A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 01, 2020
“How many surrealist painters does it take to change a lightbulb?"/"A fish.”

A version of the popular lightbulb joke involving surrealism is:

Q: How many surrealist painters does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: A fish.


The joke has been cited in print since at least 1986.


Wikipedia: Surrealism
Surrealism was a cultural movement which developed in Europe in the aftermath of World War I and was largely influenced by Dada. The movement is best known for its visual artworks and writings and the juxtaposition of uncommon imagery. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes, sometimes with photographic precision, creating strange creatures from everyday objects, and developing painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. Its aim was, according to leader André Breton, to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality”, or surreality.

Newspapers.com
2 May 1986, The Age (Melbourne, Victoria), Good Weekend sec., pg. 12, col. 2:
How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

Fish.

Newspapers.com
1 June 1986, Orlando (FL) Sentinel, “Column World” by Bob Morris, pg. B-1, col. 1:
Question: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: A fish.

Google Books
28 January 1991, New York magazine, “New York Magazine Competition” by Mary Ann Madden, pg. 115, col. 1:
How many surrealist painters does it take to it take to change a light bulb? A fish.
Horace Bad Davies, N. Y. C.

Google Books
Jokes:
Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters

By Ted Cohen
Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press
1999
Pg. 6:
How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?
Fish.

Twitter
Sam Meilach
@meilach
Question: How many surrealist painters does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: A fish.
4:49 PM · Feb 23, 2009·Twitter Web Client

Twitter
Alice Mills
@millsalice144
I told this joke once to my freshman class and they didn’t get it.
How many surrealist painters does it take to change a lightbulb?
Fish.
9:27 PM · Jun 30, 2019·Twitter for iPhone

Reddit—3amjokes
Posted by u/hesitanthorizons November 1, 2020
How many surrealist artists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Fish

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityArt/Sculpture • Sunday, November 01, 2020 • Permalink