How Many Men does it take to Change a Low Energy Light Bulb?

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Once the most popularly repeated and adapted gags – up there on a par with knock knock and why the chicken crossed the road, is the one about how many people it takes to change a light bulb. The essence of the joke is that changing a light bulb is a stereotypically simple thing for a person to do, but that certain groups of people with certain specific idiosyncrasies or characteristics might do it in different ways, and with varying degrees of difficulty.

Some of the stereotypes are the regular ones – men, women, people from different ethnic or cultural groups, people from different professions. A few examples might help paint the picture:

How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb?
“The government is aware of the situation and is setting up a committee to investigate the feasibility of changing it.”

How many journalists does it take to change a light bulb?
“We don’t change anything, we just report the facts.”

How many fishermen does it take to change a light bulb?
“Just one, but you ought to have seen the size of that light bulb!”

How many male chauvinists does it take to change a light bulb?
“None, let her cook in the dark.”

How many roadies does it take to change a light bulb?
“One two! One two!”

As the gag has become more universal, so the variants of it have become progressively more esoteric:

How many existentialists does it take to change a light bulb?
“Two - one to change the light bulb and the other to observe just how the light bulb symbolises an incandescent beacon of subjectivity amid a nether world of Cosmic Nothingness.”

The common assumption behind each individual observation is that no matter how inexpert we all may be when it comes to comprehending electricity and how it works, any of us can change a light bulb when we need to.

What’s “changing a light bulb”, Dad?

It seems hard to credit that this most durable of wisecracks could now be reaching the end of its shelf life, not because we’ve heard it all before but because the increasing popularity of low energy lighting threatens to make the practice of changing a light bulb a thing of the past.

Low energy light bulbs typically have several times the lifespan of a traditional halogen lamp, and the designs are becoming ever more green. It may well not be very long before the light bulb outlives its owner and the concept of changing one becomes all but lost forever.

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