No Puns Today

I try to be funny. I suppose the funny thing is how often I’m merely trying. I’ve discussed before how most humor is based on distress or pain. I tried to demonstrate this to God today with this poor rendition of an old joke about the difference between tragedy and comedy. A manhole has been uncovered and the cover is sitting beside it. I’m walking down the street with a friend and stub my toe on the cover. That’s tragedy. My friend, however, walking next to me, falls down into the open manhole and breaks his neck. Now that’s comedy.

It’s long been my theory that the reason we groan at puns, is because they break this rule. They are not based on anyone’s pain, so in order to imbue them with humor, we create the pain and represent it with the groan. God pointed out to me another form of humor that is similar, the “not” joke. That’s where you tell someone something they want to hear, pause for a moment, and then add “not.” In that form of joke you’re deliberately hurting the person you’re telling the joke to, in order to make sure there’s pain, so that the joke will be funny. The problem here, is that it guarantees that one member of your audience doesn’t get to enjoy the joke, they just get to stub their toe.

Whoever thought up this gag, they were clever. All the people that use this gag? Not. What they are is like taggers. Taggers are graffiti “artists” who just put their name, or rather an alias, their “tag,” onto whatever they can reach. Adding the word “not” to something, as a joke, has all the originality and narcissism of spray painting your name onto the back of the nearest truck.

I’d rather have puns any day. After all, sticks and stones may break my bones, but puns will never hurt me.

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1 Comment

On October 1, 2009 at 4:33 pm

I’m not sure the pun or pain dichotomy is true.. consider this one by Hedberg:

My friend asked me if I wanted a frozen banana, I said “No, but I want a regular banana later, so … yeah”.

I wouldn’t call it a pun.. as it relies on a literal (but not excessively literal) reading. And certainly it doesn’t seem particularly painful to anyone (other than perhaps slightly disconcerting the listener, which seems to me, more than anything else, to be the essence of humor).


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