Sunday, September 24, 2006

Humor, Arr, Arr!

I finally managed to give blood this afternoon, after three or four false starts in a row (too anemic at least twice and then I had that cold). After that I bought myself some underwear, had a steak lunch that wasn't worth the money, did a little writing, and started reading the next L'Engle book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. The rest of the afternoon and evening I mostly spent on Wikipedia. At first I mostly checked recent edits for vandalism and refined the articles about several L'Engle characters. But at some point, somehow, I stumbled into an article about "Why did the chicken cross the road?" and ended up wandering through a large number of rather interesting articles about humor, metahumor, jokes, metajokes, anti-jokes, fizzbin, and fictional colleges. I also glanced at the articles on optimism and pessimism. Both were illustrated with the same picture of a glass of water, each article with a different caption. That was funny in itself.

Actually, as I think about it some more, I realize that I do know how I happened to start reading about jokes. In the article about Meg Murry‎, I mentioned that in one book she was writing a college paper about amino acides and polymers. The paper's title had the phrase "the chicken or the egg" in it. I put Wikilink brackets around [[the chicken and the egg]], in case there was an article about that expression. Sure enough, there was. I read about the history of the question about which came first, about a number of answers that have been proposed based on definitions, biology, theology, syntax, etc. Then at the bottom of the article, I saw this:

See also
Okay, sure. So I read about why the chicken crossed the road, which Wikipedia calls both "one of the most famous jokes in the English language" and "a non-joke, since its humor value comes from the fact that it is expected to be funny." That article had a "See Also" for
The knock-knock article mentioned its use in developmental psychology, which reminded me of Becky and her son Ty, who a year or so ago was really into knock-knocks. My favorite knock knock joke is still the one I got from Captain Kangaroo over 40 years ago:

Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Banana who?
Just banana. Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Banana who?
Just banana. Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Banana who?
Just banana. Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say "banana" again?
(Aren't you glad I didn't say "banana" again?)

My favorite light bulb joke was the following:

Q: One.
A: How many time-travelers does it take to change a light bulb?
Now, longtime readers may remember that I'm not the best joke-teller in the world. Back in February 2005 in Musings I told most of my small repertoire of jokes, which pretty much landed with the expected thud, particularly my favorite joke of all time, the Brick Joke. In case you missed this little exercise, here is the entire series:

not just another brick in the wallKaren's Joke File: An Experiment (#1 of about 5)

Karen's Joke File #2: The Brick (The Rooster Was Better)

Karen's Joke File #3: The Prison Jokes

Karen's Joke File #4: The Con and the Corn Flakes

Karen's Joke File: The Monkey and the Cigar

I wrote those entries partly to see whether they worked in the blogging medium instead of being told orally, partly to see whether people liked them, and partly as a way to set up the Brick Joke properly. A few people seem to have appreciated the Brick Joke, but overall I don't think the experiment was a rousing succss. But here I am, 19 months later, reading on Wikipedia about Anti-Humor and Non-Jokes:

Anti-humor is a type of indirect humor that involves the joke-teller delivering something which is deliberately not funny, or lacking in intrinsic meaning. The audience is expecting something humorous, and when this does not happen, the irony itself is of comedic value. Anti-humor is also the basis of various types of pranks and hoaxes.

Part of my 2005 series involved something of this sort, but I didn't realize there was a whole genre of such things. Other examples include the work of Andy Kaufman, "no soap radio," some elephant jokes, shaggy dog stories, etc. By and large, that tends to be the kind of humor I like, the more absurd the better:

Today's Weather: Shoes.

The point of tonight's entry, with all the references to non-jokes and metahumor, is this.


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Carly said...

Tee Hee :)

My favorite knock-knock joke came by way of Happy Days...

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Cantaloupe who?
Cantaloupe without a girl/guy

Yep...still silly after all those years. I wonder how those jokes could be snazzied up for the new century?

Becky said...

The banana/orange knock-knock joke is my all time fav too. :-) Sadly, Tyler is more into potty humor now. He loves jokes that use the words poop and toilet.