Let’s try to take the fun of out comedy by analyzing jokes. Ha! Actually, this is more of an exercise for my benefit. I did this earlier and plan on a few more post going over my jokes (but not all will be about dead pets/people – I promise). Anyway, part of the purpose is I write down a joke, have it saved on my blog but in writing about it, I may learn something.
As I mentioned before, any jokes I discuss are by me and are funny(funnier?) when heard in person due to my awesome presentation skills (or they are not funny at all).
The last joke I analyzed was about a dead dog and bereavement time. The joke below is about potentially dead cats but I write it here because it’s also very timely! Topical humor, people!
I pulled into my driveway the other day. I looked over and saw a neighbor of mine with a bucket of water and a box with some feral kittens. He was getting ready to drown these poor kittens! I immediately got out of my car, grabbed a stick, and walked over there and said “hey, asshole, I see what you’re about to do. I can’t let you do it. We are in a water shortage – a drought! Use this” and I throw him the stick. (to audience I say something about even animal abusers being more socially responsible, etc…
(this joke does not translate too well to the page and the wording in the joke I’ve written may not have the impact. It also makes me sound like a monster. But in drought-ridden California, it’s funny).
I think this jokes works for several reasons:
1. My presentation is always of a pretty calm guy, a short nerd, so the idea of me grabbing a stick and confronting anyone is, hopefully, funny (when I first told this joke, I said “baseball bat” and when the crowd laughed, I was surprised – didn’t even occur to me that it was a funny image. But it was so I kept it. Another version has me telling the guy that the water he’s using better be ‘gray water’ (dirty) or to do this awful extermination while taking a shower.
2. Topical – here in California, it’s drought drought drought, and this is a darkly humorous take on the impacts of the water shortage – so bad that a (bad) guy can’t even some feral kittens.
3. The word “feral”. Drowning cats or kittens is awful. I use the word ‘feral’ to at least soften the blow a little because we associate feral kittens as a nuisance, like cute squirrels that could be dangerous. Maybe it doesn’t matter but I think it’s interesting to note it, that it is something I include in this joke as a possible buffer.
In one of the variations, I had a tag line “swing away, Merril. Merrill, swing away” a quote from the film Signs, about an alien invasion that is, in part, thwarted by their aversion to water (the character Merrill is a baseball athlete who swings his bat at some glasses filled with water to fight back against an home-invanding alien).
That I got to add that tag line was fun for me. A small inside joke for those who had seen this movie and got the connection between the water and baseball bat. I may still include it when I tell this joke.
A comedian may get bored with some of their jokes and I think adding little bits like this to the main bit can keep it fresh (you can remove/add different ‘insider’ jokes if it helps.). The main premise stands – some jerk stopped from drowning cats NOT because it’s wrong but because of the drought and the waste of water it represents.
Like the joke about the dead dog, this joke also catches the crowd’s attention because immediately they are presented with an image of my neighbor preparing to drown a box of cats – holy shit, right!? So, they snap to attention, see where I’m leading to and so forth. Not the smartest joke, but it engages their mind to think about a) the crime/morality of drowning cats and b) the drought and nanny-state rules/fines over wasting water.
That is all. Again, I’m writing this more for me, but also so that potential comedians see how one might view a joke after it’s been created and why it has the impact/effectiveness that I think it has. If you are thinking of performing stand-up comedy or writing jokes, you better understand a little why something is funny because you’ll save a lot of time but then you will also find those jokes that are funny for NO APPARENT REASON – it will happen and in those cases, that is just plain magic (I will discuss one of these moments some time later).
I could be totally wrong – this may not be funny at all to you, in which case you are invited to click away, Merrill. Merrill, click away.