real lj idol season 9 | week one | 680 words
Jayus (From Indonesian, meaning a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.)
My daughter recently asked me what kinds of jokes my Dad used to tell when I was growing up, and could I think of any examples?
Oh, boy. My Dad especially loves jokes with long, convoluted setups that invariably lead to puns. As in, five-minute yarns where the punch line involves "transporting gulls across staid lions for immortal porpoises."** (Yes, really). He has a silly streak, and enjoys wit and satire, but what he really likes is performing long-winded jokes for an audience. Those childhood experiences were enough to completely put me off that kind of humor, and they turned puns into a kind of torture. Nobody else in the family tells jokes now except my brother, and even his are shorter and less painful.
Imagine—my poor mother has had to laugh at those same, stale stories for over fifty years!
The person doing the telling can make a big difference. A young nephew once tried to relay something to me at a holiday dinner. He was about eight then, and started to tell me his "scary story," but then quickly abandoned it for his "backup scary story":
Nephew: There was a man, and a woman, and another man. And they were married.
Me: What, all of them?
I don't remember where that story went, or even if he ever finished it, but he was a hilarious little kid and the whole idea of a "backup scary story" with somewhat fuzzy details was just so perfectly him.
I generally prefer anecdotal humor, or things in the realm of irony, satire, or absurdity (or even better, all three at once—the trifecta!) Give me the Futurama episode where the purple, six-armed chef suddenly demonstrates the use of a "spice weasel," or the one where the outdoor outfitters' store pulls a fully-laden burro down from the rafters, and I will burst out laughing. The weirder the idea, the better. As a teen, I was utterly hooked on the Monty Python reruns on our local PBS station.
Regale me with your doom-spiral of a day plagued by Murphy's Law, or that one time there was something you really shouldn't have said but did. I'll be right there with you all the way. But traditional jokes just make me cringe.
Dad told a story a few years ago that actually made me laugh, one I hadn't heard before:
The summer he turned fourteen, he and his older brother rode to town in the farm truck one day to run errands. His brother spotted some kids from the local high school driving around, so he pulled up next to them. My father knew that would lead nowhere good. He got down on the floor of the truck and hid, sticking his head up through a big hole in the dashboard. His brother talked with the kids for a bit, then mentioned that he had a younger brother who was about to start high school but was kind of shy, and could probably use some friends. "And here he is!" he said, reaching over and opening the glovebox, revealing my Dad's horrified face.
My Dad about died, but seventy years later he found the whole thing hysterical. Leave it to that particular brother to create an embarrassing situation and then find a way to make it worse.
My own home is full of conversations featuring wordplay or snark, or random quotes from various movies and TV shows (Say Anything, The Princess Bride, and Tremors are some of the more common source material). Your dry or twisted humor may fuel my entire day!
But if you're going to tell me jokes, go the route of my brother-in-law, whose specialty is unintentionally incorporating the punch line during the early part of the setup.
No matter what the point is supposed to be, the mangled delivery is unfailingly funny!
** For those of you outside the U.S., or from younger generations, there used to be laws about transporting girls across state lines for immoral purposes. Doesn't make the joke any funnier, does it?
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