The Prison Joke

Originally Performed ByJohn Fox
Original AlbumJohn Fox (1988)
Lyrics ByJohn Fox
Phish Debut1991-04-11
Last Played1993-03-24
Current Gap1349
HistorianMartin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)


Perhaps one of the strangest Fishman cover “songs” is his version of stand up comedian John Fox’s classic “The Prison Joke” in the midst of the encore at The Cave at Carleton College (4/11/91). Although Fox is not a household name in the comedy world, his career has spanned over 30 years since his first performance at the World Famous Comedy Store (6/14/79). He has appeared on numerous television shows (Norm Crosby's Comedy Shop, Star Search, Make Me Laugh, Showtime's Comedy Network, appeared on Rodney Dangerfield’s HBO special, Opening Night at Rodneys Place, and was featured on the Redneck Comedy Roundup DVD with Jeff Foxworthy. Fox released “The Prison Joke” on his self-titled first album in 1988. Fish in telling the joke clearly demonstrated why he is a drummer rather than a comedian. 

Approximately two years after the original debacle (3/24/93 Santa Rosa, CA), “The Prison Joke” once again reared its ugly head. As Fish stepped to the microphone to perform “Terrapin” he was asked to tell the joke by a member of the audience. Fish declined and instead invited “Sam” on stage to do the dirty deed. He took the bait, told his version, and by Fish’s estimation got about three more laughs than he had. Fish then congratulated his new brother and asked if there was anybody else who wanted to tell a joke. “Nino” then came on stage and told his version of “The Prison Joke.” Which was “I’ve been in prison... and it sucks!”

A variation of “The Prison Joke” most recently appeared during Ricky Gervais’ guest spot (2/22/10) on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. As evidenced by Jon Stewart’s response, Gervais proved Fishman’s assessment of his own version of the joke true; it is definitely “all in the delivery!”

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