and jokes about one's mother-in-law
(the mother of one's spouse) are a mainstay of comedy. The humour is based on the premise that the average mother-in-law often considers her son-in-law to be unsuitable for her daughter (or daughter-in-law unsuitable for her son), and usually includes the stereotype that mothers-in-law are generally overbearing, obnoxious, or unattractive. This has commonly been referred to as the "battle axe" stereotype. It frequently synergizes with the Jewish mother stereotype
British comedians such as Les Dawson and Jim Davidson have often used them, and many television sitcoms have featured stereotypical mothers-in-law.
There is evidence that this joke dates back to Roman times: Satire VI by Juvenal says that one cannot be happy while one's mother-in-law is still alive. Most of the mother-in-law jokes are easily translatable to other languages and are easily understandable in most European cultures.
In a book on cartooning written by Dave Breger, the author lists a series of "tired gags," and gives a suggestion on how to exploit them. In his illustration, Breger and his wife go to a museum and see a Tyrannosaurus skeleton. Mrs. Breger says, "And no funny remarks, please, about that Mother called or something..."