Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


50*lol
September 16, 2008 4:49 AM   Subscribe

Brendon Burns on the Science of Comedy + The 50 best jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (46 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Christ, what an asshole!
posted by aswego at 5:17 AM on September 16, 2008


Gelotogical obtuseness.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:27 AM on September 16, 2008


"Whenever I see a man with a beard, moustache and glasses, I think, 'There's a man who has taken every precaution to avoid people doodling on photographs of him" – Carey Marx

Love it. The problem with the jokes page is that some 80% of people who read it will think they suck because stand-up comedy just doesn't do as well written down, no matter how funny it is.
posted by Menomena at 5:37 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Gelotological. That word is so hard to spell, it's not funny.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:40 AM on September 16, 2008


I think I can make allowances for the printed page. We need to consider the obvious -- they simply suck.
posted by RavinDave at 5:42 AM on September 16, 2008


Okay, the author likes Flip Wilson - and I won't argue with that. But Flip Wilson wasn't before Cosby and Pryor. Wilson was doing small gigs in California in the early 60s when Cosby and Pryor were on stage in New York with Woody Allen. Cosby had a regular TV show and several Emmys and Grammys before Wilson had his TV show. And both Pryor and Cosby were on national television in Tonight Show (and other spots) before Wilson. Pryor's move to more edgy humor limited his later television experience (although he started with tamer material in the mid-60s).

And this, "Wilson was a black American comedian, pre-Pryor and pre-Cosby – the guy they all nodded to for tackling racism before people even called it racism." Who the hell wasn't calling it racism by the mid-sixties? I hate it when people get things like that wrong.

There is a beautiful, serious science to writing a joke - and this article doesn't get to that point. Which is probably my final beef - this is a subject I love.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:02 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is a beautiful, serious science to writing a joke - and this article doesn't get to that point. Which is probably my final beef - this is a subject I love.

I'd like to see more serious funding going towards more serious research into finding the world's funniest joke. As I'm sure you must be aware, this has serious military applications.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:21 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Gritter lorries are always hilarious.
posted by ericbop at 6:38 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Competing for the best scottish joke is like competing in the special olympics -- even if you win, you're still retarded.

adapted from joke about "arguing on the internet"
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:43 AM on September 16, 2008


50 best jokes? Glad I didn't bother going to anything this year...
Although nice to see two entries in from Andy Zaltzman.
posted by opsin at 7:54 AM on September 16, 2008


I found those funny, but I get easily amused. I'm a bad comedian's dream audience.

No, seriously, those were funny...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:07 AM on September 16, 2008


Glad I didn't bother going to anything this year

I'm not a big stand-up fan and only went because the kids dragged me, but Richard Herring had me literally weeping with laughter for a solid hour.

These jokes definitely != the 50 best.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:14 AM on September 16, 2008


I've never seen frenetic blinking ads like the ones on that article before. It was so distracting I couldn't even finish.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:24 AM on September 16, 2008


This is comedy, you're a comedian – so tell some jokes. That's the real art and it's the toughest bit of our job.

This is all just so horrible. I mean, seriously, read that again: the comedy part of being a comedian is crucial and difficult. I guess you could argue that the sheer banality is its own comedy, but I'm not going to give this guy any props for it.
posted by Skot at 8:27 AM on September 16, 2008


You know you're getting old when going bra-less pulls all the wrinkles out of your face.
posted by netbros at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


1) If this is the best Glasgow has to offer--Ouch.
2) Joke : Comic :: Crayola : Painter
posted by Sys Rq at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2008


(Edinburgh, even...)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:46 AM on September 16, 2008


"Surgery is just stabbing in a courteous environment" – A L Kennedy

That one's pretty fantastic.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:52 AM on September 16, 2008


I've heard Lewis Black (I think, please correct me if I'm wrong) complain about people who insist, upon meeting a comedian, that he "say something fun!":

"It's like saying, "Hey, you're obese! Eat something! Right now! While we watch!"
posted by misha at 9:00 AM on September 16, 2008


say something FUNNY. Gah. Ack.
posted by misha at 9:01 AM on September 16, 2008


I've heard Lewis Black (I think, please correct me if I'm wrong) complain about people who insist, upon meeting a comedian, that he "say something funny!"

This is an especially difficult order for Lewis Black to follow.
posted by DU at 9:22 AM on September 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


Newsflash: Comedians from all over the world perform at the Edinburgh Fringe.
posted by fire&wings at 9:33 AM on September 16, 2008


Hmmm, lot of one-armed butlers in here tonight...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:57 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


That article is not science. This is the science of comedy.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:59 AM on September 16, 2008


I laughed, I chuckled but I did not ROFL.
posted by tommasz at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2008


"One-armed butlers, they can take it but they can't dish it out" – Tim Vine

I have committed horrific acts of unspeakable violence against completely innocent souls. Some involving fire and bees.

And I still don't deserve the punishment that Tim Vine does for this.
posted by quin at 10:37 AM on September 16, 2008


"I was in Halifax one Friday night in July, and I thought they were having an 'idiots and whores' theme party, but no – that's just Halifax on a Friday night" – Rob Deering

Hey! That's my town you're talking about.
posted by seanyboy at 12:20 PM on September 16, 2008


I've heard Lewis Black (I think, please correct me if I'm wrong)

Nope, thats Greg Giraldo.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Making people laugh is the lowest form of comedy."
-- Michael O'Donoghue
posted by Superfrankenstein at 12:52 PM on September 16, 2008


Tois hunters ur it in th' woods when a body ay them collapses. he doesnae seem tae be breathin' an' his een ur glazed. th' other guy whips it his phain an' calls th' emergency services. he gasps, "my mukker is deid! whit can Ah dae?". th' operatur says "calm doon. Ah can help. first, let's make sure he's deid." thaur is a silence, 'en a shot is heard. back oan th' phain, th' guy says "ok, noo whit?
(via)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:43 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


That actually wouldn't be too bad as an excerpt from an Irvine Welsh story.
posted by Artw at 2:12 PM on September 16, 2008


There is a beautiful, serious science to writing a joke - and this article doesn't get to that point. Which is probably my final beef - this is a subject I love.

Most funny people I know just wing it- but then, they aren't professionals, and though often funnier than pros, probably cannot repeat the funny on cue.

But I'd be interested in knowing more about the science of it, if you'd care to cobble up a post. Clearly this guy let a lot of mefites down.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:30 PM on September 16, 2008


"I don't hate the Germans, I just miss my grandparents" – Ian Stone

... Is that actually a joke? I must be missing something, because if I'm interpreting it correctly that's quite sad.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:44 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


if I'm interpreting it correctly that's quite sad

I thought so too. Possibilities (not exclusive):
1) Comic delivery didn't survive printing.
2) Comedian doesn't get it.
3) Journalist fail.

Out of my own prejudice, I'm betting on 3, with a side order of 1.
posted by eritain at 6:04 PM on September 16, 2008


While a precise science of humour might elude us, I suspect a science of what makes MeFites whine and huff about humour is totally doable.
posted by Artw at 6:52 PM on September 16, 2008


Solon and Thanks writes "... Is that actually a joke? I must be missing something, because if I'm interpreting it correctly that's quite sad."

And the sad makes it even funnier. Jokes work by leading the listeners down the garden path, so that the punchline is unexpected but makes sense when the joke is retrospectively re-analyzed. (Country music oes something similar, where te surface or obvious meaning of the chorus changes though the course of the song.)

In this case, I think there's a meta-level thing going on too, where this works only because it's said in a setting where the audience knows they're hearing it from a professional comedian. (Which may be why out of that context it doesn't seem funny.)

On hearing the "I don't blame the Germans", the audience, knowing this is comedy, expects the reversal is going to be some attack on Germans: some lame examples (I'm no comedian) might be "because they're animals" or "just 99% of them" or "the Germans are a very clean people, and they had to get their soap somewhere".

So the unexpected here is that instead of an attack, we get the "I miss my grandparents", which is the part that requires the re-analysis. Unlike most jokes,it' isn't (initially) refitting the punchline to its antecedent set-up, but just analyzing the punchline itself.

Audience thinks "why does he miss his grandparents? Because he knew them as a kid and then they died? Oh, wait, no, because they were killed in the Holocaust, and he never met them". "Miss" then means not the most obvious definition, "had and no longer have" but the less common "missed out on, never had." The comedian never had the experience of (these) grandparents, because they dies in the Holocaust long before he was ever born.

Ouch. He doesn't miss (for example) the specific people Zayde Moise who threw a ball with him and Bubbe Sarah who baked him Hamantashen, he misses the whole experience of any grandparents, and by implication the Jewish heritage that they would have passed down to him. And that in turn implies the full horror of the Shoah, which was not just six million individuals uprooted and tortured and worked to death and killed but also and in addition a planned genocide that attempted to wipe out a whole people and culture.

So a lot gets packed into that punchline, and then you can unfold all of it by a second re-analysis against the "I don't hate the Germans", in which the comedian is implicitly saying, i don't hate them both formy personal loss but also and in addition for the effective destruction, in the sense of a shared culture, of the entirety of European Jewry.

So, yes, it's sad, but it's also a very effective joke, of the black humor makes you think variety.
posted by orthogonality at 9:40 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd have my butler applaud it, only, well...
posted by Artw at 10:03 PM on September 16, 2008


Gelotological obtuseness.

The more I say it, the funnier it is.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:55 AM on September 17, 2008


I strongly object to the last comment! As any serious student of comedy is aware, humor relies mainly on the unexpected and the unpredictable. The previous comment is little more than a rephrasing of an earlier comment. Notwithstanding its position immediately below an analysis of a Holocaust joke and a one-armed butler joke, I feel that no degree of laughter can be sustained by the hypothesis that the repetition of a theme can possibly induce more laughter. I'm sure the previous poster would agree.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:39 AM on September 17, 2008


You are both wrong! Humor stems from an internal dialectic; the recognition that one interpretative self is in contradiction with another. Neither repetition nor novelty is critical to the process - both together create the Yin and Yang of a single joke. And you're fat.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:57 AM on September 17, 2008


Yeah, well.......see that crinkled up crisp packet in the drain, that is half full of dingy water from when it rained. And it's got a soggy crisp still in it?

That's your multi million dollar pool, that is.
posted by cerulgalactus at 5:46 AM on September 17, 2008


orthogonality: "Ouch. He doesn't miss (for example) the specific people Zayde Moise who threw a ball with him and Bubbe Sarah who baked him Hamantashen, he misses the whole experience of any grandparents, and by implication the Jewish heritage that they would have passed down to him. And that in turn implies the full horror of the Shoah, which was not just six million individuals uprooted and tortured and worked to death and killed but also and in addition a planned genocide that attempted to wipe out a whole people and culture."

Zat is not funny! My grandfather died in a concentration camp!












Got drunk, fell out of the guard tower.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 1:49 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


So orthogonality, it seems more like a failure of humor to translate across mediums. I like that sort of anti-humor but it seems to usually heavily rely on timing and delivery that is lost when read uniformly and quickly in text.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:09 PM on September 17, 2008


Timing!
posted by dirty lies at 4:58 PM on September 17, 2008


.
.
.

THE ARISTOCATS!

...wait, I think I fucked that up.
posted by Artw at 5:01 PM on September 17, 2008


So orthogonality, it seems more like a failure of humor to translate across mediums. I like that sort of anti-humor but it seems to usually heavily rely on timing and delivery that is lost when read uniformly and quickly in text.

Yes, exactly my point earlier. When George Carlin died and everyone was posting their favourite jokes and bits in the thread, there were a few I'd never heard of before, and they simply weren't funny to me. Profound, yes, funny, no. Then I looked them up on YouTube and laughed my ass off.

There was a comedian who once told my boyfriend that the funniest jokes are the ones that can still get a laugh when delivered in a monotone voice. I don't think that's true, at least not a hundred percent, but I also believe that there are comedians out there who solely rely on their timing, delivery, and high level of energy to make people laugh -- and laugh they do. But I don't really take anything away at the end of the night. Sometimes these comedians don't even know the basic formula of setup and punchline, and their "jokes" are simply stories chockful of slightly amusing taglines.

Perhaps the best comedians are the ones who can offer a kind of wisdom or truth through their comedy. Carlin's humour had appeal because his jokes were something everyone had experienced or could understand, yet they were much more significant than airplane food. Y'know what I mean?
posted by Menomena at 6:05 AM on September 19, 2008


« Older New Orleans filmmaker Benjamin Reece asks fifty Ne...  |  A gallery of photographs from ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments