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That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" is a song by British alternative rock band The Smiths. It appears on the album Meat Is Murder, the sole track from the album to be released as a UK promotional single. The song was composed by guitarist Johnny Marr and singer Morrissey.

"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
Single by The Smiths
from the album Meat Is Murder
Released 1 July 1985
Format 7" single, 12" single
Recorded Autumn 1984
Genre Alternative rock, post-punk
Length 3:49
4:57 (12" single)
4:59 (album version)
Label Rough Trade
Songwriter(s) Johnny Marr, Morrissey
Producer(s) The Smiths
The Smiths singles chronology
"Barbarism Begins at Home"
"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"
"Barbarism Begins at Home"
"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"

The track has been cited by Marr as one of his favourites of The Smiths'.[1][2]


Lyrics and musicEdit

The song's narrative alludes to mockery of the lonely or suicidal, whom the narrator identifies with and champions in an exchange in a parked car. Disparity between literal and figurative meanings in some of the lyrics discourage a precise reading of the song. A sexual liaison "on cold leather seats" has been said to be sketchily implied.[2] (Morrissey has been quoted as finding leather car seats "highly erotic".[3])

The song's waltz-time related signature and Marr's rhythm guitar, with strident chord changes (as exemplified by the song's opening figure), lend the music a sweeping emotive feel. The song's structure is notable for its uncommon ABCBC form. (Musically, the first verse is never repeated.)


For many critics the song is the focal point of Meat Is Murder. The music has been described as "a monolithic ballad of tender yet imposing grace; a score of unreserved, raw beauty that Morrissey dutifully complemented" and the song's coda as containing "one of the most heart-rending vocal passages Morrissey has ever recorded."[2]

The single was one of the lowest charting of The Smiths', entering and peaking in the UK singles chart at no. 49. (Excluding their debut single, which did not chart, every other Smiths single released in the UK during the band's lifetime made the UK top 30.) Its limited success as a commercial single has been said to be due to a lack of new, original studio material on the B-side, as all the other tracks on both the 7" and 12" releases are live versions of previously released songs. Other theories include perceived fan displeasure at the 7-inch version missing an instrumental coda, as well overall inadequate promotion, including a last-minute refusal by the band to perform on television show Wogan.[2] (It was described by one reviewer as the first of the band's singles that "wasn't a complete thrill to buy".[4])


Morrissey disclosed to Melody Maker in 1985 that the song was a response to journalistic mockery of songwriting that dwelt "on the unhappy side of life" and to persistent attempts to expose him as a "fake."[5] In 1998 Uncut reported rumours that the song's inspiration was an "'intimate friendship' with a journalist around 1984-5".[6] According to Marr, the song's musical composition "just fell through the roof. It was one of those times when the feeling just falls down on you from the ceiling somewhere and it almost plays itself."[1]

Track listingEdit

7" RT186
No. Title Length
1. "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" (edit) 3:49
2. "Meat is Murder" (live) 5:34
12" RTT186
No. Title Length
1. "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" 4:57
2. "Nowhere Fast" (live) 2:31
3. "Stretch Out and Wait" (live) 2:49
4. "Shakespeare's Sister" (live) 2:12
5. "Meat is Murder" (live) 5:34

Artwork and matrix messageEdit

The artwork for the single is taken from a publicity shot for the 1964 Russian film The Enchanted Desna.[2] It features a child actor, the uncropped original having also featured the child's on-screen mother.[7] According to Morrissey, "The eyes are encrusted with hurt and premature wisdom".[8] The image was sourced from the February 1965 issue of Film and Filmmaking magazine.[2] A rejected sleeve design included an image of a dead chicken.[9]

The seven and 12-inch vinyl releases feature the matrix message "OUR SOULS OUR SOULS OUR SOULS" (7-inch A-side and B-side and 12-inch A-side).[10] The Canadian 12-inch A-side features the message "HELEN WHEELS".[11]


Chart (1985) Peak
Ireland (IRMA) 20
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 49


  1. ^ a b Troussé, Stephen. "Album by album: Johnny Marr". Uncut (February 2008). 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Goddard, Simon (2004). The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life (Second ed.). Reynolds and Hearn. 
  3. ^ Bret, David (2004). Morrissey: Scandal & Passion (First ed.). Robson Books. p. 64. 
  4. ^ Rabid, Jack. "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "Trial by Jury". Melody Maker (16 March 1985). 
  6. ^ Simpson, Dave. "Manchester's Answer to the H-Bomb". Uncut (August 1998). 
  7. ^ "(Untitled)". Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Smash Hits. Vol. 7 no. 16. EMAP. pp. 4, 5.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Slee, Jo (2006). Peepholism, p. 31. Sidgwick & Jackson, London. ISBN 0-283-06210-X.
  10. ^ This matrix message appears on an aborted "Meat Is Murder" live EP, in place of which "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" was released.
  11. ^ ""That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"". Passions Just Like Mine. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 

External linksEdit