Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Joke

I said last time I’d try to think of some jokes for the blog next time. This is next time, but I can only think of one joke and I always start laughing when I come to the punch line and ruin the delivery. And since it depends on the sound of a spoken word,       I can’t tell it here. It’s not off-color -- it’s perfectly acceptable in mixed company -- it just doesn’t lend itself to written presentation.  Come to think of it, it would be perfectly acceptable before an audience of children, and in fact might get its best reception there.

As we’re all aware. a lot of humor nowadays depends on sexual innuendo or the shock value of what used to be considered obscene and abusive language. Why mention of sex gets a snicker is a subject for people with more expertise in psychology than I have. Many other laugh lines delivered without their scatology or abusive reference to someone else’s mental capacity wouldn’t be funny at all. If you hang out on some online forums you find that (a) no language is too coarse to use, but (b) if you subtract or replace the obscenities and abuse, in many cases there’s not much message there at all. The invective is the message.

If you’re old enough to remember them, Red Skelton and Bob Hope represented different points on the spectrum. Although neither would have been allowed the language we hear today, Hope used innuendo and Skelton did “funny”; he turned himself into silly characters with odd speech patterns and twitches. Hope of course did much more than tell jokes and was greatly respected, especially among a generation of people who fought WWII. Skelton was a phenomenon whose show depended on a bunch of other people, but he was all of them. 

There also used to be a program on the radio (R-A-D-I-O) called “Can You Top This,” where listeners sent in jokes and a panel of “experts” tried to come up with funnier stories on the same theme. I suppose it might have been rehearsed, but if it was truly extemporaneous, those were some funny people, and all within strict bounds of language then permitted in public discourse. 

Vamping desperately, I still haven’t come up with a joke for this post, have I? Rather than feel deceived, though, look at the upside: if I'd started on some old shaggy dog story, in this medium you wouldn't have been able to stop me if you’d heard this one….