Jokealong: POT LUCK

January 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Since people are continually stumbling onto The Oldest Jokes in the World in search of actual jokes, not just abstract theories about them, every other week we have a joke-along post. I’ll search through the site’s stats for a specific joke people have been searching for, comb the internet for the best existing examples, and try come up with one of my own. And then you all can add your own in the comments, so the next time someone comes searching, they won’t leave disappointed.

This week, we’ve got the jokealong of jokealongs as we yuck it up over pot lucks! potluck

Last year, I took part in a lovely pot luck/reading put on by Cracked Walnut Readings and Red Bird Chapbooks and wrote up a post about how literary readings are always like pot lucks with everyone bringing their own voice to share. In the same way, I feel like these jokealongs are humor pot lucks, as I gather some tasty jokes from around the internet and ask y’all to supply some of your own.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a great diversity of pot luck jokes available; most every joke I found came from either a Baptist or Lutheran related website. Many of them were lame and tame, such as:

“It has been said that the only thing that ever changes in the Lutheran Church is the color of the Jell-O® served at the monthly potluck dinners.”

(Take note, joke writers: starting with “It has been said…” makes it seem like you know your joke is well-past its prime.)

Or, number 4 on the list of top 10 reasons you might know you’re a Lutheran:

At potlucks all the men have tableware and napkins in their shirt pockets so their full plates are easier to carry.

But there were a few gems, such as this item from an actual church newsletter:

Thursday night will be a potluck supper. Prayer and medication to follow.

Or this excerpt from an advertisement for Lutheran Airlines:

If you are traveling soon, consider Lutheran Air, the no-frills airline. You’re all in the same boat on Lutheran Air, where flying is an uplifting experience. There is no First Class on any Lutheran Air flight. Meals are potluck. Rows 1-6, bring rolls, 7-15 bring a salad, 16-21 a main dish, and 22-30 a dessert. Basses and tenors please sit in the rear of the aircraft.

After finding little but this sort of in-group joking, I realized that that’s just the nature of the pot luck joke: they are usually for an audience no bigger than could gather politely in a church basement. With this in mind, it is nice to note that all the jokes I found were of the self-deprecating kind instead of the sort that builds up the group at the expense of outsiders.

Since this spirit of community seems an essential part of any pot luck joke, I chose the following definition from Urbandicitonary.com as my favorite; it comes from a different community, but is about the same polite respect as the church newsletter jokes above:

POTLUCKITALLY CORRECT: Preparing a dish for a potluck where you’re overly conscious about it being low-fat, gluten-free, hypo-allergenic, kosher, soy-free, low sodium, peanut-free, non-offensive to the majority of religious groups and not too spicy.

Sam: What are you bringing to the potluck tomorrow?

Ralph: Well, I don’t know because Sally is a vegan, Jim is a diabetic, Lisa needs a kosher dish, Anne has ciliac disease, Bob’s allergic to shellfish and Amy gets hives from chocolate.

Sam: Dude, you don’t have to be so potlucktically correct!

As for my contribution:

Like all Canadian youths, I had a powerful slap-shot long before I’d developed fine-motor skills. Training for the day that the bigger kids would finally let me join their pond pickup games, I’d set up a net at the end of our dirt drive. But no matter how long I aimed and concentrated, I always sent the puck far over the goal into some distant snowbank, sometimes as much as half a klik away. As frustrating as it was, though, I kept at it all winter; on the few afternoons I spent inside our warm house, usually because I was fresh out of pucks, I would always catch sight of a puck crashing into one of the snowbanks outside my window and realize one of the neighbor kids half a klik down the road was working on his shot while mine was stagnating.

Maybe to stifle that sense of competition into a more Canadian camaraderie, the older kids passed a tradition down to us: during the first thaw, all the young kids cleaned up their yards and met at the rink in town to laugh about who’s shots had missed by the longest distance: the lost puck pot luck.

What dish are you bringing to the pot-luck-joke pot luck?

On the Road

January 18, 2013 § 4 Comments

Continuing our discussion on the differences between spontaneous wit and prepared jokes, this week I want to explore the different mindsets they are connected with. I got at this a bit in our last post on the subject, “Who’s lines are these, anyway?“, which concluded:

If a prepared joke is like a speech, then wit is like a conversation. Wit’s natural habitat, in fact, seems to be the conversation, and those that stand out as witty are the sorts of people who are good enough listeners to incorporate what others have said into a fresh comment, the ultimate example being that serendipitous remark that brings a conversation “full-circle” and makes everyone involved feel included—and lucky to have been.

With it’s openness to—and hunger for—new material, wit is the liberal side of the dichotomy. Wit requires that sort of searching faith that is ready to go wherever the truth leads and eager to incorporate whatever it finds into it’s conception of the truth. Ultimately, nothing is off limits to wit; to be witty is to be in a state of creativity—to be “submissive to everything, open, listening” as Kerouac asserts in his “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose“.

This goes not only for the witty, but their audience as well; to be truly receptive to wit, you have to let go of your expectations about what is funny and your biases about what isn’t so you’ll be ready to follow whatever fresh connections are being made. Since wit is essentially conversational, this is usually a given anyhow, as one flips back and forth between joker and audience, staying receptive the whole time. Similarly, if you’re engaged in a battle of wits, you have to be ready to laugh at yourself then redouble that laughter at your opponent—not cross your arms, pout, and decry, “Untrue! No fair!”

Conversely, prepared jokes represent the conservative impulse, a codification of what we think is funny to protect and propagate for future benefit. At its worst, we can see the the dangers inherent in our conservative impulses playing out in racist, sexist, and homophobic humor, as in-groups spread jokes to reinforce their position of prestige and power. Mostly, though, I feel it is fruitful to preserve our jokes; they sustain us in times when our wits are failing and serve as templates for its expression when it is properly firing.

This relationship between the two sides has become clearer to me since trying to compose my own prepared jokes for our jokealongs. I usually start by cataloging as many existing jokes on the subject as I can in order to open myself up to as many possible directions. I’ll usually come up with a few dead ends that night, sleep on it, and think about it at work the next day. When the joke finally comes from out of nowhere, it always hits me with the force of wit; if it doesn’t at least make me chuckle to myself, it isn’t the joke. But once I have it, I have to find a way to communicate that chuckle to someone else, and following a common joke formula often feels like not just the easiest and safest means of expression, but the most effective. We conserve our joke formulas because we know they work, and we use them over and over again because we know our audience will know how they work, allowing more sophistication in our expression as we play to and off of these expectations. As a result, the process of writing a joke often involves trying to shoehorn that moment of mind-expanding insight into a knock-knock script. Whenever I read my jokealong jokes again after posting them, that sense of joyous revelation is almost completely missing, but I have to believe there is more of it communicated to the reader than if I had just kept my laughter to myself.

It is fun and illustrative to think about this process in reverse. Take, for instance, one of our culture’s most ubiquitous and enduring jokes:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: To get to the other side.

ChickensCrossingTheRoadResizedEver since I was a child, I thought this joke was banal, but now that I’ve tried to imagine its composition, I’m starting to appreciate it for the masterpiece it is. I mean, who wrote this one? Who laughed at it and then passed it on? In my imagination, there is a bong in a dorm room—but since print references to the joke apparently date back to 1847, I’m probably wrong. I suppose all that ultimately matters is someone spat it out once, and it seemed to so perfectly capture the irreverent uselessness of our wit that it has been passed on ever since. I recognize now that even when I was adamant it wasn’t funny, it was communicating an important lesson about what was funny to me and every other kid who has ever heard it: humor searches without aim, crossing boundaries just because it can.

We obviously need both sides of humor just as our larger culture needs both conservative and liberal impulses: we need wit to find and generate more humor, and jokes to preserve the humor we have found so that we can further build upon it—and there is much to be gained by crossing back and forth, getting from one side to the other.

Jokealong: CIRCLES

January 11, 2013 § 6 Comments

Since people are continually stumbling onto The Oldest Jokes in the World in search of actual jokes, not just abstract theories about them, every other week we have a joke-along post. I’ll search through the site’s stats for a specific joke people have been searching for, comb the internet for the best existing examples, and try come up with one of my own. And then you all can add your own in the comments, so the next time someone comes searching, they won’t leave disappointed.

This week, we consider the humble but hilarious circle.

This autumn, I titled a series of posts “Punning in Cirles“, and the searches for “circle jokes” and “puns about circles” have been coming in ever since. But after struggling to find anything worth a chuckle for the first few jokealongs, I was dreading taking on the circle. I guess I thought that since it is a rather simple geometric shape, there would be even less to play with than there’d been for the relatively complicated and colorful hammock.

I was wrong: this was by far the easiest jokealong yet. I think this is because circles are simple and abstract enough to be ubiquitous; everyone comes across a hundred circle-ish objects on a daily basis and, so there are lots of opportunities for making humorous connections. As a result, while I had trouble finding a dozen jokes about walnuts, there are at least a dozen different genres of circle jokes out there. For instance, there are many about the geometric shape itself:

Q: What did the farmer use to make crop circles?

A: A protractor.

There are many others where our looser understanding of circles—as a verb or adjective–play a major role:

An old farmer was hauling a load of manure when he was stopped by a state trooper. “You were speeding,” the cop said. “I’m going to have to give you a ticket.”
“Yep,” the farmer said as he watched the trooper shoo away several flies.
“These flies are terrible,” the trooper complained.
“Yep,” the farmer said. “Those are circle flies.”
“What’s a circle fly?”
“Them flies that circle a horse’s ass,” answered the farmer. “Them are circle flies.”
“You wouldn’t be calling me a horse’s ass, would you?” The trooper angrily asked.
“Nope, I didn’t,” the farmer replied. “But you just can’t fool them flies.

(I’ve omitted one about circling sharks because my fiance is selachophobic—and she was so quick with her “Sir Cumference of the Round Table” pun when I told her about this post that I figure I’ll abstain from teasing her for a week.)

There’s also a whole genre of hilarious venn diagrams out there, of which I think the following best captures the spirit of The Oldest Jokes in the World:

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As a result, some deliberation went into picking my favorite for the first time. It was close, but I like this pun the best:

Two ropes walk into an old western saloon. The first rope goes up to the bar and asks for a beer.
“We don’t serve ropes in this saloon,” sneers the bartender, who picks up the rope, whirls him around over his head, and tosses him out into the street.
“Uh, oh. I’d better disguise myself,” thinks the second rope. He ruffles up his ends to make himself look bigger and twists himself into a circle. Then he too sidles up to the bar.
“Hmmmmm. Are you one of them ropes?” snarls the bartender.
“No. I’m a frayed knot.”

As for my contribution, I decided to go theoretical, with a joke that is, itself, a circle:

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Knock.

Knock who?

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Knock?

Knock who?

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Knock?

Knock who?

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Knock?

Knock who?

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Knock?

Knock who?

Join the jokealong and post your best circle joke, venn diagram, or obnoxious word sculpture below!

Whose lines are these, anyway?

January 7, 2013 § 4 Comments

My first post on the dichotomy between wit and prepared humor (from way back before I took a Christmas vacation) focused on the nearly religious reverence I had for wit in high-school, and how it eventually faded as I grew up and ventured out into the real world.  Wit requires a sense of comfort to conceive of, a sense of confidence to voice, and a bunch of shared connections to adequately communicate; as much as I valued these three things with my group of high school bro’s, I eventually needed to grow up and forge new connections.

So, as a socially anxious guy lost in all sorts of new situations, I started softening up to prepared jokes.  Nervous in class and hanging on the wall at parties, zingers didn’t come to me a free and easy as they had in the back of R’s Festiva.  And when they did, how could I be sure that whatever beautiful, intelligent young woman I was stuttering at would enjoy the esoteric self-deprecation that had just popped into my head?  The carefully composed and considered joke is a safer bet, playing on more general commonalities.

Considering this and how we’d used wit to draw a line around our tight-nit group in high school, it is tempting to say that prepared jokes bring us together while wit divides us, but I think we’d, once again, be wrong to make such a general conclusion.  Considering many common joke formulas, we can see that a sizable number of prepared jokes actually seek to reinforce the lines that divide us: the vast catalog of racist jokes, sexist jokes, and homophobic jokes only succeed if the teller and audience both feel they are on the same side of the line that divides themselves and the subject of the joke.  For a less malicious example, there are certain jokes I only tell to foodies at work and others I’ll only bother sharing with my comic book friends; every joke has a particular audience, the group of people who will “get” it, and successfully sharing a joke confirms that both teller and listener are part of that group.

In telling even our most common and harmless jokes, we seek, at the very least, to confirm our common understanding of what it means to be human.  As inclusive as this seems, you can easily imagine an alien or a cyborg feeling left out as a group of humans convulse with laughter over a seeming triviality—especially if you’ve ever overheard a joke told in a foreign tongue and sat silent through everyone else’s joyous reaction.

So, like wit, jokes rely on social connections and exclusions, but a distinction exists between the two, I believe, in whether or not the lines they are playing on already exist.  A written joke draws on an existing line; people prepare themselves for a social situation by capitalizing on what they know:

I don’t know any of these guys at my brother-in-law’s poker game, but since we’re all guys, I can assume we’ll all agree blonde women are of below average intelligence.

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This such a diverse gathering of people, I’m afraid that anything I might say will offend someone’s political or religious beliefs.  But since we’re all Minnesotans, here, I think it’s safe for me to claim that Iowans are of below average intelligence.

The preponderance of people searching the internet for specific jokes—about walnuts or hammocks—is proof of this; it is nice to come into a unsure social situation with a remark that will prove we are already part of the group.

Wit, in contrast, is less concerned with reinforcing existing social lines than in building new connections.  When we stray off the script and take a risk on a witty comment, we’re gambling that there is a more particular and personal connection between ourselves and our conversation partner than whatever societal connections might have brought us together.  Successful reparte is proof two people aren’t just connected by their circumstances, but by their individual intelligence as well, making great leaps together instead of following the prescribed steps of a rote dance.

If a prepared joke is like a speech, then wit is like a conversation.  Wit’s natural habitat, in fact, seems to be the conversation, and those that stand out as witty are the sorts of people who are good enough listeners to incorporate what others have said into a fresh comment, the ultimate example being that serendipitous remark that brings a conversation “full-circle” and makes everyone involved feel included—and lucky to have been.

But with that, I feel I’m once again raising wit up as a joy far above and beyond the written joke—so I’ll dedicate the next week’s post in this continuing series to the subject of why one can’t exist without the other.

Jokealong: HAMMOCKS

January 4, 2013 § 3 Comments

Since people are continually stumbling onto The Oldest Jokes in the World in search of actual jokes, not just abstract theories about them, every Friday we have a joke-along post. I’ll search through the site’s stats for a specific joke people have been searching for, comb the internet for the best existing examples, and try come up with one of my own. And then you all can add your own in the comments, so the next time someone comes searching, they won’t leave disappointed.

This week, we’re hamming it up over hammocks!

hammock-boat-concept-1

Ever since I bragged about reading in a hammock after coming back to the blog from summer vacation, googlers have continually landed at The Oldest Jokes in the World after searching for “hammock jokes,” joke hammocks,” and “hilarious hammock puns.” And once again, after conducting a search of my own, I can see why: there just aren’t too many hammock jokes out there. I’d thought there was a scarcity of walnut jokes, but at least walnuts look weird and are frustrating to eat; hammocks are just too pleasant to be really funny.

The first resource I consulted was, of course, the Hammock Forum, where the world’s leading hammock experts and aficionados gather to discuss all things hammocks, but on their thread for hammock jokes, they’d only managed to amass a few feeble puns. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw this was the best they could come up with:

Q: What are you doing in that hammock?

A: Just hanging out.

Clicking through several pages of results, the closest thing I could find to funny was this story joke—but then hammocks only play a minor role in the backstory, so choosing it felt like cheating. And it wasn’t that funny anyways. But the fact that one of the top ten google results for hammock jokes has a “Bill Clinton is a horndog” punchline should give you an idea of how many great hammock jokes have been written in the past decade.

Besides an actual human being named Joke Hammock, I found nothing else worth mentioning, so I choose this Simpson’s bit from the great Hank Scorpio episode as the greatest hammock joke in existence. I think it works as a comedic dialogue because, as I said above, there isn’t actually anything exciting to say about hammocks.

With that in mind, I decided to go the language pun-fun route with my contribution to the genre:

Q: What did the castaway do with the crate of SPAM that washed up on shore of his deserted island?

A: He built an ad-hoc mock-ham-hock-block hammock.

I hope that helps you out if you’ve arrived here in need of a winning hammock joke. And if you’re just here for fun, please do join the conversation and submit a joke of your own. I made a promise to myself to avoid banana-hammock jokes for this post, but that doesn’t mean you have to!

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