A punchline is often the most memorable thing about a sitcom and an important element that makes it worth watching. “What’s the difference between peanut butter and jam” becomes a surprise when it appeared in the fourth season of How I Met Your Mother. This punchline is so surprising and memorable that it became a hot topic immediately after the airing of the episode.
The punchline appeared when Barney asked Lily this question to which Lily replies, umm…, I don’t know. What’s the difference? Barney didn’t give a reply, but if you knew it, it would reveal everything that made this punchline surprising and memorable; everything that was funny, dirty, disgusting perhaps, and shocking. Why can this apparently simple and mundane punchline be so interesting and surprising? Here are the reasons.
Sitcoms become powerful due to their jokes. And their jokes become powerful if their punchline, their main part that delivers their real meaning and their bulk of humor, is revealing enough to make all the jokes funny, sensible, and right. The punchline “what’s the difference between peanut butter and jam” is so revealing that when its true meaning is revealed, all jokes in the episode become so meaningful that the episode itself becomes one of the most interesting How I Met Your Mother episodes.
It is a truly shocking pun.
Perhaps, the most notable thing about this punchline that makes it shocking and amusing at the same time is the fact that it is a pun. Pun has become a common element for any jokes. Although the pun is more homonymic than figurative, the pun that the punchline “what’s the difference between peanut butter and jam” can be considered outrageous enough to make it the best punchline in a sitcom. What makes it the best and the most outrageous pun you ever see in a sitcom?
It is an annoyingly dirty one.
The pun in the “what’s the difference between peanut butter and jam” punchline is so dirty that some viewers may see it as gross, inappropriate, or even not funny at all. When Lily responds to Barney’s riddle with the question about what actually the difference is, no answer is given. Apparently, the real answer for Lily’s question might be considered so offensive that revealing it would be a risk for the episode’s airing because it may violate the censorship restriction.
However, with a simple online search, viewers can immediately discover the real meaning of the punchline, that “you can’t pee nut butter your dick up someone’s ass.” The first part of this punchline is already considered gross and offensive because it uses the term “pee” and it refers to semen as “nut butter.” The “jam” part of the punchline is even more sexist because it affirms that instead of peeing your semen in, “you can actually jam your dick in.” A dirty pun like this, which requires a real wit to decipher, rarely appears in a sitcom with relatively mild parental guidelines rating.
And that makes it a truly great pun.
The play of words and the dirty meaning that the punchline conveys ultimately make it a truly great pun. It has everything that makes it a pun that you will and should never forget. When noticing the punchline, you will start by figuring out the homonymic aspect of the pun. You will try to decipher what each word actually means and to discover the real words hidden in the pun. Once you are aware of the pun and reveal the hidden words, you will be amazed by the figurative aspect of the punchline, but your biggest shock will not take place until you decode the dirty meaning of the punchline. This multi-layered clarification makes the punchline a truly interesting one.
And that makes the episode an unforgettable one.
The episode’s story was actually not an exceptional one. In fact, it could be considered dull and weird, given the obscure cause of the pregnancy and the relatively insipid storyline. When the punchline emerged, it gave a real flavor to the entire episode. It could be said that if the punchline “what’s the difference between peanut butter and jam” never appeared in the episode, people may not be talking about it now.