I know one shouldn’t love one of one’s children more than any of the others, but every now and then there’s a column that I enjoy writing just ever so slightly more than all the rest. And this is one of those. Had such a blast, it’s not even funny!
A MILLION MILES FROM NORMAL – By Paige Nick
STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE.
Did you hear the one about the woman who never remembers jokes? She wanted to know how many chickens crossing the road it took to change a light bulb?
Some people, who aren’t me, are great at remembering jokes. Especially if you give them a couple of drinks, then they can pour out hundreds of them with ease, one after the other. When I hear a good joke, it’s usually gone from my brain by the time I’ve finished thinking that I must remember it.
Over the last decade I’ve only managed to retain the same two jokes, which I trot out consistently. I apologise in advance, if you’ve been to more than one dinner party with me, then you’ve probably heard them twice already.
The first is; why do guard dogs do it doggie style?
So they can both watch the gate at the same time. Dum tish.
And I usually cock up the telling of my second standard; (I should really say that I can only ever remember one and a half jokes) which is about a guy who dies and goes to the pearly gates. The saint-dude on duty (I can never remember his name) says he can only come in if he can show that he values Christmas (or something along those lines). So the guy pulls a pair of knickers out his pocket and hands them over. The saint holds them up with a confused look on his face. ‘They’re Carol’s, the dead guy explains.
I wish I could tell you why either of them are funny. Or maybe they’re not, jokes are completely subjective. What’s crack-a-rib funny to me, may make you want to kill yourself, get reincarnated so you can kill me, and then kill yourself again. Humour is funny like that.
Joke scientists, which sound like a joke profession, but is actually a real thing, say that often it’s not the content of the joke that makes us laugh, it’s more the mechanism of how it’s told. It has something to do with the rhythm and timing of it that human beings are conditioned to respond to. I don’t think any other species tell jokes, or laugh at each other, except Hyenas. But most of the time they’re just laughing at their own jokes.
So mostly we’re conditioned to laugh at the metre and formula of a joke. Like the knock-knock, the light bulb set up, the old faithfuls that use sex or scatology to make a whoopee, or the ever familiar Van Der Merwe construct. A priest, a rabbi and Van Der Merwe walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘what is this, some kind of a joke?’
A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend of mine got a flyer in her letterbox. A neighbour had two missing cats. One a large tabby with long hair, named Rocky, the other a normal size grey male, with short hair, only one eye and no tail, named Grotty. There was only a reward offered for the return of Rocky.
I know that it’s achingly sad, but I can’t help it, for some reason I find this incredibly funny. In the same way that when a friend of mine walked hard face first into the closed glass sliding door at my house the other day, they could probably hear me laughing in Venezuela. I even left the smudge marks of his face on the pane, so I could relaugh at the memory of it later. We shouldn’t find some forms of misfortune, or other people’s pain funny, but we do. A large percentage of YouTube is built on that premise.
Professor Richard Wiseman Ph. D. is a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK. In 2001 he went on a hunt for the world’s funniest joke. Little does he know it was right under his nose the whole time, in the form of his own name.
Ultimately the winning joke described a man who called 911 when his friend collapsed. And while on the phone he shot his friend in order to comply with the emergency operator’s instruction of; “First, let’s make sure he’s dead”. Yeah, I agree, the professor’s name is still funnier.
Prof Wiseman also concluded that in animal jokes, those that feature ducks are the funniest. I don’t know, wombats are pretty funny too, and have you heard the one about the hairy beaver? Maybe ducks and platypuses are what all the hyenas are always laughing about.
Jokes have been around almost forever. Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton say the world’s oldest known one is a fart joke from Sumer, an ancient civilisation in southern Mesopotamia (4500BC). Closely followed by my guard dog gag, which is also pretty ancient.
Every week I get at least one email from someone telling me how much they enjoyed my column, and another from someone else, who is tragically, phenomenally disappointed at how unfunny I managed to be. Which reminds me of the one about the priest, the columnist and the disgruntled reader… oh shoot, I seem to have forgotten the punch line.