That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

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"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
Single by The Smiths
from the album Meat Is Murder
Released1 July 1985
Format7" single, 12" single
RecordedAutumn 1984
GenreAlternative rock, post-punk
  • 3:49
  • 4:57 (12" single)
  • 4:59 (album version)
LabelRough 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"

"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" is a song by the English rock band the Smiths. It appears on the album Meat Is Murder, and was 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. Marr has cited it as one of his favourite Smiths songs.[1][2]

Music and lyrics[edit]

The song's narrative alludes to mockery of the lonely or suicidal, whom the narrator identifies with and champions in an exchange with another individual in a parked car. Disparity between literal and figurative meanings in some of the lyrics discourage a precise reading of the song.[2][3] In 1985, Morrissey disclosed to Melody Maker that the song was a response to journalistic mockery of his songwriting that dwelt "on the unhappy side of life" and to persistent attempts to expose him as a "fake."[4] In 1998, Uncut reported rumours that the song's inspiration was an "'intimate friendship' with a journalist around 1984–5".[5]

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. 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]


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. 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" version missing an instrumental coda; it was described by Jack Rabid of Allmusic as the first of the band's singles that "wasn't a complete thrill to buy".[6] Additionally, the single suffered overall inadequate promotion, including a last-minute refusal by the band to perform on television show Wogan.[2]

Track listing[edit]

7" RT186
1."That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" (edit)3:49
2."Meat Is Murder" (live)5:34
12" RTT186
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 message[edit]

The artwork for the single is taken from a still of the 1964 Soviet film The Enchanted Desna.[7] It features a child actor, the uncropped original having also featured the child's on-screen mother.[8] According to Morrissey, "The eyes are encrusted with hurt and premature wisdom".[9] The image was sourced from a 1965 issue of a specialist film magazine.[2] A rejected sleeve design included an image of a dead chicken.[10]

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).[11] The Canadian 12-inch A-side features the message "HELEN WHEELS".[12]


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 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. ^ "Trial by Jury". Melody Maker (16 March 1985).
  5. ^ Simpson, Dave. "Manchester's Answer to the H-Bomb". Uncut (August 1998).
  6. ^ Rabid, Jack. "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  7. ^ Goddard, Simon (2012). Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths. Random House. p. 115. ISBN 9781407028842.
  8. ^ "(Untitled)". Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  9. ^ Smash Hits. Vol. 7 no. 16. EMAP. pp. 4–5. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Slee, Jo (2006). Peepholism, p. 31. Sidgwick & Jackson, London. ISBN 0-283-06210-X.
  11. ^ This matrix message appears on an aborted "Meat Is Murder" live EP, in place of which "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" was released.
  12. ^ ""That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"". Passions Just Like Mine. Retrieved 9 March 2015.

External links[edit]