Knock knock! Who’s there? The joke The joke, who? The joke who began this sorry bunch of jokes, decades ago!
You know what? I did not even laugh at that joke, while I was typing it! From a reader’s perspective, I must have surely reached the lowest depths of writing with that travesty. But at least, I can whole-heartedly state that I did not INVENT that genre of humour. Yes, it’s a genre. Like you’ve got straight action, adventure action, chase thrillers, heist films, caper films, western action and many more sub-genres in the action-movie universe, humour too has its fair share of sub-genres. One of those is called ‘juvenile humour’. You can probably guess what this genre constitutes, based on its category title! In the film medium, it usually translates to swearing, punching, tripping, falling, running around in circles, and all the sort of stuff that Hera Pheri immortalized in India. But in the written sense, it usually translates to an unofficial category of jokes known as ‘poor jokes’.
What constitutes a poor joke? The one that I started the post with, is a great example of that. I could give you several more, but that’d seriously jeopardize my future as a blogger!
But bad jokes exist and they do make my ears curl inwards. And guess who cracks these jokes? It’s usually your uncle, or your long-lost cousin, or even your father; at a time when you least expect it!
You’re eating your breakfast quietly. The plate of fruits in front of you is unappetizing, and you can’t wait to move onto the eggs. In the background, your dad creeps up on you like a ninja and sits in the chair diagonal from you. You look up for a moment and get back to digging through the pile of fruits. Suddenly out of the blue –
Dad: What are you eating? Me: A pear Dad: Oh… I am anticipating a poor joke, but there is hope yet Dad: A pair of what? Sigh
Now, you may not have understood the joke. That does not make you dumb. It just makes the joke stupid. And the moment that joke was cracked, I went through a rapid transition of emotions. For the first five seconds, I rolled my eyes…in the next five, I processed the ridiculousness of that joke…in another five, the situation was mildly laughable, and I let out a stifled laugh!
So at what point did the joke go from being sad to laughable?
Somewhere between the punchline of a joke and the desire to punch the person who cracked the joke is a window, in which a joke can partially redeem itself. But this was a fairly decent example of a poor joke. There are worse out there, and not all of those jokes provide that tiny window to laugh. Sometimes a poor joke ends up being just that – a poor joke.
But the above example at least exhibits the slightest hint of wit. It flirts with the concept of homonyms. More importantly, there is a measure of timing to the joke too. The ‘oh…’ in between, sets the punchline up for a laugh that you would otherwise have completely missed. So interestingly, a poor joke CAN change into a somewhat witty one if used in the right context and delivered right.
But have you heard of a little something called ‘pun’? This is a delicate technicality of the English language, using which, you can exploit the multiple meanings or context of a word to fabricate a humorous undertone. That’s the convoluted way of saying that I can swap the meaning of words to crack a joke! Case in point –
No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery. Oh, you mean to say that it has no e-motion!
And now you probably understand, how most puns dangerously skirt around the possibility of turning into abysmal jokes. And they CAN go terribly wrong and induce the kind of cringe that you’d experience while eating cornflakes topped with ketchup! Another example –
This thread can basically go on forever. One only needs enough motivation and complete lack of other responsibilities in life. The above chat is commonly referred to as a ‘pun-war’, and there are better ones too. In fact, Reddit has a monopoly on some of the most epic ones across the internet. And from my experience, what elevates a pun from being a sad joke, is also the same fact that I mentioned at the start – the right amount of wit and timing.
You can study them at length, but puns are defined by their spontaneity.
So there is no silver bullet to understand a pun, other than the above green one.
But why is any of this even relevant?
The internet is abuzz with random conversations and arguments, pretty much all the time. One day you’ll find yourself facing the rear end of a lame joke in an internet conversation. At that moment, two roads will diverge in front of you. One will lead you to the end of the journey, albeit with your tail tucked between your legs! But that’s the smart choice and the choice that most make – to just slide the lame joke under the rug and pretend you never heard it.
The other road is the one that is less travelled. It is a road that will stretch your journey beyond the concept of linear time, and swallow you like a black-hole. It’s the path where you’ll beat the lame joke with a smartly disguised pun. Because the only response to a pun is DEFEAT or, WAR. So you either gain eternal peace from a serial poor-joke perpetrator or have for yourself, the beginnings of a legendary pun-war! In all honesty, a pun-war is something that I seldom hope for. But I do end up taking the road less travelled, and that makes all the difference!
So allow me to retrace my words and complete the ‘pear’ joke now –
Dad: What are you eating? Me: A pear Dad: … Dad: A pair of what? Me: Dad… Dad: … Me: What-a-mellow pun-ch!