Jokes Phone - Atlas Obscura

Once a common sight, pay phones are now a rarity. You might be surprised to find one in the quaint D.C. neighborhood of Chevy Chase, near an elementary school. It’s an old-fashioned chrome and black steel telephone on a pole. But this is no ordinary payphone.

First of all, it doesn’t cost a cent to use. All one has to do is pick up the phone and make a call. But who wants to make a call on this phone when at the press of just two buttons, one could be told a joke, be given a positive thought, or reach a G.O.D (Guy on Demand). There are knock-knock jokes and jokes for different age groups (divided into “little kids” and “slightly older”), as well as fun facts like “Did you know that most people can’t lick their elbows?” Details in the attached “phone book” give a brief history of the payphone for the kids who would not know what the heck the thing is. 

The Jokes Phone is the work of Don Rutledge, a substitute teacher at the nearby school who lives just across the street. He bought an old payphone online and spent several months tinkering with it so that it could present passersby with jokes on demand.

According to a website with statistics on the phone’s usage, it has told over 6,000 jokes since it was installed in May 2023, with knock-knock jokes being the most popular choice.

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