Nanny State

Pun of the Month Award


light bulb

California is pushing to ban ordinary incandescent light bulbs by 2012, requiring people to use efficient compact florescent bulbs instead. The pun:

How many legislators does it take to change a light bulb?

In California, the answer is a majority—plus Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

(I'm aware it's only the first of the month, but this is the kind of golden opportunity that doesn't come along every day.)

The bulbs, they say, will save customers time and money in addition to saving the planet–they have to be replaced less often and a single bulb could save $55 over its lifespan. Old incandescent habits die hard, but there has already been significant movement to adopt the newer format bulbs. By 2012, every cheapskate landlord and savvy business owner will probably have already adopted the bulbs as a cheaper option, making legislation unnecessary at best and a harmful technological lock-in at worst.

Gov. Schwarzenegger, who recently declared January 29 Milton Friedman Day, should veto the damn thing and do his "hero" proud.

For more (better?) light bulb jokes, go here.

NEXT: Criminal Cards

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Looks like the previous comments got pushed down the memory hole.

    Anywho, chalk up another mark in the “where did you go to school if you think that’s a pun” column.

  2. How many legislators does it take to change a light bulb?
    In California, the answer is a majority — plus Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    What an awful phrasing of that joke.

    Hey, anonymous AP reporter, try this:

    How many legislators does it take to change a light bulb?

    A majority, but the governor has to sign it.

    At least, that’s the case in California. blah blah rest of article blah

    See, anonymous AP reporter, that’s more funny. The answer comes quickly — without throwing in the entirely new concept ‘California’ — and then gives the humorous kick that the legislators can’t change the light bulb all by themselves.

    And note that it’s not completely accurate, either, since it doesn’t clarify that it’s a majority of each house (except in unicamberal Nebraska) and they can override the governor’s veto. But leaving out details makes it more funny and allows the reader to be carried into his light-bulb-joke preconceptions a lot further before the twist comes.

    Are you listening, anonymous AP reporter? Hello?

    I don’t know why I try.

  3. How many anonymous AP reporters does it take to change a light bulb joke?

    None, because they can’t figure out the humorous twist.

  4. Not a pun. Light bulb jokes are not typically puns. No play on a double meaning = no pun.

    Stupid idea to legislate, of course, but I love those fluorescent bulbs. Damn things last forever, except in fixtures with dimmer switches. Do not use them with dimmer switches. Frickin’ waste of a bulb.

    The new LED bulbs are very exciting. They’ll last even longer.

    I am well on my way to becoming the old man I have always wanted to be. I have to practice “Stay out of my yard!”

  5. Q: Why did the Hit and Run editors delete my first comment, which pointed out that this joke is not a pun?

    A: They thought it was appropriate to subject anybody who pointed out their ignorance to pun-itive measures.

  6. HA! Nice one Nic.

    Though I suspect the real reason is David forgot to feed the squirrels.

  7. My city is too cheap to pay for street lights, so everybody has a lamp post in their front yard that automatically turn on at night. Almost all of the light bulbs in the lamps are florescent. These lights are on for an average of 12 hours a day, so there are big savings, and homeowners recognize this.

    But do all these homes have florescent lights throughout their homes? Probably not. Many houses have a lot of lights that are barely ever on, making a florescent light a waste of money. If you have a dimmer, florescent lights don’t work. Some people don’t like the color of the lights. The lights also take a long time to warm up. (I put a florescent light on my back porch since I like to leave that on during the winter when I’m not home, but if I turn it on when it’s 15 degrees outside it barely lights up at first.)

    People have incentives to use florescent lights. They are much more aware of the benefits and costs than a bunch of politicians. Let the people make their own decisions.

  8. Conan! What is best in light?

  9. Nic: Actually, I think they lost all comments up to that point on the post. Mine vaped, to.

  10. i would like to note that homes with functional thermostats and days home owners turn on the heat the new bulbs save absolutely nothing….but on hot day they are great at saving energy….

  11. Katherine, your blog posts were getting better. And then you had to go and show that you don’t know what a pun is. You obviously aren’t the brightest bulb on the Reason score board.

    Anyway, since this is about California, let’s tell some of our favorite UC campus light bulb jokes:

    Q: How many UC Santa Barbara undergrads does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: Just one, but he gets 3 credits for it.

    Q: How many UCSB grad students does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: Seven. One to supervise the undergrad getting 3 credits for it, one to fill in for the TA during the week that he’s away at a conference, one to clean up the mess that the undergrad makes in the lab, two to co-chair the symposium where the undergrad presents his results, one to write a grant application for funding for undergraduate projects, and a Head TA to supervise all of it.

    Guess where I went to grad school…

    Q: How many UC Riverside students does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: None. Riverside looks better in the dark.

    Q: How many UC San Diego students does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: Two. One to call the electrician and one to make the margaritas.

  12. I wonder if the enviro-wackos know that these things are (1) fragile, and (2) contain mercury.

  13. I cried because I had no shoes… until I met the server that had no squirrels.

  14. To give Assemblyman Levine some credit, he has enough of a sense of humor to call his bill the “How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act”. Even so, he’s a busybody moron.

  15. I have never had a landlord buy light bulbs. I mean sure they are there when you move in but you (tenant) replace them when they go out. Why would the landlord care how long they last?

  16. BTW, most of the long-lasting bulbs I have ever bought don’t last anywhere near as long as the claims. I have 16 lights in my basement ceiling ( where I am writing this) that have to be replaced often. I also have other lights that go out on schedule regardless of the bulb.

  17. I think the vast majority of Mangu-Ward’s post are great. Finally, Reason hired the first female who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking girl. No offense to the other female writers, of course.

    (I learned from Weigel yesterday that the above is only meant as a compliment toward KMW, not as a knock on anyone else)

  18. “Use a pun, go to prison.”

  19. My city is too cheap to pay for street lights, so everybody has a lamp post in their front yard that automatically turn on at night. Almost all of the light bulbs in the lamps are florescent. These lights are on for an average of 12 hours a day, so there are big savings, and homeowners recognize this.

    Not if they really are florescent. But they are probably High Intensity Discharge of some type. Yellow/orange = High Pressure Sodium, blue/green = Metal Halide. It’s even possible their using old Mercury Vapor bulbs. All of which are more efficient than florescent.

    The future looks like it belongs to LEDs.

  20. JohnCj3 makes a good point. I’ve rented ten different places in seven different cities, in five different states, I’ve never had a landlord buy my bulbs.

  21. I hate flourescent lights, they make everything look ugly.

  22. I want everyone here to leave Katherine Mangu-Face alone. None of you even know what a pun is! If anyone here knows what a pun is, she does. After all — she is the pundit, not you.

  23. How many H & Rers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    Only two, but how the hell did they get in the light bulb in the first place?

  24. If Ms. Mangu-Ward wants to meet Dr. Thoreau’s high blog standards in the future, maybe she should post about what some six year old said at Sunday school. Obviously a topic of vital national interest.

  25. Smacky…

    You punned it nicely.

  26. Hey! I resemble Murry’s remark!

  27. I despise florescent lights. The light they produce is harsh and ugly, and the damn things give me a headache after a while. I even killed the tubes in my office and replaced them with a floor lamp.

    Good thing I have a choice when it comes to light bulb purchases. Good thing I don’t live in California, where a person’s lightbulb choices are seen as an appropriate area for legislation.

    OTOH, I may be able to make some money by smuggling those Reveal bulbs into CA. Those things are freaking awesome.

  28. Reading the “Oh, that’s great! Use the force of law to make us save energy!” comments I see on the subject in other online venues makes me understand why people use the expression “sheeple”…

  29. I don’t mind fluorescent lights, but I am a zombie so maybe my opinion doesn’t matter.

  30. Maybe incandescents will be sold by the same guy who sold Kramer and Newman those high-flow showerheads.

  31. The compact fluorescents aren’t that bad light temperature-wise. Depending on the brand, very close to incandescent. I’ve replaced most of the bulbs in my house with the CF’s, probably about 30 in all. Stick with the attrition method; wait until the old one burns out.

    I get the kind that Home Depot carries. About $10 for a six pack of “60 watt.”

  32. Meh. I bought one of them new fangled bulbs. Lasted 6 months.

    If they’re so cheap, why do they need a government mandate?

  33. The double meaning is between “to change a lightbulb” meaning “to take a lightbulb out of its fixture and replace it” and to “alter the class of lightbulbs that people use.”

    Other lightbulb jokes that are puns include “How many mice does it take to screw in a lightbulb (two)” and “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb (one, but the bulb has to want to change).

    Many (most?) other lightbulb jokes (including Thoreau’s UCSB, Riverside and SD lightbulb jokes) are not puns.

    Some people’s knowledge of puns isn’t ? thorough.

  34. Max,

    Yeah, they do know they contain mercury. Whether this mercury is likely to be an environmental hazard is a complicated question, based largely on where you live and where you get your power.

    The reason for this is that coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of environmental mercury in the US. So if you get your power from coal, power savings over the life of the bulb will often reduce the mercury output of the coal power plant by more than the amount of mercury in the lamp.

    Also, many of the newer model of compact fluorescents are contained within a plastic outer bulb which makes them a lot sturdier.

    It’s still a good idea to be careful disposing of compact fluorescents, but overall, I’d say any conservative worth his penny-pinching salt would be using them for most of their lighting needs. I’ve got a mix of fluorescents and incandescents in my bathroom, since there are some emmission lines in the fluorescent’s spectrum that make your skin look blotchy, so having a couple of more even-spectrumed incandescents is good in that application.

  35. OK, I guess it was a pun after all.

  36. anon2,

    You just blew my mind. It is a pun. In fact, like most puns, it is an unfunny pun.

    Me, I spike loonerisms.

  37. The annoying thing is that when I’ve tried to buy fluorescent replacements for some of my incandescent bulbs, they’ve all warned in huge letters against putting them in enclosed fixtures – which are most of the fixtures I want to put them in, since they last longer…

  38. Eric the .5b,

    Are you sure you are not thinking of the halogen bulbs?

  39. I am sure.

  40. From GE’s faq page on fluorescents:

    Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb in an enclosed light fixture?
    Compact fluorescent light bulbs may generally be used in enclosed fixtures as long as the enclosed fixture is not recessed. Totally enclosed recessed fixtures (for example, a ceiling can light with a cover over the bulb) create temperatures that are too high to allow the use of a compact fluorescent bulb.

    I looked it up because I use them in all of my enclosed fixtures (none of which are recessed). I recently bought halogen bulbs for a room that has seemed rather dim. Damn halogen bulbs are a fire hazard in an enclosed fixture. I knew that they got hot, but I figured that if they designed them to fit in an ordinary socket, probably they could work in an enclosed ceiling fixture. Lesson learned: read the package at the store.

  41. anon2,

    You are awesome!

  42. The two most appropriate jokes from the light bulb joke link…

    Q: How many supply-siders does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A: None. The darkness will cause the lightbulb to change by itself.

    Q: How many supply-side economists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
    A: None. If the government would just leave it alone, it would screw itself in.

  43. New Mejican-

    The correct answer is that if the bulb really needs to be changed then the market will take care of it.

  44. If the California legislature really wants to help the flourescent light-bulb industry, they could outlaw windows.

    (hat tip to Fred)

  45. “By 2012, every cheapskate landlord…will probably have already adopted the bulbs as a cheaper option, making legislation unnecessary at best and a harmful technological lock-in at worst.”

    Uh, yeah, that must be why cheapskate landlords never rent our poorly-insulated units with crappy old windows.

    Lock-in is a legit argument, though. If the leg. wants to address efficiency through regulation, it should set standards or require “Best Available Technology,” and let the market meet the goals.

  46. well…’they’d’ beter hurry up and invent a warm temperature LED fxture, as the main problem that I have with CFLs is that they can’t be turned on and off often, as they need a score of minutes to warm up, otherwise one risks the CFL dying too soon. That’s the only reason I keep any incadescents around.

  47. How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    (pause for a three-count)

    That’s not funny!

  48. I moved into my current house 2 1/2 years ago and installed a 10 CFs with a 5 year life expectancy. So far I’ve had to replace 3 of them..

    How many gov’t bureaucrats does it take to change a light bulb?

    Two.. One to assure the public that everything possible is being done and the second to screw the bulb into a faucet.

  49. I’m using positronic light fixtures. Very efficient, though perhaps not environmentally sound.


    Incidentally, my Conan pun was a good one and deserved follow up. What’s wrong with you people?

  50. A footnote about all the publicity over California Assemblyman Levine’s idea to ban incandescent light bulbs and California Assemblywoman Lieber’s idea to ban spanking: as far as I can tell, neither one of them has actually introduced a bill. They’ve just talked about it. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  51. Q: How many Trotskyites does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: You can’t change anything, Comrade – you’ve got to smash it!

  52. “By 2012, every cheapskate landlord…will probably have already adopted the bulbs as a cheaper option, making legislation unnecessary at best and a harmful technological lock-in at worst.”

    Can I just say that I thought this was absolutely hilarious?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.