I'm asking this quite seriously, who actually enjoys jokes? Is it the person listening to them or is it all about the kick you get from telling them?
Is a joke the mental linguistic equivalent of putting the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle, where the satisfaction of seeing separate parts come together to form something gives you a burst of pleasure?
This morning I woke up to the news that Kim Yong Il is dead, and, being an avid Twaddict I found out via the medium of 140 tedious characters. Scrolling through the 4 hours worth of tweets in my timeline I came across close to 90billion different Kim Yong Il jokes... here is a selection:
@comedymattdwyer - At least his death has saved millions of unnecessary iPhone key strokes.
@JonSnowC4 - Kim Jong, so ill, that he's actually dead...
@StephenCGrant - So, Kim Jong-Il's 28-yr old son will automatically take over. I thought the job would go to a Jong-un.
These all seem to be perfectly adequate jokes. They've taken the subject matter and then thought of something to go with that subject and then it's turned into a joke. Delightful. None of them made me laugh though. The ones that made me at least smile were more along these lines:
@macleanbrendan - We did it Twitter. We made every Kim Jong-Il joke there was to make. I'm sure North Korea will appreciate it once they get the Internet.
@StephenCGrant - So, 28yr old Kim Jong-Un is diabetic, overweight, a fan of NBA and getting the job from his Dad. Surely Americans can relate to this..?
@LettersOfNote - I can't wait until America wakes up; then I can read all the Kim Jong-il puns again.
So, obviously it's the less wordplay based jokes that have amused me. My own personal taste and I'm really not slating the work of the jokers who created the puns. It got me thinking though, with jokes like that, they really are all about the housing and the delivery. Puns very rarely make me laugh, there's something not quite strong enough in their make up to flick the giggle switch. The times that they do make me laugh are when the joke is that the puns themselves are too poor to be told without being the butt of their own joke.
It occurs to me that, actually, the first set of jokes are also very much in the set up for the second set of jokes. Without the light entertainment of the puns there would be no background for the jokes with more gravity - the Twitter feed would seem sanctimonious and preachy with the comedians all seeming to trip over themselves to be sanctimonious and well informed for their jokes.
Do we need the ridiculous to enjoy the intelligent?
I've always thought that the world has to contain the things we disapprove of so that we know what we stand for. For example, I applaud people like Jordan being able to do what she's done and have the career she's had because it gives us a model upon which to base our opinions. Without her I wouldn't know I believe that:
a) I want to be, what I consider to be, better than her in my personal life choices and I would discourage my children from having her as a role model.
b) I admire people who have the business sense to produce a career out of no talent. PR is a business she's played well and I don't see why she shouldn't be who she is rather than another drone in a supermarket on the dole with a load of kids because we don't have the industries to support a mass uneducated workforce.
c) The media is filled with twatriddled fuckerbombs and I'd rather eat my own gangrenous toes than be the kind of writer/journalist who draws red circles around the insecurities of normal bodies and call them disgusting.
So... back to jokes... what do we think? Do you need the softly softly approach to enjoy the harder line? Do you have to have Michael McIntyre for George Carlin to make sense?
Jokes can't exist in a vacuum of context, but is it fair to say they also have to have a specific jocular equilibrium to work? I think it just might be.