Jokealong: ICE BREAKERS

May 17, 2013 § 2 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.

Busy with other projects (gentle reminder: like the fb page and follow the website for my forthcoming novel, Slash), it has been over a month since our last jokealong, so I had a little difficulty warming up to even start this one. What better topic to pick then, I thought, than ice breakers?

Really any topic, I discovered, once I started.

People are, apparently, desperate for ice-breakers. In my series on the divide between wit and written jokes, I mentioned, briefly, that written jokes are great for breaking the ice in unfamiliar social situations, and in the months since, searches for “ice breaker jokes” have become the number one term leading people to the site. As an awkward guy myself, I sympathize with this search for an easy-to-memorize sentence that will make you look smooth in any social situation, no matter how sweaty and uncomfortable you are.

But my own personal search for a good ice-breaker has made me realize it is a quixotic (and greedy) quest. When you think about it, what phrase could appeal to all audiences everywhere? And if such a golden incantation did exist, who would be responsible enough to know such a spell without using it for evil?

As a result of their ultimate impossibility, many ice-breakers are just lame jokes. Anything that might appeal to everyone is going to be necessarily broad and soft to the point of near meaninglessness.

In the opposite direction, there are those who just assume that their own personal points of view are the only ones worth having and that anyone who is offended by them aren’t worth knowing. One example I came across are Redditers who claim that cheap cheap-hand-job jokes are their go-to ice-breakers. The goal here isn’t making a connection with a new person, but testing to see if your audience is exactly as crass as you.

(Which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a well crafted hand-job joke, just that I know I need to earn the right and familiarity to tell one to you.)

The worst examples—and, sadly, the most desperate searchers of good examples—come from dating websites. On this dating site message board thread for ice-breaking tips, several men suggest lesbian jokes as ice-breakers. Again, the goal doesn’t seem to be to make a connection, but to test if your date is the sort of feminist killjoy who hates lesbian jokes—and is probably a secret lesbian anyways, the spiraling logic goes. I’ve got to assume these guys are so obsessed with lesbians because they think every girl they’ve ever dated is a lesbian: I mean, who else wouldn’t be attracted to such a handsome guy with such a wealth of homophobic humor, right? These aren’t the sort of ice-breakers that open the room to warmth, but that send the teller further and further down a lonely, one-way path.

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That said, there are some decent ones out there, as anyone who listens to the Dinner Party Download on MPR knows. I think the key is knowing a few and gauging the situation for one that fits. As a result, I’m submitting this year’s compilation podcast from that show as our winner. If the people you find yourself with are worth conversing with at all, there’d ought to be something here that will get them to like you.

As for my contribution:

Q: Why did the lonely hipster put ornate studs in his tires before going to the winter pub crawl?

A: They make a great ice-braker.

Ice-breakers are mostly about putting yourself out there to be vulnerable, getting the dialogue going, so I hope that lame attempt will open the floodgates to all of your awesome ice-breakers out there.

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