agreement:

Whereas the party of the first part, also known as "The Lawyer", and the party of the second part, also known as "The lightbulb", do hereby and forthwith agree to a transaction wherein the party of the second part (lightbulb) shall be removed from the current position as a result of failure to perform previously agreed upon duties, i.e., the lighting, elucidation, and otherwise illumination of the area ranging from the front (north) door, through the entry way, terminating at an area just inside the primary living area, demarcated by the beginning of the carpet, any spillover illumination being at the option of the party of the second part (lightbulb) and not required by the aforementioned agreement between the parties.

The aforementioned removal transaction shall include, but not be limited to, the following steps:

1.) The party of the first part (Lawyer) shall, with or without elevation at his option, by means of a chair, stepstool, ladder or any other means of elevation, grasp the party of the second part (lightbulb) and rotate the party of the second part (lightbulb) in a counter-clockwise direction, said direction being non- negotiable. Said grasping and rotation of the party of the second part (lightbulb) shall be undertaken by the party of the first part (Lawyer) with every possible caution by the party of the first part (Lawyer) to maintain the structural integrity of the party of the second part (lightbulb), notwithstanding the afore- mentioned failure of the party of the second part (lightbulb) to perform the aforementioned customary and agreed upon duties. The foregoing notwithstanding, however, both parties stipulate that structural failure of the party of the second part (lightbulb) may be incidental to the aforementioned failure to perform and in such case the party of the first part (Lawyer) shall be held blameless for such structural failure insofar as this agreement is concerned so long as the non-negotiable directional codicil (counter-clockwise) is observed by the party of the first part (Lawyer) throughout.

2.) Upon reaching a point where the party of the second part (lightbulb) becomes separated from the party of the third part ("Receptacle"), the party of the first part (Lawyer) shall have the option of disposing of the party of the second part (lightbulb) in a manner consistent with all applicable state, local and federal statutes.

3.) Once separation and disposal have been achieved, the party of the first part (Lawyer) shall have the option of beginning installation of the party of the fourth part ("New lightbulb"). This installation shall occur in a manner consistent with the reverse of the procedures described in step one of this self- same document, being careful to note that the rotation should occur in a clockwise direction, said direction also being non- negotiable. NOTE: The above described steps may be performed, at the option of the party of the first part (Lawyer), by said party of the first part (Lawyer), by his heirs and assigns, or by any and all persons authorized by him to do so, the objective being to produce a level of illumination in the immediate vicinity of the aforementioned front (north) door consistent with maximization of ingress and revenue for the party of the fifth part, also known as "The Firm".

List-serv subscribers

Q: How many list-serv subscribers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: 1,331

Debian Linux developers

Q: How many Debian Maintainers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: 993:
(ported to Debian by Florian Weps [1])

and for a total count of 996:

See also