January 10, 2018

"If your friend is struck by lightning and he seems to be all right, but his hair is smoking, is it O.K. to laugh?"

From "The Mysteries of Humor" by Jack Handey in The New Yorker.

I'm quoting my favorite from this set of questions, but I must confess that there is one that made me laugh much more than any of the others, and it's a different one. But on the theory that you can get in there without a subscription (or you have a subscription), I'll leave it to you to explore the mysteries of humor and I don't want to step on your experience by clonking you over the head with my idiosyncrasy.

40 comments:

Nonapod said...

Jack Handy wrote probably my favorite SNL skit of all time: Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

Inga said...

The visual is funny, we’ve all seen the cartoons of someone with smoke wafting off their head. In real life I think it would be so shocking ( pun intended) that I’d be more concerned with some delayed injury to the person that couldn’t be seen by the eye and getting that person to the ER.

BDNYC said...

Deep Thoughts was reliably funny. This piece was not funny at all.

rehajm said...

is it okay? Question: Are you a cartoon character?

Jeff Gee said...

I liked the quicksand one. Quicksand is intrinsically funny anyway, but it was beautifully phrased. Clunkiest one: the Vienna sausage situation.

Ann Althouse said...

Inga has a very dry sense of humor.

CJinPA said...

If you like Jack Handy, run to the Althouse Amazon portal and get "Stench of Honolulu."

Fernandistein said...

I'd be more OK to laugh if the guy were dead.

2nd-hand smoke.

Dave said...

Bus load of clowns traveling across Mexico got me to laugh. I don't know why.

Annie C said...

I laughed at the backward shirt. Simplistic and common, but funny when it happens over and over. Not that I know anything about that.

Kate said...

I didn't laugh at the insect observation, but I was charmed.

Meade said...

"Inga has a very dry sense of humor."

How dry IS Inga's sense of humor?

So dry that even Gold Bond moisturizing lotion can't keep it from cracking itself up.

Freeman Hunt said...

Some jokes are funny because they are too soon, but then they don't work once enough time has passed for them to be told. The secret jokes of the too soon.

Inga said...

“Inga has a very dry sense of humor."

“How dry IS Inga's sense of humor?”

Oh my humor can get juicy enough.

Bob Boyd said...

"Oh my humor can get juicy enough."

Well?

dbp said...

My favorite:

"Are some things never funny, like a man accidentally chopping off his finger with a hatchet, and wrapping up the finger and taking it to the hospital, then discovering that it isn’t his finger but one of the Vienna sausages he was having for lunch, and then eating the sausage?"

Althouse's favorite?

"Do insects have a sense of humor, and does it involve stinging you?"

Bob Boyd said...

This is funny.

https://twitter.com/boring_as_heck/status/949747462465470464/video/1

Ann Althouse said...

@dbp

Ha. Your favorite was mine.

I attempted to read that out loud to Meade about 10 times before I could get through it. Kept getting hysterical at "then discovering that..."

mockturtle said...

If you have to define humor, you likely miss the point.

Yancey Ward said...

The funniest Handey I remember from SNL was this one:

"To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kind of scary. I’ve wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad."

Don't know why that cracks me up, it just does. Here is another one I remember well:

"One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. “Oh, no,” I said, “Disneyland burned down.” He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late."

SDaly said...

I was going to guess the Vienna sausage one. That's the one that gave me the biggest laugh.

tcrosse said...

De Gustibus ain't what it used to be.

janetrae said...

I laughed at: Old man in the forest with the walking stick.

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SDaly said...

Inga's humor is as dry as a Pecan Sandy in some place with no moisture.

Big Mike said...

If your friend is struck by lightning and he seems to be all right, but his hair is smoking, is it O.K. to laugh?

If his hair is smoking, he is probably not all right. But it's okay to join in if he starts laughing first.

But even if both of us were laughing, I'd get him over to an ER. Which means I'm agreeing with Inga. How'd that happen?

The Godfather said...

The one about humor on other planets was the funniest of the bunch, and it wasn’t very funny.

I guess I’m a grouch.

Inga said...

“Inga's humor is as dry as a Pecan Sandy in some place with no moisture.”

When dunked in creamy coffee, a Pecan Sandy is sweet pleasure.

Rusty said...

Totally OK.

"Ann Althouse said...
Inga has a very dry sense of humor."

Desiccated even.
Except
When monkeys are involved.
Chimps are just funny. Ask Inga.
Guys getting wacked in the nuts is funny.
Chimps getting wacked in the nuts isn't funny.
Unless
They're dressed as humans.
Chuck is funny too.
But only because he's bug nuts crazy.

Luke Lea said...

Vienna sausage one is only one that made me chuckle. I imagined Charlie Chaplin.

Luke Lea said...

I suspect a sense of humor, like most human traits, has a large genetic component. But a lot what is funny is no doubt cultural and/or based on personal experience. This Peter Seller's skit for example, it helps to have sort of been there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO_eXXgOsFI

Luke Lea said...

This Buster Keaton gag would probably make most people laugh, including children (who, come to think of it, seem to be born with a sense of humor -- do some later lose it?) https://giphy.com/gifs/car-trouble-keaton-f1NTdkdbG4XzW

robother said...

Luke Lea: "I suspect a sense of humor, like most human traits, has a large genetic component."

That's not funny!

DanTheMan said...

My favorite Handy: When I die I want to go like grandpa who died peacefully in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the people in his car.

Sarah Rolph said...

The vienna sausage is funny.

CStanley said...

The old man in the forest was my favorite, followed closely by the Vienna sausage one.

This one:
Can something be true and funny at the same time, like “Your head looks like a melon”?

Wasn't funny but it made me think of something I find hilarious. A couple of years ago we were picking up my son's friend, who is obviously on the autistic spectrum. Driving my old 4Runner, about 10 years old at the time and since I'm not very fastidious about car cleaning it had a buildup of years of odor from kids and dogs. The kid gets in the car and immediately says, "How come it smells like a hamster cage in here?"

True, and funny (that he had no idea that it was rude to say so.)

The Godfather said...

@DanTheMan: There's an "antique" shop near here that has a placque for sale with that "saying". I didn't think anything in the New Yorker article was funny, but I think your joke is hilarious! Thanks.

Ann Althouse said...

To analyze the Vienna sausage one: You're lulled into thinking it really isn't funny that somebody cut off a finger, and you're also set up by the idea that this is going to be something that you see more than once because "never funny" implies that there are variations on the scenario. But then the scenario is so specific. There keep being Vienna sausages around when the finger is cut off, they keep getting mistaken for fingers, and they keep getting eaten. That's the funniest part of it to me, the absurdity that the scenario could keep happening that specific way.

It's also funny because you're surprised by the accumulating details and it may take you a while to catch up to the fact that there's no cannibalism involved, so what's the harm in eating the Vienna sausage. Might as well get a little sunshine in this bleak day. At least there's food.

And then you think of the people who won't have a "taste" for this humor, and it could easily be me. I'm the kind of person who could easily get tracked into thinking: No time to pause for a food break. You've got to get back to the scene and find the real finger! Maybe it's not too late to reattach it!

Also, Vienna sausages are an inherently ridiculous food. Who would even have them at a worksite that had equipment capable of cutting off a finger? And yet, I remember when they were regarded as an elegant hors d'oeuvre.

Bill Peschel said...

I'll play.

Here's what I laughed at:

"Are some things never funny, like a man accidentally chopping off his finger with a hatchet, and wrapping up the finger and taking it to the hospital, then discovering that it isn’t his finger but one of the Vienna sausages he was having for lunch, and then eating the sausage."

and

"If a man finds a message in a bottle, is it funnier if instead of a message it contains a tiny little banana peel?" (which might have been set up by the previous "joke."

Otherwise, most of them were pretty dire.

Earlier today, my wife asked why there were accordian jokes but never trombone jokes (her father is a lifetime player and now our son is taking it up again). I was online, so I immediately found several of which this is my favorite:

How can you tell a trombone player is at your door?

His cap reads "Papa John's."

That made my wife laugh more than any of these would. Maybe I tell it better. Or maybe I wonder if Jack Handy and The New Yorker are really thinking that the joke's on the reader. You know, like any left-wing publication / public figure / comedian.

Bill Peschel said...

Dam, I'm having to learn I can't open a tag whenever I try to publish a comment. Blogger gives me that "you're trying to reedit this" or "you're using shared resources."

Shorter take: The insect joke could work if spoken, deadpan-style. Steven Wright could kill with that line.

Also funny: amputations. My wife and I love Futurama, and anytime Fry gets something cut off is funny.