Any comedian worth their salt has heard the one about Joe Miller’s Joke Book. It’s an apocryphal tale, in which a stage actor named Joe Miller, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, compiled the first book of 12 jokes (then called “jests”) and it became his lasting legacy.
From ancient times, the number 12 has been considered a mark of portent and import. There are 12 months in the year, 12 signs of the Zodiac and 12 musical notes in the scale. And, let’s not forget that bagels taste better by the dozen. So, naturally, Joe Miller thought 12 jokes were all that were needed to entertain any gathering, small or large, and to leave a witty mark for posterity.