English Language & UsageCan someone please explain this Dalai-Lama joke to me?
[+129] [6] RoboShop
[2011-06-17 14:52:46]
[ meaning-in-context jokes pun ]

I'm not sure if this question is on topic (maybe it just needs to be rephrased), but since this made global headlines due to the Dalai Lama not being able to understand it, I figure most non-native speakers would have trouble getting the joke too.

This is the joke on YouTube. [1]

The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop and says "can you make me one with everything?"

As can be seen, the Dalai Lama was a bit confused. The thing is, I don't get it either. Is there some sort of pun in there somewhere? Can someone please explain to me why this is a joke?

(22) That's brilliant - hadn't heard it before - Rory Alsop
(13) I'd love to be the guy behind the counter who says, "We don't serve your kind here." - Robusto
(169) After he got his pizza, he paid with a $100 bill. When the server took it, he asked for his change. "Change," said the server, "must come from within." - psmears
(1) @psmears sould be its own "answer". Ask an introspective question... get an introspective answer. +1 - WernerCD
A joke from the movie "Bicentennial Man"? - GEdgar
(11) A boy found a magic lamp. "You have released I must grant you a wish" "Well I'm kinda hungry, could you make me a sandwich?" - Mike Brown
Thank you for asking this question and the youtube link! Awesome. - Tchalvak
Thank you RoboShop, you made my day. It may not translate, but it's really funny. And thank you @psmears. I just about fell out of my chair. - Rob Napier
@psmears: I see your follow-up now has more upvotes than the question itself, so maybe there's a "great comment" badge coming your way. Thanks for the belly-laugh, anyway! - FumbleFingers
(9) It's because the Dalai Lama does not like pineapple. Getting a pizza with everything would imply that there would be pineapple on it. - RoboShop
(2) The beauty of this is if we do not understand what Buddha is saying, it's not really our fault. Words like make one with everything does have lots of different meaning. - Jim Thio
[+139] [2011-06-17 15:01:57] rest_day [ACCEPTED]

The joke here is the use of the phrase one with everything.

It can be used with either of the following meanings.

  1. spiritual: to be one with everything means to be unified with everything else. This is a main concept in Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. where one feels that everything else is a part of self. To be one with everything is one of the higher aims of such religions.

  2. The other meaning of the phrase is to get a pizza with every (available) topping.

(8) +1. To be "one with" or "at one with" something means to be in a state of harmony with it. - psmears
(8) There's a second, less obvious component. The different meanings of the verb make in context with the different meanings of the phrase one with everything. - Toby
(1) I saw this in the UK last night on BBC news, being told to the Dalai Lama. So far as I could make out, the Dalai Lama himself didn't get the joke at the time. - FumbleFingers
(1) @FumbleFingers: That's why it made the news. - Lightness Races in Orbit
(1) @Tomalak Geret'kal: If I'd heard it down the pub I'd have probably laughed - out of politeness, if nothing else. Unless I'd been taking my mate the Dalai Lama out for a pint, in which case I'd have been annoyed at people discomfitting him. But judging by the upvotes here, EL&U in general thinks it's a really good joke, so who am I to argue with that? - FumbleFingers
(2) @FumbleFingers: I'd groan at it. In fact, I did! But don't be confused between upvotes for the question and upvotes for the joke. - Lightness Races in Orbit
(3) @Tomalak Geret'kal: At least we're at one with each other then! :) - FumbleFingers
@FumbleFingers: :) - Lightness Races in Orbit
(3) @Tomalak Geret'kal: But I really did laugh out loud (when on my own, which is the acid test of a good joke) at @psmears follow-up comment "Change," said the server, "must come from within." - FumbleFingers
@Tomalak @Fumble that is the purpose of these jokes, for me. We call such jokes 'groanies' and the success of one is measured by the number and volume of groans it produces in the audience. :) - rest_day
(13) Of course "with everything" is rarely used with pizza. It's far more common with hot dogs -- an older, and far better version of this joke. - wnoise
@wnoise - Perhaps you don't hear it much. I have a family member that regularly orders pizzas that way (ick). - T.E.D.
(3) I would vote up, but the up vote score is at 42. Perfect for a good answer, and particularly this question. - Jamie F
@Jamie Thanks :). Yes, it was a great question, more of which will help us all on EL&U - rest_day
(4) Another key element of the joke is that, in English, the accusative and dative case of the singular first person pronoun are both “me”. I think the joke may work in any language respecting this condition :) - Agos
Usually, a pizza with either every available topping, or just all the popular ones (e.g. sans anchovies), is known as a "supreme". So you order a "large supreme", for example. - Mike DeSimone
Understood the pizza part, but still I don't find it funny. - Senthil Kumaran
@Senthil, that is because it is only punny and not funny. ;) - rest_day
(1) Some Hindus believe on become one with nothingness while others strive to be servants of GOD. To lump all Buddhists and Hindus in one belief is incorrect. Hinduism is not a religion, but a English pigeon hole for many beliefs that come from the realizations of the ancient texts including the Srimad Bhagavatam - Traveling_Monk
(1) @Traveling_Monk: very true, if it were not a joke. Who cares if it is incorrect. It is funny, have a laugh (or not) and forget about it. It's just a joke. Otherwise we should ban all the "stereotype" jokes (you know, the "A Frenchman, an Italian and a German walk into a bar..." type of jokes) - nico
[+25] [2011-06-18 04:48:14] Yuji
  1. "to make one with everything" can mean "to prepare a pizza with everything on top".
  2. "to make one with everything" can mean "to become merged with everything."

Now, I posted this answer after a perfectly good one was already given, because I wanted to stress (as a native from a mostly Buddhist country) that "to become one with everything" is not really what a Buddhist aim for. It might be what Anglo-Saxons stereotypically see Buddhists aim to do, though.

You see, the souls of gods, spirits, humans, mammals, insects, plants, even old rocks and mountains reincarnate with one another. In that sense, we are already basically the same with everything else. The aim of a Buddhist is to overcome this infinite chain and get out of it, by attaining enlightenment.

So it is not really about making one with everything; it's more about making oneself nothing.

(It's not that I'm preaching that it's the correct way toward the world; I don't really believe in it myself. I'm just saying it's what Buddhism is about and I just want readers here to understand it.)

(1) That's exactly what I was getting at when I said "is sort of a stereotypical Buddhist concept" in my answer. This is basically pop Buddhisim. - T.E.D.
yuji, nobody in the West understands anything about buddhism, zen, macrobiotics, India, etc --- we just lump it altogether under "general zen humour" ... ! Much as TED says. - Joe Blow
@TED yes "at one with the universe" is a "comic prop" in the general sort of zen-buddhist-ect milieu. - Joe Blow
(2) @Jasper True Buddhists don't understand Buddhism. To understand is a Western concept... They feel it. - Yuji
(1) lol. Just came across a youtube video of someone trying to tell this joke to the Dalai-Lama himself: . See for yourself how much sense it makes to an actual Buddhist. :-) - T.E.D.
[+15] [2011-06-17 17:59:20] T.E.D.

The joke here is that this phrase has two meanings, depending on the context.

Meaning 1

Becoming "one with the Universe" is a sort of a stereotypical Buddhist concept. The Dalai-Lama is the accepted head of the Buddhist religious hierarchy in Tibet (if you aren't Chinese). So becoming "one with the universe" is something one can safely assume he is interested in.

Meaning 2

When ordering a food item (e.g. burger, pizza, burrito), if you want every topping the establishment uses you would typically tell the server "I'd like one (whatever) with everything."

Now, Universe and everything are more or less synonyms. So, if the Dalai-Lama were to say such a thing in the proper context, it could have either meaning, or perhaps both.

Edit: Check out this youtube clip [1] at about 1:20. An English interviewer tries to tell this joke to the Dalai-Lama himself. It went over about as well as Yuji predicted it would.


(5) It would be more correct to refer to the Dhali Lama as the head of Buddhism in Tibet because a Buddhist Church is oxymoronic (church refers to Christianity). - cpburnz
(2) @Caleb P Burns - OK. Changed that word to "religious hierarchy". I think that's the concept I was going for. (Oh, and I hope your P gets better :-) ) - T.E.D.
[+6] [2011-06-19 08:01:41] Sri Atluru

This is the joke:

  • From the Dalai Lama perspective: The Dalai Lama is asking if he can be get a pizza with everything.
  • From the bad English perspective: The Dalai Lama is asking if he can be changed or transformed into a pizza with everything.
  • From the buddhist perspective: The Dalai Lama is asking if the pizza boy can help him becoming one with the universe. (In science terms, it would be asking a pizza boy for the unified field theory.)

(1) This answer should have been accepted. This answer explains the incident in finest way. I clearly understood it. - BROY
[+4] [2011-06-18 21:24:30] Joe Blow

Hmm .. a similar joke, which I think predates the above joke:

What did the zen master say to the hot dog vendor? Gimme one with the lot!

I really like that joke, it's clever. The idea is you expect the answer to be something clever, a pun, etc. But a zen master just has no interest in idiocy like being part of a "clever" joke, or the like. He just wants to totally and completely partake in life, so he just immediately orders a great big fat hot dog.

This new joke ("make me one with everything...") is an ingenious play on the pop-zen notion one with everything, one with the universe - but I think it's shallower (it's merely wordplay) than the possibly earlier joke (which aims to whack you in to satori! :)

(2) Yes this one can be a true Zen koan. - Yuji
@Yuji thanks Yuji !!! - Joe Blow
[+3] [2011-06-19 07:05:58] Zahara Andrews

Some people are asking why he didn't talk about buying a hot dog with everything.

I don't want to overstate my answer, because certainly we do have hot dogs and hot dog shops, but it's not exactly an every day food, it's not really our culture to eat hot dogs, whereas we do eat pizzas all the time and you would say it is part of our culture.

It would be pretty weird if he chose to make a joke about hot dogs, not that trying a pun with anyone ESL, especially the most holiest man in the world, isn't already pretty weird.

We tend to say a pizza with the lot, but a pizza with everything is not much of a stretch.

(1) When you say "our culture", "we do eat pizzas", I am not sure who is "we"... - DaG
(3) The guy in the video telling the flopped joke seemed to be Australian. So I guess that is what Zahara means by "we". - GEdgar