I’ve been thinking a bit about HUMOUR recently because on Saturday JUNE 13th 2015 I’ll be presenting an all-day HOW TO WRITE FUNNY workshop at the GONDOR WRITERS’ CENTRE Kilcoy . You can see the other fantastic presenters and their workshop times and details HERE.
Now I like to think I can be humorous at times. (No, I’m serious. I do. You should check out my private facebook page posts, if you don’t believe me. I did one on April 22 2011 that got six Likes. SIX LIKES. And two of those weren’t even from me!) Anyway, as evidence of my jocularity, I could point out that I have had books published and listed under the category of ‘Humour’.
But the thing is, even though I hope I can say or write funny things or create funny stories and characters, what I’m not good at, is telling (or retelling) formal jokes. Not proper ones. Not ones with beginnings, middles and punchlines.
Some people on the other hand, are excellent at it and they seem to have a joke for every occasion. It’s like, Hey speaking of non-violent resistance, Surrealism and cooking, did you hear the one about Gandhi and Salvador Dali teaming up as contestants on My Kitchen Rules?
My problem with formal joke-telling is two-fold.
1. THE PRESSURE.
I don’t mind being in a group of people and occasionally coming out with a pun or a witty comment or observation, because you have, what one of my characters describes as, ‘the elephant of surprise’ on your side. You can catch people off guard and leave them thinking, Well what do you know? I thought he was the dullest person living in the dullest neighbourhood in Dullsville, but then he said that thing and for a second there, I ALMOST smiled!
But it’s very different when you set yourself to tell a formal joke. When someone says ‘Hey have you heard the one about …’ what they are really saying is, Hey everybody! Stop what you’re doing and give all your attention to me for the next few minutes because I’m going to tell you a story and at the end I guarantee you will laugh and I’ll appear clever and witty even though the story and the ideas I’m about to share aren’t even my own.
There’s way too much pressure being a formal JOKE-TELLER for me.
I don’t even like the pressure of being a JOKE-LISTENER!
What if he/she gets to the end of the joke and I don’t get it? Should I pretend that I do? What if someone then asks me to explain it to them and I can’t and everyone realises I was being a phoney and just pretending?
What if I do get it, but I think it’s a heap of pathetic crap? Do I laugh anyway out of politeness and let everyone think that I’ve just found a heap of pathetic crap hilarious? Or do I just say, ‘That joke you told was a heap of pathetic crap’ and possibly upset the teller?
What if the joke is offensive to someone’s religion, or it’s racist, sexist or ageist? (Or worse still, makes fun of authors!) Do I stand up for my principles or just let it pass, so as not to cause a stir?
What if I’ve heard the joke before? Do I stop them right at the start? Or do I let them rabbit on for the next ten minutes and then just before the big punchline say, ‘Oh yeah, now that I think about it, I have heard that one.’
What if the person starts doing accents or ‘funny’ voices to help tell the story but they’re really bad at it or I don’t recognise what accent it’s supposed to be or I can’t understand a word they’re saying?
See what I mean? So much pressure. Listening to someone tell a joke is dangerous. It’s like picking your way through a mine field! (Only without any actual mines. Or a field.)
2. REMEMBERING JOKES.
My other problem with formal jokes is that they just don’t stay in my head for long. Some people seem to be able to store up countless jokes in their memory banks and then regurgitate them at will. (What has poor Will done to deserve this!) Occasionally I hear or read a joke that I think is really funny but by the next day it’s either vanished completely from my mind or it’s faded beyond recognition.
Hey I heard this great joke yesterday about this guy who bought a zebra from the pet shop and when he took it home his wife … no wait on … it was a giraffe I think, not a zebra … yeah a giraffe definitely … or an armadillo … hold on … now I come to think of it, it might have been his wife who bought it … yeah that’s right, she bought it … orrrrr … it escaped from the zoo …. yeah that’s it, that’s what happened … anyway whatever kind of animal is was, it eventually turns up at their house somehow … or did their kid bring it home … not sure … I don’t think it’s important … but I know they had a kid and also there was something else about a banjo … and a local politician … and a singing frog … I can’t remember all the details exactly or how it all went together … but jeez, it was a scream!
Be that as it may, the truth is, that sometimes circumstances arise, where it would be good to have a joke handy. For example if everyone’s going around the table sharing a joke and you don’t have one, it can be pretty demoralising.
So in order to solve this problem and avoid becoming a social outcast because of my joke-telling inadequacies, I decided that all I really needed to do, was to find just ONE short, straight forward, screamingly-hilarious joke. Once I did that, I could commit it permanently to my memory and have it on stand by as a fool-proof winner. It would be MY ONE SURE-FIRE JOKE FOR ALL JOKE-TELLING OCCASIONS!
And after a great deal of work and research, I finally found the perfect joke for my needs and I’m happy to say that it is now safely locked away inside my head, ready to be trotted out for hilarious effect, whenever required.
Like right now!
So here it is. MY ONE SURE-FIRE JOKE FOR ALL JOKE-TELLING OCCASIONS.
There’s this guy and he desperately wants to get into this classy nightclub but the bouncer says he can’t get in without a tie, sooooooooooooooo he …
Huh? What? You’ve heard it before?
ps: Thanks to JOE BAUER for the use of his old cartoons.
A man was walking down the road with a penguin when a policeman saw them and approached the man.
“Take that penguin to the zoo!”
So the man and the penguin head off to the zoo.
The next day the policeman sees the man and the penguin going down the same road again and gets very cross.
“I thought I told you to take that penguin to the zoo?!”
“I did,” said the man, “and now we’re off to the movies.”
Boom-Tish! Thankyouverymuch. You’ve been a great audience!
Have you heard the one about the writers …? Sorry. wrong audience.
Of course you know that elephants in Africa jump out of trees between 4 and 5pm. Which explains why there are so many pygmies in Africa. They have never learned to keep away from trees between 4 and 5pm.
I laughed when I first heard that one because my kids stood around me with wide smiles and clear expectations as they told the joke. Does that make it an ageist joke? It probably predates Methusalah.
I did the ‘commit one joke to memory and always trot it out when a joke is required’ thing too, Michael, but I found I had to change my group of friends too often because they groaned instead of laughing when they heard it for the third time. It went something like, ‘The hippy stood on the corner clicking his fingers. I watched him for a while wondering what he was doing it for, and then I couldn’t stand it any longer and went up and asked him. He said, ‘ To keep away the elephants, that’s why.’ I frowned and said, ‘We don’t elephants here.’ He said, ‘See it works.’
Yeah, I know, pathetic. That’s why I had to change friends so often. 🙂 Looking forward to your workshop.
Yes variety is the spice of life!
It’s the one where he ties the jumper leads around his neck in lieu of a tie, isn’t it?
That’s one of maybe about 3 jokes in my repertoire!
Oh dear Elaphant jokes…how many do you really need/want…..
Noooooooo Cog! I know who you are. That’s the ONLY joke I’ve EVER been able to remember (and use semi-successfully.) Now the greater universe will have heard the punchline (providing they subscribe to this blog) and I’ll have nothing. Nothing. Curse you Mr Bauer for bringing to the fore ones hilarious ineptitude. :-\
Why do elephants have big ears? Because Noddy wouldn’t pay the ransom.
Is this what you mean by an ageist joke? You have to be a certain age to get the humour.
Wait, I’m copying that one down!
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We are of a ‘certain age’.
If you need any more “hilarious” elephant jokes/riddles let me know.
I’ll put you on speed dial!