In The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror II", there is a short clip of Johnny Carson doing his Carnac the Magnificent bit. For those unfamiliar with this bit, Johnny (Carnac the Magnificent) holds an envelope up to his head as if he's reading it through ESP and says the answer to a question inside the envelope.

In the Simpsons version, we hear the first part of the bit but then the camera pans away and we never hear the punchline.

The portion we hear Carnac read is:

Geraldo Rivera, Madonna, and a diseased yak.

My question is, what is the punchline? Or maybe there isn't one?

  • I would say the joke is just that Geraldo Rivera and Madonna have something in common with a diseased yak!
    – komodosp
    Jul 29, 2022 at 10:40
  • 1
    Diseased yak was actually used in many of the insults that Carnac would hurl at the audience if they responded negatively to one of the jokes. A typical insult was, "May a crazed furniture refinisher stain your sister's hope chest." A couple of "yak" ones are, "May a diseased yak drop his cud in your hooped skirt", and "May a diseased yak squat in your hot tub". Since diseased yak was commonly used in the insults, this seems to be further proof that what Carnac said in the Simpsons episode was just a reference to the Carnac skits, not an actual Carnac joke. Sep 22, 2023 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


The joke is simply that the Carnac character is being referenced.

Being much more popular (and topical) at the time, viewers would have been quite acquainted with the premise of the sketch, so there'd be no need to use a "real" joke. They'd just know "Oh, they're doing Carnac"

That list is a reference to what was usually the last joke of the bit, where a list of items would be the answer to a question asking to name a list of things.

So "John Paul, Dove, Nixon" would be the answer to "Name a Pope, a soap, and a dope".

  • 3
    Thanks for the response, however I do already understand all of what you explained. I'm specifically wanting to know if the actual Carnac joke has a punchline or not. I do understand the reference and the format of Carnac jokes.
    – sanpaco
    Dec 28, 2019 at 12:22
  • @sanpaco it's entirely possible the joke was created by the Simpson's writers for maximum humor without needing a punchline. Jan 30, 2020 at 21:45
  • @MarkRansom you're absolutely right, that is a possibility.
    – sanpaco
    Jan 30, 2020 at 22:46

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