Sunday, February 1, 2009

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

"I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials"
This is a bit of an ambiguous one. First of all, it may be a legitimate statement, and not everyone who says this thinks they're being funny, but we've all met those people. Those people who start smiling as soon as you bring up the Super Bowl, or football, or televised sports in general, just waiting to bowl you down with their hilarious observations about how Super Bowl commercials are better than the game. Should you encounter one, take this advice: end the conversation before they begin detailed, giggle-filled recaps of each year's best ads.

I like monkeys. They're delightful, fascinating little critters, and some of them are pretty cute, too. They're like goofy little people with fur and tails, so it's easy to see why someone might find them funny. It's a shame that we're dealing with such ripe source material, because monkey's have been used as the default "wacky animal or word" so many times that all I can do is cringe when when someone makes a joke involving the poor mammals. Why, unfunny people? Why couldn't you leave monkeys alone?

Like monkeys, this is one of those "crazy words" that some folks think will make their anecdotes and non sequiturs funny. Unlike monkeys, there was never anything funny about cheese. I thought we, as a society, had let this one go around the time we agreed, "Did I do that?" had gotten stale.

Here's a neat experiment: Next time you're talking to your friends, try guiding the conversation toward some facet of the Web. If any one of them laughs and "corrects" the word Internet with the non-word "Internets," congratulations - you need new friends. But before you can begin the search for a less repulsive clique, you can be sure there's another phrase on the way...

"...a series of tubes! [chuckle, chuckle]"

Epic Fail
Speaking of that sweeping network composed of electrical impulses and bits stored in a vast array of computers and servers connected by wires, modems, routers, satellites, and high-frequency waves, it certainly has propagated plenty of phrases and trends which in direct opposition to laughter, hasn't it? I live in a psychotic, nerd-monoculture, but I'm told their are places on Earth where the phrase "Epic Fail" has permeated real-life society. Declaring something "epic" is not, in any way, funny. Using the word "fail" as a noun or an interjection is not, in any way, funny. Hearing the two combined is the sort of thing that makes me compile a mental list of all the nearby places where I might dispose of a body without detection. Then I remember that no jury will convict me if the body is my own.

I considered, for a moment, compiling a list of all the trends the Internet has produced that aren't funny - using "lol" or similar abbreviations while speaking, repeating grammatically-poor phrases taken from captioned photos of kittens, reciting jokes from Webcomics - but I've come with a handy, catch-all guide. The more popular and trendy it is on the Internet (singular!), the less likely you are to die of old age if you say it in my presence.

Jokes about bringing/taking the weather with you during travel
No, I did not bring this weather with me. Yes, I did just travel from a place far enough away from here to have a distinctly different climate. Yes, I did meet with you upon arriving here. Yes, your bad joke is making me regret that decision.

"How's the weather up/down there?"
I'm sure someone, somewhere, has said something funny about weather before, but this most certainly was not it. It doesn't even make sense. I mean, sure, differnt altitudes are often subject to different weather, but have you ever shouted this question to someone on a different floor than you in an office building, or someone, I don't even know... on a ski-lift or something? I'm quite sure that if someone is within range of your voice, the weather they're feeling isn't terribly different from your own. Maybe if two people were at significantly different latitudes and they were talking to each other on the phone, this question might come up, but I believe that if you have to put this much effort into finding a plausible base for a joke about someone's height contrasting with your own, the joke isn't funny.

"Wait a second - we could..."
This one comes up in a lot of bad cartoons and movies that get thrown in the "Family" section of video stores. I'm talking about that one thing where two people are trying to come up with a clever scheme and one of them suggests an idea and the other one kind of ignores it or condesendingly mocks it, and then, right away, they say, "Hey, I have an idea! What if we...?" and then they repeat the other character's plan verbatim while the character who really thought up with the idea whines about how it was their idea (in which case the egotistical, plan-swiping character explains that he is the brains of the group and was the only one who could come up with such a brilliant strategy) or else tilts their head, mugs for the camera, and delivers a dead-pan compliment of the ingeneous plan.

I hate that thing.

"Why don't you tell us what you really think?"
I have to assume that someone once thought some of these phrases were funny at some time in order for them to gain such widespreade usage. Maybe this one snuck in with the Irony Boom in the early-'90s. Ah, it was a wild time. We were so carefree in those days, so happy to bathe in our pools of sarcasm. So greedy that we'd welcome any phrase with that seemed even slightly sardonic. So naïve, thinking only of the present moment, so lax in our security that we let this stinker through the gates of the collective lexicon with no means of stopping it once it moved we beyond our control. We were fools.

But as awful as it is to hear this phrase spoken, it is fun to watch the way this virus has mutated. Like I said, someone probably thought it was funny once. The sort of snappy comeback you might hear on a sitcom. That strand is still floating around, but what I like most is the new form. The ironic part of this phrase is so far gone, we've grown so immune to it, that sitcom writers now use it in dramatic moments to show the hurt and emotional depth of their characters. Watch out - it's a whole new, far funnier irony!

"Heh - yeah, no."

Maybe you haven't heard this. It's popular with the teenage girls these days. I'd explain it if I could, but I just can't figure out what's supposed to be funny about. There's a certain snotty cadence to it. As with most bad jokes, I can only identify it because the person saying it generally laughs afterward while eveyrone else painfully silent. I don't know how else to describe this phrase. If you've heard it, you know how anoying it is. If you haven't, don't worry. It'll be all over the Internets soon enough.


Anonymous said...

What about "Bob"
or "Bobert"?
Aren't those the most funny, original names EVER?

-sister jack

Jake said...

I might stick those on list two. Trust me, I didn't stop because I ran out of things that annoy me.