“No one with a response that’s ever worth hearing.”
Both humor and laughter are legitimate, real life mysteries. They are universal, spanning every known culture. Babies smile and laugh at whatever amuses them far before they learn language or even develop rudimentary knowledge. Although there have been many studies on the universal appeal of comedy, no one knows exactly why humans have this inborn ability.
Although a few animals possess something akin to laughter (dogs, rats, and chimps), it has yet to be proven that any species on the planet besides humans have an actual sense of humor. Whatever its original purpose, I think of humor as the ultimate coping mechanism in an imperfect, often disappointing world where, despite being filled with people, it is difficult to connect with others. Whether my theory is correct or not, I fully believe that a good sense of humor is quite important. Thus, I often ask myself why so many people tell and (at least pretend to) enjoy such terrible, moronic, mind-numbingly simplistic “jokes”— you know, the kind with a setup, then a punch line, then you want to punch the purveyor of said punch line somewhere fatal? To me, people who tell jokes of this old-timey, vaudevillian style, or even the modern sexually themed variations, have the inverse of a healthy sense of humor. Rather, they have a sense of promoting horror in the minds of those with any semblance of taste.
Most people have probably never considered how significant humor and laughter really is. Even so, its importance can be seen as it has developed into a major genre and is the core of multi-billion dollar industries (i.e. comedy movies, TV shows, books, comedy clubs etc.).
With this in mind, it would seem that humor is rather noteworthy, so shouldn’t we try to be a bit discerning about what we consider funny or (even more importantly) subject others to in the name of mirth? I recall thumbing through a “joke” book as a kid, and it made me want to kick the author in the stomach until they bled internally (now that would have been comedy). Speaking of childhood, I don’t fully blame kids, too young to know any better, when they tell or laugh at lame jokes. In days of youth, children are happy being silly and giggling at anything even lightly construed as humor, but eventually, as they grow up, “jokes” become too simplistic, and they move on to more stimulating wittiness. Adults who think telling punchline-styled jokes is the way to be funny are more like stupid pets waiting for a pat on the head and a treat. To them, the joke is more about the reward they get, and the attention, than truly trying to amuse or connect with others.
Speaking of the silliness of childhood versus more adult-themed comedy, here is my opinion on the natural progression of most peoples’ sense of humor: First, as children, people start out laughing at inane nonsense because they don’t know anything better. I like this stage because at least the laughter is purely our own and untouched by societal pressures or other outside forces.
Second, people grow up a bit and get into puns and plays on words. This is when those who will later be into “jokes” first start reading damnable “joke” books. These “special” children enjoy the lame attempts of failed comedians-turned-authors while the other kids get sick of them (meaning both the books and those who tell the jokes) pretty much instantaneously. Third is middle school time, and sexual innuendo and erotic jibes become the most hilarious of things. This stage lasts for a long while— far too long for many. Fourth is high school/college, and the topical humor that adults have been using suddenly becomes a new well to draw comedy from. This is as far as most people’s senses of humor seem to go. Somewhere within and beyond what I’ve mentioned are the rare components of a more discriminating taste in comedy including things like satire, irony, mockery, sadistic humor, and (my favorite) layered humor. These latter facets are developed by a small minority who are forever plagued by others lack of imagination in terms of wittiness.
Going off my theory on the progression of humor, jokes are pretty much for simps who haven’t made it very far past the second punny, play-on-words stage. Somehow, their minds become entrapped in how insanely clever it is when one word that happens to sound like another is put in the former’s place. That’s why there are hundreds of infuriatingly unfunny internet sites with titles such as “Pun of the Day” that have “jokes” like: “The other day I held the door open for a clown. I thought it was a nice jester.”
By itself, that “joke” makes me want to windmill punch a roomful of the author’s youngest children. The only way something like that is funny is if it’s told purely to be hurtful to someone else who also hates really bad humor, but that, of course, would make it a layered joke with an undercurrent of sadism (and thus acceptable). Really, the only jokes I even come close to liking are the ones that are dark or sick enough to offend most people who typically like jokes. Even then, I almost never enjoy the joke, but at least it comes close to amusing me as I think about how much it would offend other “jokesters.”
In the greasy spoon days of my youth, we used to have untold amounts of regulars who loved to non-ironically tell bad jokes. I sat in witness as these same cretins would come in day after day, ordering the same meal, telling the same jokes— I kid you not, the EXACT SAME JOKES.
Hilarious plays on words such as “Are you workin’ hard or hardly workin’?” or super clever rhymes like “You got time to lean, you got time to clean.” Lame, unforgiveable shite like that every single day! That’s when I began to realize that these people had deeply rooted neurological problems. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who likes to tell jokes has a brain disorder, but I will go so far as to say that it should be added to the questionnaire used for determining if somebody is likely to have dementia. Really, as much as I hated the jokes, I felt bad for these people. I could see that their lives had grown so mundane and repetitious that all they had left was waiting for the pat on the head that the jokes brought them. I even think that many of them secretly knew their quips were pathetic, but that’s what they felt they needed to resort to when it came to connecting with others. Sad, but on the other hand I wanted to poison their food just enough to bring them near the brink of death before saying “I’m DYING to hear some more of your jokes!” I even hate that joke, but I would say it if only to speak a language that would better torment one of these sad, yet annoying simpletons.
Even professional comedians know that it’s a cardinal rule to never tell “joke” jokes. Audiences don’t like it because it reminds them of one of their annoying uncles or grandparents, and they (rightly) boo the offender off the stage and terrorize them until they leave town weeping and soiled all up in their pants.
Besides comedians, naturally funny individuals just unwittingly know that joke telling is for those with poor and undeveloped senses of humor. I have personally been writing and creating comedy for half of my life. I don’t get paid for doing such, as there are no jobs for it where I live, but still I do it for the love of it. I love humor, and there are few things better than a good laugh at something layered, clever, unexpected, and that I never would have thought of in a hundred years. These jokes where the punch line shoots into my head before the delivery is ever spoken, to me, spits in the face of god. Humor gives us a way to vent, connect with one another, and deal with harsh truths without losing our minds. Seeing it misused to exclusively make puns and cheap sexual references makes my blood seethe and boil.
Personally, I think it should be legal to punch someone hard in the bladder if they tell a joke you don’t like. Perhaps that would make people think twice before trying to be an amateur, unwanted comedian, and hopefully their sense of humor might finally evolve to that of an average sixteen-year-old. Lastly, and as a brief aside: For the most part, SCREW topical humor. That dated rubbish is the last bastion of those who have lost their funny bone due to growing up and taking themselves too seriously while trying to pretend they still have a little life left in them. “Oh my, it’s soooo hilarious that someone is making fun of what a current celebrity or politician said/did lately that no one will remember in a year!” Bwahahahahahaha-ahhh-ahhh-ahhh-ehhhh-ehhh-ewwww-ewwwww! In general, topical humor should be steered away from and left to the rare professionals who can do something truly clever with it. Also, I would go into the sad state of modern “comedy” movies, but that is for another rage-inducing, twenty page article. Until then, take my advice and respond to the next person who tells you a “joke” by merely saying “You’re pathetic, and people only pretend to like you.” Let them choke on that.