The world sure is full of some silly goings-on, isn’t it? If you hadn’t noticed, chances are good you spend most of your time on the internet, where silliness takes a backseat to balls-out stupid craziness. While I won’t go so far as to actually direct you toward any of that awful web-confined lunacy, I will expound upon a subject near and dear to my heart: terrible jokes and the terrible people who tell them on the internet.
An alert reader of this blog might think I’m about to leap off the tallest diving board at the hypocrisy pool wearing the tiny yellow speedo of misguided self-righteousness, but they’d be wrong. You see, I appreciate bad jokes. In fact, my life would be a rather unpleasant slog through unending boredom without them. There’s a certain appeal to the half-remembered, badly delivered joke that speaks to the amateur comedian in all of us.
But there is a line, as in all things, that must not be crossed when telling or devising a joke. Actually, there are several lines which intersect at various places…Wait a second.
Okay, see, there’s a Venn diagram which outlines the…
Shit. Never mind the graph metaphors. Say there’s this guy who wants so badly to tell a joke, but he can’t remember any good ones. His choices are limited, so he picks what he assumes will be the easiest: he’ll just listen to someone’s conversation and make up a joke of his own!
That, of course, is where things begin to unravel. First, in order to tell a good joke, you usually have to understand how a joke works. Second, if you don’t have the competence (gumption, wherewithal, true grit) to remember even a simple one-liner, chances are good you’re going to fail not only at making the joke, but telling it in front of other people.
However, that experience of slacks-ruining public embarrassment is cathartic in its own strange way: either the terrible joker will go back to the drawing board to actually learn how to be funny, or he’ll never try it ever again. Either of those situations is preferable to the third option, which is to jump on the internet to ‘practice’ the craft.
That brings us conveniently back to tonight’s topic. What is it about today’s online culture that makes everyone assume they’re the most hilarious person who ever mistyped a tired punchline? It can’t be the anonimity, because people want you to know exactly who they are when they spout off about Barack Osama (haha geddit).
I like to think it’s more a problem of insularity. People who interact with other people primarily in person are more apt to learn the basic tenets of interactivity–which is probably the most obvious thing I’ve ever stated twice in one sentence–as well as the ability to accept and apply honest outside criticism.
But people who don’t have many interpersonal relationships, or who have unsatisfying, shallow, or incomplete ones, are less likely to have developed those abilities. These people are the ones who build garish Myspace profiles with spinning gerbils and lolcats pasted everywhere, and who consistently and earnestly refer to themselves as kooky, zany, wacky or ‘krazy’.
It’s not that they’re bad people, exactly. (Although I’m sure you could isolate a solid correllation between a person’s horribleness and the amount of lolcats on their Myspace) They simply lack the benefit of a good close friend with the character to look them in the eye and say, ‘You suck at this. Try something else.’
Now, not everyone who tells a bad joke is himself a bad joker. There are occasions where it’s appropriate and even expected that you make an awkward, cringe-inducing attempt at humor, but those moments are usually among friends, and the topic is usually terrible jokes. It’s more a question of propriety than anything.
To end this post on a relevant note, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite terrible jokes of all time:
What do you call a fish with no eyes?
Thanks to TheJames from the Cracked forums.