For Educational Purposes

I found this analysis quite interesting:

[How Louis CK Tells A Joke] (Viewer #1,534,480)

Before you go Googling Louis CK, I’ll warn that this is probably the only family-friendly joke he’s ever told.

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Mocking Joe Biden: You’re Doing It Wrong

Nate of When in the Course of Human Events [High Praise!] sent me a link to a new Facebook page:

The Legend of Joe Biden

Nate said “I think that will be getting very funny, very quickly.”

I hope Nate’s right, but I’m not holding out much hope for it.

Joe Biden is famous for being a bumbling idiot with an IQ of 30 who stands athwart history yelling “oo! shiny!”

The joke on the “Legend of Joe Biden” page is that he accomplishes legendary feats of prowess like a modern day Paul Bunyan:

Did you know Joe Biden once caught a fish, let it go, and a year to the day, that fish came back to him?

Did you know Joe Biden was in a knife fight for seventeen hours?

Did you know Joe Biden sold his soul for one penny, but that penny bought the Golden Gate Bridge?

It’s the wrong angle to use.

He’s not Daniel Boone, he’s Forrest Gump.

If Joe were on the Enola Gay, the pilot would say “Wow! Look at that mushroom cloud!”, and Joe would respond “And there’s one over there that looks like doggie!”

With Schr√∂dinger’s Cat, you don’t know if it’s dead or alive until you look in the box. With Biden’s cat, you know it’s dead, because Joe’s off in the corner drawing on the wall with crayons, and he forgot to put air holes in the box’s lid.

Anyway, I hope “The Legend of Joe Biden” does a quick course-correction and heads down the right comedic path.

Personally, though, I think they’ll end up Biden’s Cat.

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The Ultimate Secret to Writing Humor for the Internet

[High Praise! to Hatless in Hattiesburg]

As someone who spends WAY too much time thinking about how to be funny (as opposed to actually BEING funny) I found these hilarious:

“Three people of different nationalities walk into a bar. Two of them say something smart, and the third one makes a mockery of his fellow countrymen by acting stupid.”

“Three blokes walk into a pub. One of them is a little bit stupid, and the whole scene unfolds with a tedious inevitability.”

Q: “How many members of a certain demographic group does it take to perform a specified task?”

A: “A finite number: one to perform the task and the remainder to act in a manner stereotypical of the group in question.”

There once was an X from place B,
Who satisfied predicate P,
The X did thing A,
In a specified way,
Resulting in circumstance C.

Q: How many geeks does it take to ruin a joke?

A: You mean nerd, not geek. And not joke, but riddle. Proceed.

I suppose I could add

Q: Why did the person of specified characteristic perform a common task incorrectly?

A: Because they’re stupid.

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The K in Kerry Stands for Dumbass

I’m on John Kerry’s e-mail list for some reason, and I got an e-mail from him titled this yesterday:

“The R in Rand Stands for Radical”

And I was dumbstruck. I don’t get how a grown man would write that thinking it’s clever. It’s like what Data would come up with if you tasked him to make a clever statement belittling someone. It’s an imitation of being clever while completely missing the concept.

Basically, the statement is a failed attempt to say “Rand and Radical Both Start with an R” in a clever way, which wasn’t really a worthwhile observation to begin with. Now, if Rand Paul’s name were “Bob R. Paul” and Kerry said, “The R in Bob R. Paul Stand for Radical”, that would be clever… for a four year old. As it is, Kerry just completely missed the clever boat. Let me point out the obvious: The R doesn’t stand for anything because Rand’s name is not an acronym. It’s just the first letter of his name. Kerry’s statement makes only slightly more sense than “The N in Rand Stands for Not Someone You Should Elect”… except that is so overly awkward and wooden that it’s actually a little funny (much like John Kerry himself).

During 2004, John Kerry demonstrated he had trouble with relating with normal human beings, and he really shouldn’t try. His e-mail would have been just fine titled “Rand is a Radical”, but instead he attempted and failed at something humorous. And humor is about making an intellectual connection with your audience saying, “I think like you.” But if from Kerry’s humor you recognize he thinks like a moron, then his message is “You’re a drooling idiot like me and would think this is clever.” So his humor is actually insulting. And thus who would want to read his stupid e-mail after that?

This isn’t just my opinion. This is the opinion of a political humor expert… who is me. And some politician really shouldn’t play with humor without an expert watching.

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Lessons in Captioning: Brevity

TEEEEJ was kind enough to send me this lolterizt! pic:

Not bad, but it could be better.

So, instead of just throwing it in with the rest of the collection next week, I’m gonna use it as a teachable moment on the importance of brevity in captioning, and show you how to make the same joke in three words:

Now, the risk I take in the shorter version is that readers won’t know what a PDA is, or that they’ll think about the other PDA. But that’s what reference links are for.

Feel free to debate the relative merits of both approaches in the comments.

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Actually, I Thought “Cinco de Quatro” Was a Good Line

I hate Obama and everything he stands for. I also hate him on a personal level, because given the choice between capitalism and socialism, he deliberately chose to support socialism. I mock him every chance I get, even for small, petty things which aren’t his fault, like his ears (although those are actually LARGE, petty things) and his mule-faced wife (some guys just like ugly chicks – whattya gonna do about it?).

But I refuse to get all Kwazy Kos Kid and make fun of him for screwing up when he didn’t actually screw up. Humor requires truth to be funny, and if it ain’t true, it ain’t funny.

Some folks are busting Obama’s chops for saying “Welcome to Cinco de Cuatro” during a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House, saying that it was a “gaffe”, and a “fumbled joke”. They’re wrong. It was a good joke, done deliberately, and – based on the warm, sincere audience laughter – done well.

First, Obama’s not the first person to make this joke. About 6 years ago, something very similar was used in an episode of The Simpsons, where Homer lists some upcoming local holidays:

There’s the Tongue Kiss Festival, Cinco de Ocho, the Hobo Oscars. Days just made for lovers.

This joke works because when you hear “Cinco de”, your brain automatically says “Mayo” to itself, but you get surprised by the word “Ocho”, yet it sort of fits because it rhymes with “Mayo”, and it’s a Spanish word. The joke wouldn’t work if you said “Cinco de Brick”, for example.

Obama’s joke works even better because – in addition to these factors – it also makes reference to the elephant-in-the-room awkward fact that they were celebrating a holiday named for specific day of the year on a different day. That’s a lot of work for a single word, and as a person who spends WAY too much time thinking about the mechanics of humor-writing, I can tell you that that sort of confluence of factors doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

Obama also had good delivery because he looked at his watch afterwards with a mock-confused look on his face, as though he were checking the date, to emphasize the situation.

Now, I’m not saying that that joke should have necessarily been funny to YOU, or that making one good joke makes Obama NOT an evil, power-hungry desecrator of the Constitution. I’m just saying that this particular incident doesn’t belong on his ever-growing list of screw-ups.

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Let’s Pretend That We Think It Was a Shot At Trig Palin and Act Like We’re Super-Offended

Having watched the video of Obama’s “Special Olympics” comment

I’ll say this:

He was making fun of himself, and since his ineptitude at bowling is legendary, I’d say he was perfectly justified in making the remark. It was a choice bit of hyperbole.

Was it funny? Not especially, but not every joke’s a winner. Some are there just to keep the mood jovial & light-hearted. I think this did that.

The IMPORTANT question is: did the audience think it was funny?

No – because no one heard him say it.

The audience was too busy laughing at Leno saying “No, that’s very good. Yes. That’s very good, Mr. President.” and making an exaggerated ‘I’m trying not to laugh out loud’ gesture of covering his mouth with his hand.

In my semi-professional opinion as a self-described humorist, I’m giving Obama a pass on this one.

The question is, will his perpetually-offended grievence-constituency base do the same?

Shockingly, 21% of HuffPo’s Kool-Aid-drinking, Obamessiah-worshiping readership say “no”.

While I’ll always consider these people idiots, at least on this one occasion, I won’t be calling them hypocrites.

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Some Folks Are Still Confusing “Not Very Funny” With “Racist” UPDATED 3-6-09

Since I don’t want Eric Holder to think I’m a coward, I’m gonna talk about the “racist” email that got Staten Island Community Education Council member Salvatore Ballarino fired.

I’d like to show it to you, but – unlike the NY Post Chimp cartoon – it’s incredibly hard to find on the internet. Mostly what you get is the scary description:

The mock photo strip, sent Jan. 4 by Salvatore Ballarino, the borough president’s appointee to the volunteer board, features cartoon-like speech balloons drawn out of McCain’s mouth referencing lynching African Americans and equating African American babies with excrement.

The widely forwarded email also questions black fathers’ ability to support their families and states Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles are always smiling, because they did not know they were black. After each “punch line” the cartoon-like strip shows a photo of Obama’s face, positioned in such a way to make him look stunned and dumbstruck.

Here’s a fake-but-accurate version of the one I’m going to discuss:

Now, the joke that has the NAACP in a bilious tizzy is not particularly funny or even clever. It’s just a lame pun on the word “support” combined with a negative stereotype about black men. If that’s all Ballarino had forwarded, I could see their point.

But the cartoon only uses the joke as part of a larger gag. The humor here is the juxtaposition of two serious, somber, dignified men in a formal situation engaging in a conversation utterly unbefitting such a backdrop.

The humor value goes up if you believe that John McCain is a closet racist, which would give it a “funny because it’s true” bonus. For normal people it’d be funnier if the white guy in the picture were an ACTUAL racist, like Senator Robert “Kleagle & Exalted Cyclops” Byrd, but you aren’t gonna find a picture of THOSE two together chatting amiably, so THAT comic’s not getting made anytime soon.

But even though I think this cartoon has some non-racist humor value for a certain audience, I still think it’s too lame to forward.


Weak sauce punch line.

In a REAL multi-panel cartoon, the nonplussed Obama image would be the pause before the punchline, and not the punchline itself. Ending the way it does, it makes it look like Obama got “got” by the evil racist cracker. The point is to make McCain look like a jerk, not Obama look like a victim. It works better if Obama now makes some attempt to restore normalcy to a VERY awkward situation. Ideally, the 5th panel would reinforce the earlier themes of Obama being composed and dignified, and having McCain obliviously spouting an even more racially insensitive remark. For example:

Now, I’m not saying any of this is either appropriate for or amusing to a general audience. I’m just taking the time to look past the racist tree in search of a funny forest, sowing seeds as necessary to reclaim the land that was clearcut by humorless liberals.

I think it’s what Eric Holder would’ve wanted.

UPDATE 3-6-09

Reader Joe was kind enough to forward me the original email that Ballarino was fired for forwarding. I’m posting links to the images so you can judge them for yourself.

Family tree


Picnic table

Stevie Wonder

Pity that the same MSM who plastered contextless Abu Ghraib photos everywhere doesn’t have the journalistic integrity to do the same.

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Not Racist, Just Not Very Funny

Some folks are up in arms about a picture of the Whitehouse with watermelons growing in the yard and the caption “No Easter egg hunt this year”.

Being familiar with the mechanics of humor, I know you need two things for something to be funny: truth and exaggeration. But as Frank once pointed out, if you don’t have truth, a popularly accepted stereotype – true or not – will generally work just as well.

Ok, so there’s a stereotype that black people like watermelon, and since the President is black, he’d plant watermelons on the White House lawn. Ha ha ha.

Oddly enough, the California mayor who sent this to a black business woman said that he was unaware of this stereotype, so I’m not sure why he thought this was even a tiny bit funny.

The big problem, though, is that the stereotype this mocks isn’t a character flaw. Lots of people like watermelon. *I* like watermelon. Plus the fact that blackness is such a superficial aspect of Obama. It’s like mocking his ridiculous, sticky-out chimp-ears. It’s too easy of a target. It’s not even remotely clever.

However, the picture itself has a delightful visual incongruity about it, watermelons have other characteristics besides being stereotypically liked by blacks, and Obama has characteristics other than skin color. So let’s try a different caption:

Obama’s Victory Garden.

Still got the racial stereotype, but at least it drags in a political angle by referencing the obsessive comparisons of Obama to FDR.

Green on the outside, Red on the inside.

Obama is a “watermelon” – using his environmentalism to cover his communism. No racial stereotypes involved at all. Purely political.

Thanks to America’s failed public school system, the White House was forced to lower the standards for the Easter Egg Hunt.

Here it’s just carping on public policy, and those are just giant eggs lined up in rows. Only Al Sharpton would imply racism now!

So don’t be mad at Grose for being a racist, be mad at him for forwarding a sad, weak-ass joke that he didn’t even get.

Enough with the lecture, let’s just have fun with it.


* From the book “101 Jokes That Colorblind People Won’t Get”

* Obama’s response to Barney Frank’s complaint that his administration “didn’t have enough fruits”.

* White House receives Alternative Energy grant for “harnessing the power of the sun”.

* “Alien: Resurrection” Director’s Cut DVD includes this shocking alternate ending.

* Because fried chicken doesn’t have seeds. [Yeah, I know, but it’s still better than the original]

* Meanwhile, behind the White House, the Incredible Hulk’s litter box training showed great promise.

* Yet another protest demanding increased taxes and regulation to stop global warming.

* Obama vows to never again buy ‘marijuana’ seeds off the internet.

* The real reason Obama won’t sign a bill to stop illegal immigration.

Caption along in the comments if you’d like.

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