Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Jokes as Illusion

Steve and Harry's "Conversations With My Dummy" podcast

A good joke is a small fruit that peels back a layer to reveal a kernel of truth. This is why I like them. Because I'm into illusion, as my blog readers know, whether it's my work as a ventriloquist, my podcast "Conversations With My Dummy, my stage act, being a magician, or my meditation practice. 
Jokes cut through our ignorance and share a greater truth causing us to laugh. The punchline pops our bubble of complacency and shows us our delusion. I don't mean something necessarily profound is revealed (though it can be) just a small truth that was there the whole time but we couldn't perceive until the punchline revealed it to us. 

Here's an example:

You give a man a fish and you feed him but for a day
But if you teach a man how to fish...you get rid of him for the whole weekend. (ba-da-boom)

To reiterate, punchlines are small verbal explosions that cut through our illusion. The set up leads you down a garden path. Taking advantage of learned behavior, cultural norms and society's collective knowledge until the punchline reveals the deeper level underneath. 

We all know how the above joke is supposed to end: 

You give a man a fish and you feed him but for a day
But if you teach a man how to fish...you feed him for the rest of his life. 

When we hear the first two lines, we expect the old cliche. It's so tired and corny our mind is being put to sleep. But suddenly, bang! Everything changes with "you get rid of him for the whole weekend." Now we're talking about long term marriage. That wives want the freedom of a weekend to not have their husbands hanging around annoying them. 
It's suddenly about women's  empowerment. Now we understand the joke was never about how to keep man from starving, but from the get go, it was about how a woman can get rid of her man for the weekend. It was funny at the expense of the males of our species. When I tell this joke in my comedy act on stage, the women always laugh more than the men.

Here are a few more: Note how the last line makes you go back, rethink and reinterpret the joke. You are awakened to its true nature. This takes a fraction of a second. But it leaves you amused and educated. 

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog...it's too dark to read. 

Don't drink and drive...you might hit a bump and spill it all over yourself. 

I became a Godfather last week...I had my uncle rubbed out. 

I was walking down the street yesterday and saw a dead baby ghost in the middle of the road...on second thought it could have been a handkerchief.

When it comes time to die let’s hope we go peacefully in our sleep 
like my grandfather... and not screaming in terror like his passengers

I’ve been smoking for 25 years and there’s nothing wrong with my lung.

I felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body. Then I was born.

I've been married 40 years and it feels like ten minutes...underwater.

Even knock-knocks contain sudden enlightenment (enlightenment with a small e, not the Enlightenment of the Buddhas).

Who's there? 
Picasso who? 
Picasso you, I'm telling this dumb joke. 

Or lightbulb jokes. 
How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? 
How many?
A fish. 

A lot of Henny Youngman jokes take us to this place. 
The most famous: 
Take my wife...please. 

The first word take, takes on a different meaning when the fourth word, please, is included. Before he says please, you think he's going to finish the sentence with a description. Take my wife...now she's a good cook. Take my wife...she's really intelligent.  But with the word please, the joke dives to a deeper level. Please take her away from me. And we're left to ponder the hell this poor slob is going through. 

Put downs do this too:

You have beautiful hair...coming from each nostril.

You're pretty...pretty ugly. 

You're like an angel fallen from the sky...too bad you had to land on your face. 

Puns, on the other hand, work on a different principle. But pun spelled backwards is N-U-P. And that's a nup out of me. 

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