Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Do Jokes Get Started?

One day he wins the lottery, two days later he meets the love of his life. Some guys are so lucky.
Nearly every day I receive jokes from one or more sources, often in retaliation for something I sent them. They range from the squeaky clean to the ones not repeated in polite company. They are often about sex or other topics that regrettably frequently involve unfavorable stereotypes of women, especially blonds. Over a lifetime I must have heard or read thousands, yea, tens of thousands. But how do these funny stories gets started?

A little googling yielded no helpful results, except for a professor who is quoted as saying the obvious, i. e., that it is nearly impossible to trace the origin of a particular funny story.

My guess is that many start as one liners. Somebody says something funny in some circumstance. It gets repeated, catches on, and is gradually elaborated and revised as it goes. Eventually it reaches canonical form and is more or less retold verbatim, with memory lapses and surges of creativity endlessly refining it.

Some are doubtless created by the deliberate efforts of people with a comic spirit. Some genres with particular subject matter may originate collectively when two or more people try to add to a type, e. g., "Yo Mama" or "Little Debbie" stories, fanatical golfers, a guy walks into a bar, etc. In my rural Georgia childhood I heard a number of scatological stories from the “Ike and Mike” series. A joke is a favorite way for one group to make fun of another regarded as inferior or to show the superiority of ones own.

Examples: How do you lubricate a Volkswagen? You run over an Italian?

How do you tell the bride at a Polish wedding? She's the one with the clean polo shirt.

Here are some I came across today that illustrate various genres:

A little girl goes to the barber shop with her father. While her dad gets his hair cut, she stands right next to the barber chair, eating a Hostess snack cake. The barber says to her, "You know, sweetheart, you're gonna get hair on your Twinkie." "I know," she replies. "I'm gonna get tits too."

A husband and wife were having dinner at a very fine restaurant when this absolutely stunning young woman comes over to their table, gives the husband a big open mouthed kiss, then says she'll see him later and walks away. The wife glares at her husband and says, "Who the hell was that?"
"Oh," replies the husband, "she's my mistress."
"Well, that's the last straw," says the wife. "I've had enough, I want a divorce!"
"I can understand that," replies her husband, "but remember, if we get a divorce it will mean no more shopping trips to Paris, no more wintering in Barbados, no more summers in Tuscany, no more Lexus in the garage and no more yacht club. But the decision is yours."
Just then, a mutual friend enters the restaurant with a gorgeous babe on his arm. "Who's that woman with Jim?" asks the wife.
"That's his mistress," says her husband.
"Ours is prettier," she replies.

My favorite fanatical golfer story: One Saturday morning a wife reluctantly agreed for her husband to take the car and go golfing – but only with the solemn promise that he would return by 1:00 PM so she could have the car. By 3:30 PM when he finally got back, she was livid with anger at having to miss an important engagement. She was ready to excoriate him when she noticed he looked so weary and so terribly downcast that her mood changed.
“Honey, what’s the matter?”
“Oh, it was terrible,” he said, "Just horrific.”
“What happened,” she asked anxiously.
“Well, everything went fine until the fourth hole when Charlie dropped dead.”
“Oh, honey, that must have been awful for you.”
“I’ll say, from then on it was hit the ball, drag Charlie, hit the ball, drag Charlie.”

A global search for the best joke in the world elicited many thousands of entries from a large number of countries who voted for their favorite. The winner:

Two hunters from New Jersey go into the woods. One collapses and the other rings for help telling the operator he thinks his friend is dead. She asks if he is sure. There is a gun shot. When he comes back on the line, he says, "OK, now what?"

OK, but I liked the winner in the UK better: A woman gets on a bus with a baby in her arms. The bus driver says, "That is the ugliest baby I ever saw. Ugh!
Very angry she goes to the back of the bus, takes a seat and says to the man next to her."That driver just insulted me."
"Well," he says, "you just go right back up there and tell him what you think. Go on, I'll hold your monkey for you."

I wonder how they all got started.

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