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1. A joke, story, or anecdote that is meant to be funny but is actually very offensive. He kept telling sick jokes about kids in third-world countries being killed, until someone eventually told him to shut up.
2. Anything that is or seems especially cruel, offensive, or tragic. The government is acting like the $20-a-month increase in the social welfare payments they approved is some huge victory, when in reality its just a sick joke for those who are barely able to survive each month. He worked so hard to sober up and stay off drugs and alcohol, only to be hit by a bus the second week of being clean. It's like a sick joke.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
An anecdote intended to be humorous but actually in very bad taste, as in His stories turn out to be sick jokes about people who are handicapped in some way. [Colloquial; mid-1900s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.