From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Meta-joke refers to several somewhat different, but related categories: "self-referential jokes", "jokes about jokes" also known as metahumor, and "joke templates".[citation needed]


[edit] Self-referential jokes

This kind of meta-joke is a joke in which the joke itself, or rather a familiar class of jokes, is part of the joke.

Examples of meta-jokes:

  • An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman walk into a bar. The bartender turns to them, takes one look, and says "What is this - some kind of joke?"
  • A Priest, a Rabbi and a Leprechaun walk into a bar. The Leprechaun looks around and says, "Woah bejaysus! I'm in the wrong joke!"
  • A woman walks into a pub and asks the barman for a double entendre. So he gives it to her.
  • Three blind mice walk into a bar, but they are un-aware of their surroundings so to derive humour from it would be exploitative — Bill Bailey:[1]
  • A performative poet of Hibernia
    Rhymed himself into a hernia
    He became quite adept
    At this practise, except
    For the occasional non-sequitur. Tom Stoppard, Travesties
  • The example quoted by Marc Galanter below may also be included in this category.

The usage of the term "meta" here is similar to that in meta-reference.

[edit] Joke about jokes (metahumor)

"Metahumor" as "humor about humor". Here "meta" is used to describe the fact that the joke explicitly talks about other jokes, a usage similar to the word metadata (data about data) or metatheatrics (a play within a play, as in Hamlet).

Marc Galanter in the introduction to his book Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture cites a meta-joke in a speech of Chief Justice William Rehnquist:[2]

I've often started off with a lawyer joke, a complete caricature of a lawyer who's been nasty, greedy and unethical. But I've stopped that practice. I gradually realised that the lawyers in the audience didn't think the jokes were funny and the non-lawyers didn't know they were jokes.

E.B. White has joked about humor, saying that "Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."

Another kind of metahumor is when jokes make fun of poor jokes by replacing a familiar punchline with a serious or nonsensical alternative. Such jokes expose the fundamental criterion for joke definition, "funniness", via its deletion. Comedians such as George Carlin and Mitch Hedberg used metahumor of this sort extensively in their routines. Hedberg would often follow up a joke with an admission that it was poorly told, or insist to the audience that "that was funnier than you acted". These followups usually get laughs superior to those of the perceived poor joke and serve to cover an awkward silence. Johnny Carson, especially late in his Tonight Show career, used to get uproarious laughs when reacting to a failed joke with, for example, a pained expression. Eddie Izzard often reacts to a failed joke by miming writing on a paper pad and murmuring into the microphone something along the lines of "must make joke funnier" or "don't use again" while glancing at the audience. When Stephen Colbert made a joke comparing Jesse Jackson's interview to boxing a glacier, his follow-up was, "Enjoy that joke because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is".

In the sitcom The Office, many jokes are founded on making fun of poor jokes.

[edit] Joke template

This kind of meta-joke is a sarcastic jab at the fact that some jokes are endlessly refitted, often by professional jokers, to different circumstances or characters without significant innovation in the humor.[3]

"Three people of different nationalities walk into a bar. Two of them say something smart, and the third one makes a mockery of his fellow countrymen by acting dumb."
"Three blokes walk into a pub. One of them is a little bit stupid, and the whole scene unfolds with a tedious inevitability."
Bill Bailey:[4]
"How many members of a certain demographic group does it take to perform a specified task?"
"A finite number: one to perform the task and the remainder to act in a manner stereotypical of the group in question."
There once was an X from place B,
That satisfied predicate P,
He or she did thing A,
In an adjective way,
Resulting in circumstance C.

Besides being a kind of meta-jokes, joke templates are instrumental in computational humor, in particular, in joke generators, such as STANDUP. [5][6]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Bill Bailey, "Bill Bailey Live - Part Troll", DVD Universal Pictures UK (2004) ASIN B0002SDY1M
  2. ^ Marc Galanter, "Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture", University of Wisconsin Press (September 1, 2005) ISBN 0299213501, p. 3.
  3. ^ "Stars turn to jokers for hire"
  4. ^ Bill Bailey, "Bill Bailey Live - Part Troll", DVD Universal Pictures UK (2004) ASIN B0002SDY1M
  5. ^ "Software generates jokes for children who use computer speaking aids"
  6. ^ STANDUP home page, with a link to free software download
Personal tools