The death of joke-telling
Before the Internet, jokes were told faceto-face, but not anymore; now they go viral via e-mail.
I’M TERRIBLE at remembering jokes. If someone tells me a joke in the morning, and even if it’s the most hilarious thing I’ve ever heard, I will have forgotten most or all of it by nightfall. And there’s nothing worse than trying to tell a dinner-time joke that you can only half remember.
A typical retelling with me often goes something like this: “Have you heard the one about the Malaysian who decided to go skydiving? Just as he was about to jump out of the plane, he turned to the instructor and said, ‘What will happen if …’ Wait a minute, he wasn’t Malaysian, he was Scottish. And I think it was scuba-diving. What the heck! More mashed potatoes?”
Nonetheless, I do have one joke that I have memorised and can regurgitate whenever necessary.
A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The driver says, “Ugh, that’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen.”
The woman walks to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her, “The driver just insulted me.” The man says, “You go up there and tell him off. Go on, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”
People just don’t seem to tell jokes any more. There used to be a time when there was a “teller of jokes” at most social gatherings – someone who could be counted on to recite their repertoire of funny lines to liven things up. And it didn’t matter if a few bad jokes were thrown into the mix, because they were usually met with feigned groans from the listeners, adding to the fun.
I suspect the advent of the Internet foreshadowed the decline in the number of people telling jokes. In pre-Internet days, jokes usually travelled by word of mouth. If someone told you a funny story, you would be more inclined to make an effort to try and remember it so you could tell it to someone else later on.
However, as soon as people began getting connected to the Internet, jokes started going viral via e-mails. It was no longer necessary to remember a joke to retell it face-to-face to someone in the real world.
All you had to do was press the “Forward” button. At the same time, an entire array of jokes became available as websites, which were nothing more than joke repositories, began springing up all over cyberland. These sites encouraged more people to copy their favourites, paste them into an e-mail and send them to absolutely everyone in their address book.
Almost as soon as I’d set up my first e-mail account, a joke arrived in my Inbox. “That’s nice,” I thought. “It’s always good to start the day off with a laugh.” But a few months later, my Inbox was full of jokes. It seemed that most rational people, folks who weren’t especially adept at telling jokes face-to-face, were flooding my e-mail account with unsolicited gags.
Sometimes, I would receive the same joke from up to 10 different people. Not funny at all. And some people with exceptionally bad memories would forward the same joke two or three times over an extended period.
The law of diminishing returns quickly set in and I began to delete many jokes unread. It got to the stage where I would download my e-mail and find myself saying: “Not another bloody joke. I’m fed up with jokes. If I see another joke in my Inbox, I’m going to scream.”
Over time, the jokes petered out, possibly because most people realised that they’d read everything before, and it didn’t merit a re-run. Or it could be that more and more people began sharing their funnies on social media sites like Facebook, therefore bypassing e-mail altogether.
These days, I seldom receive jokes via e-mail, but when I do, I enjoy them – showing that you really can have too much of a good thing.
Now that I have your undivided attention, let me close with another joke. And in case you haven’t read a blonde joke before, blondes are often depicted as lacking in grey matter. Not that I subscribe to this stereotype, mind you.
A young blonde fears her husband is having an affair. She goes to a gun shop and buys a handgun. The next day she finds him in bed with a redhead. She grabs the gun and holds it to her own head. The husband jumps off the bed and starts begging and pleading with her not to shoot herself. Hysterically, the blonde responds to the husband: “Shut up, you’re next.”
In hindsight, perhaps I should have deleted that one.