While most of these poems were written with a younger audience in mind, they are by no means only enjoyed by children. From Shel Silverstein to Edward Lear, the poets on this list take a creative and humorous approach to craft narratives, characters, settings, and nonsense.
Funniest Short Poems
- 1 Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne
- 2 Skin Stealer by Shel Silverstein
- 3 The People Upstairs by Ogden Nash
- 4 Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards
- 5 If I Were King by A.A. Milne
- 6 Messy Room by Shel Silverstein
- 7 Sneezles by A.A. Milne
- 8 The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves by Gwendolyn Brooks
- 9 Dirty Face by Shel Silverstein
- 10 The Table and the Chair by Edward Lear
‘Now We Are Six’ is a joyous, short poem. It is told from the perspective of a young child who takes the reader through the last years of their life. After turning six, they are happy to remain that age forever. The child speaker feels as if they are as clever and happy as they could ever be and see no reason to age any further.
This poem was included in Shel Silverstein’s 1981 collection Light in the Attic. It tells the story of a creature called a “coo-coo” that climbs into the unzipped skin of the speaker. It was naked until it put on the “head / That once belonged to me”. The speaker sees himself doing things that he would normally never do and asks that those involved do not take offense.
‘The People Upstairs’ is a great example of Nash’s entertaining style of writing. It is a short nonsense poem that describes one speaker’s experience with his upstairs neighbors. The noisy neighbors are doing things he can’t imagine anyone would actually do. He paints an image of them for the reader. They must be jumping on pogo sticks, making us of a bowling alley, and practicing ballet. His guesses are outlandish and funny, but at the same time, they are very apt descriptions of what miscellaneous noise from other floors can sound like.
One of the lesser-known poems on this list, ‘Eletelephony’ is an upbeat amusing poem that describes an elephant through an outlandish series of events. The speaker begins with the line “Once there was an elephant”. The rest of the poem is a funny play on words. The “ele” in the word “elephant” is inserted into words like “telephone” and “trunk” confusing even the speaker at times.
In this poem, Milne describes the humorous desires of a child who is entertaining himself by thinking about everything that a king is allowed to do that he is not. He goes through a number of different countries and activities he’d like to participate or not participate in. These include keeping wild animals, like elephants, not wearing his hat or brushing his hair and thinking of “lovely things to do.”
’Messy Room’ is one of the best poems on this list. In it, Silverstein describes a very messy room and all the chaotic items it contains. The speaker exclaims over the state of a room. There is a wet raincoat on a cloth chair and underwear on a lamp. The next lines describe misplaced books and papers, more clothes, and even ski under the TV. By the end, one should feel revulsion on a level equal to the speaker’s. This makes the twist at the end all the more satisfying as the room is revealed to have been the speaker’s all along.
In this lovely and memorable poem, Milne takes the reader into the world of Christopher Robin. The poem begins with the speaker describing an illness that Christopher contracted and how his parents put him to bed. He was suffering from what sounds like a cold but his parents overreacted, imagining that it was something worse. They consult with a number of doctors who make the situation out to be even more complicated and nonsensical than it already is. By the end of the poem, it is clear that Christopher is all better and is planning the next thing he’s going to do to “amuse” his parents. This alludes to the fact that perhaps he was acting the whole time, a fact which is sure to entertain any young reader.
Although Brooks is not generally associated with humorous poetry, this piece certainly earns its place on this list. It begins with the phrase “There once was a tiger, terrible and tough”. He decides that tigers, despite their stripes, aren’t “stylish enough”. He looks for something “fine to wear” until he finds white gloves. All the animals react to this change, shaming him and laughing at him until he took off each glove.
This poem contains numerous amusing explanations from a child speaker as to why their face is so dirty. The child’s parent asks them directly what’s going on and they go through a variety of fantasies, adventures, as well as probable and improbable answers to the question. These range from exploring dark caves and silver mines to eating blackberries right off the bush. The poem concludes with the young speaker reminding the parent that it doesn’t matter what they’ve been doing, they’ve been having more fun than the parent has.
The Table and the Chair by Edward Lear
In this five stanza poem from one of the masters of nonsense poetry, the poet personifies a table and chair. They speak to one another, make fun of one another’s features and their varied ability, or inability, to walk. They make it into town with a “cheerful bumpy sound” and are noticed by everyone. Eventually, they get lost and are taken home. The perfect end rhymes in these lines, as well as the various examples of internal rhyme and half-rhyme, make this poem a pleasure to read.