Offbeat Academia: Joking is the only way to go

Many scenarios are good for a well-placed joke. Most of them do no harm. Most.

A lot of you think you are really funny.

That’s appropriate, given our generation’s special treatment. We’ve all been taught that we are unique individuals and that our diverse ways of expressing ourselves are both valid and interesting.

So, a lot of you think you are comedians. Your job is to make people pay attention to you, whether they’re laughing or not, which makes some of you look like jerks.

I used to hang around a lot of class clowns in high school (i.e. boys who affirm masculinity not through sports but through bathroom humor and insults). From them and from my father, I formulated my own sense of humor. I caught onto all the rules – what’s funny, what gets old and what’s funny only to me.

I was socially ostracized a lot because I was a girl trying to make jokes. I laughed at inside gags that I didn’t really understand. But, I worked hard to make them laugh at my jokes, and I eventually got the hang of it. To this day, I greatly appreciate a good pun, a wacky scenario or even a flat-out (yet harmless) lie.

Scenarios are big in my circle. Usually, these jokes are hypothetical, outrageous situations based on real people or real events. However, they don’t usually start with a “what if…” clause; you just have to know where they begin. Most of the time, it’ll start with the simple re-telling of a funny story. Then, a character might be exaggerated, or the series of events will change. I can’t really tell you how they end because they can usually carry on for hours, days or even weeks. We’ll just keep adding on to the story.

Like I said, lies can be pretty hilarious as well, as long as they’re not told for the purpose of harming someone. You shouldn’t really lie about death or any other impending issue that could move someone to strong emotions. Take Ashton Kutcher’s show Punk’d, which was working far too hard to embarrass and shame people.

Preposterous lies are more fun. People know they’re not true, and yet, you still get a funny look. (Note: lies can overlap with scenarios.) Additionally, lies that turn out to be awesome truths when finally discovered are also acceptable. For instance, your friends from out of town tell you their car broke down and they can’t make it into the city, but they turn up an hour later.

There are also the jokes that are so bad, they’re funny. I call them “brick jokes.” (Note: if you don’t understand that one, watch Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.) Then again, these jokes are fragile. Eventually, after you’ve made enough of them, they return to being bad jokes.

Speaking of bad jokes, there are also easy jokes, like “you are” jokes. For example, your roommate offers you fuzzy navel, and you respond, “You’re a fuzzy navel.” These might turn out to only be funny to you, but they’re still funny, right? Besides, awkwardness is making a comeback in humor. People try to be weird now.

However, there are some easy jokes that are never funny, and they usually turn out to be based on stereotypes or some “ism,” such as racism, sexism, etc. I don’t want to get on my soapbox here, but I know how things can get out of hand when you’re trying to be funny. You become desperate for a good line – all of a sudden you end up like Kramer from Seinfeld. Nobody wants to be that guy (or gal).

Most of all, jokes are useful. They can help you test the waters with a new friend or lover. Will they find your jokes funny, offensive or bland? And what do their reactions say about them? Jokes can calm your nerves in a tense situation (hence, the comic relief character found in most movies).

Obviously, jokes can also help you really mess with someone. But if you want to do that, you have to know who can take it and who will break down. Most people like jokes. The only ones who don’t are usually megalomaniacs or just really bitter. It’s a shame, though, because they’re the best people to mock.

Sarah Sanders can be reached at

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