Monday, December 12, 2005

The prostitute joke

The most striking thing about 's World's Funniest Joke entry is just how unfunny the joke is. The runner-up isn't much better. The entry may lack humor, but it's not entirely wanting in meat. The 'world's funniest joke' stems from a 2002 study by the University of Hertfordshire's Richard Wiseman. Wiseman wanted to find out what jokes had the greatest appeal across cultural and demographic boundaries: The study documented regional differences in humour, as well as variations between the sexes. Men preferred more aggressive jokes, as well as sexual innuendo, while women preferred word play. I'm partial the shaggy dog story, which Wikipedia defines as "an extremely long and involved joke with a weak or completely nonexistent punchline. The humor lies in building up the audience's anticipation and then letting them down completely." The humor also derives from the delivery -- which is, after all, the whole point of The Aristocrats. One of the tricky things about blog humor is that body language is, with rare exception, impossible. Anyway, I thought this joke was pretty damned funny.
The Prostitute Joke
What we have here is a failure to communicate.
This happened several years ago. It really did happen, but thanks to the passage of time, I'll have to use my imagination to fill in some of the details. Which is to say, most of them. In the spring, our local park hosts Sunday concerts. Jake and I were goofing off at the playground one day when we heard a brass band. We decided to investigate. We eventually came to a hilltop where we could easily see and hear the band. Picnickers, dogs, and kids playing with Frisbees dotted the grassy slope leading down to the amphitheatre. Right next to us stood an old lady beside her wheelchair-bound husband, a stooped codger in a broad-brimmed straw hat. He had a knitted wool blanket covering his lap and legs. A young boy, perhaps fourteen years old, noticed them and waved. WIFE: Oh, look. There's Tommy. HUBS: Eh? WIFE: Tommy, from church. HUBS: Church? WIFE: Come on over a spell, Tommy! Why, just look at you, you're nearly taller than me. TOMMY: Hi. Come to hear the music? HUBS: Eh? WIFE: Eugene can't hear a thing, but he does like his sunshine. HUBS: Tommy? Is that Tommy? Why, you're all grown up. Here, I got a joke for you. WIFE: What's that? HUBS: A joke, woman. Tommy? Tommy? You listening? TOMMY: Yeah, I hear you. HUBS: A koala walks into a bar. WIFE: A bar? You think that's an appropriate joke for a young boy? Good heavens, Eugene, I don't know about you sometimes. HUBS: A koala walks into a bar. You know -- a koala. TOMMY: I know what a koala is. HUBS: A koala walks into a bar and orders himself a martini. A prostitute sits -- WIFE: A prostitute? Eugene, you stop right here right now. Listen to you! I can't imagine a pastor would think it's appropriate to tell a young boy a joke about a prostitute! HUBS: What do you mean, young boy? He's all grown. WIFE: He's not that old. How old are you, fourteen? TOMMY: I'm thirteen. WIFE: Thirteen! You hear that, Eugene? HUBS: Thirteen's old enough to know about prostitutes. I'm not telling you nothing you don't know, isn't that right, Tommy? WIFE: Heavens! I don't know what I'll do with you. You was a pastor. Now I can't even take you out. HUBS: So the prostitute sits down next to the koala and says -- WIFE: Will you stop? You was a pastor, Eugene. Show some sense. This boy's thirteen. HUBS: I knew plenty about prostitutes at thirteen. So she says, "Hey, how about you and me, we go back in the back and --" WIFE: Eugene, you WILL stop right there -- HUBS: Will you shut up, woman? I'm trying to tell a joke. You want to hear a joke, don't you, Tommy? TOMMY (nods) HUBS: See? It's not like I'm tryin' to make him do anything he don't want to do. So, afterwards, they get back to the bar -- WIFE: Well! At least you have the sense not to give him all the filthy details. HUBS: And the koala, he's about to leave, when the prostitute asks for her money. WIFE: That does it. Tommy, tell your parents we said hello. It was very nice seeing you today. HUBS: Damn it, woman, where are you taking me? WIFE (wheels husband away) TOMMY (looking at me): Do you know how the joke ends? DOUG (shrugs) TOMMY: Goddammit. D.


Blogger Darla said...

I'm warped. The prostitute joke made me laugh aloud.

As for the "world's funniest joke," I suspect something about being part of an academic study leached all the humor out of it.

The runner-up, though, is a staple whenever my husband (a military officer) teaches a class--except he uses 'commander' and 'first sergeant' instead of Holmes & Watson. Reportedly, it always gets a laugh; moreso when the audience is full of NCOs than when it's full of officers.

12/13/2005 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger mm said...

I think the winning joke is quite funny. I remember when this study came out, and there was a big writeup about it in the paper. It covered a lot about the differences in humour from country to country, and I think there must be a lot of differences between Canadian humour and American humour. (We spell it correctly, fr'instance.)

12/13/2005 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

I’ve heard the winning joke before and I think it’s hilarious. I like the runner-up, too. And your shaggy dog story/prostitute joke is pretty damned funny. ;-)

12/13/2005 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

I thought the winning joke was a little funny the first time I heard it. As for the second, yeah, I could see that being funny, given the right audience.

The prostitute joke is a real joke, but the actual punchline would be a real let-down. I like my version better ;o)

12/13/2005 08:04:00 AM  
Anonymous fiveandfour said...

For some reason, this reminded me of a time I was with my daughter - age 3 - at a friends house, swimming in the pool and generally enjoying the sunshine. I left my daughter in the care of someone else to run inside the house for a few minutes, then returned to the pool. My friends later told me that while I was gone my daughter suddenly realized I wasn't there, looked around, then said to herself, "Where the hell is my mother?!" This cracked them up no end and I found it funny, too, if a little embarassing. Later on, I wondered why we found it so funny and all I could come up with was the juxtaposition of cute little girl plus curse word used with perfect intonation.

It seems to me we can take the humor out of things if we examine them too much. I still think the "world's funniest joke" isn't that funny, but I wonder if that's because I had read the examination of it before I'd seen the actual joke. Probably not, but I still wonder.

12/13/2005 12:25:00 PM  
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