I used to absolutely cringe anytime someone told me an old joke because, nine times out of ten, it was going to be awful. Most old jokes have this habit of being entirely pun based or employing some form of bigotry for a laugh. A lot of these jokes came straight from Vaudeville shows, an establishment that catered to segregated and non-segregated audiences regularly. Every minority or majority imaginable had it’s own unique circuit that had acts catering specifically to their style and, let’s face it, hate always seems to be in style. So you have your “a ________ walks into a bar” jokes and an arsenal of quips, puns, bon mots and other witticisms.
Rampant racism aside, there are actually a lot of good old jokes and I have found that it has everything to do with the delivery. We hate these gags because we learned them from our grandfather and most people don’t not have a particularly funny grandpappy. We loved this old man, he was good to us but he told us the same tired jokes in the same tired way time and time again. “Grandpa, I get it. Cows go to eat lunch at the calf-eteria. It’s just that I’ve already head this joke before…” is probably terrifyingly close to something we’ve all said before. If everyone’s grandparents were Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, all of these old jokes would probably still be funny because they would have been told correctly.
Don’t worry because I am going to help educate you in delivering some “bad” jokes effectively. You need to remember that, even if you don’t have confidence in the joke itself, you have to have confidence in yourself. People will assume something just about anything is funny if it comes from the right person. If you are a clever and assured person, the jokes will just come across better. When you tell the joke you have to make it painfully aware that you know that the joke is awful but that is part of the reason you love it. When you open, always open with a question so that they become unknowingly attracted by the setup. Calmly ask someone, “What do you call a fish with no eye?” When they say that they don’t know, they will continue to search for an answer in their mind before actually giving up. Make the most of this moment. I can’t help but smile before the payoff and, the worse the joke is, the more likely I am to grin uncontrollably. Visually prepare yourself for the punchline. Close your eyes and take a breath. Build the suspense.
Occasionally there will be a joke that has a plausible answer that you have to work around. For instance, “Why does a chicken coop have only two doors?” may have a legitimate answer that a farmer might actually know. If that does happen, let him finish and say, “No no no, farmer. It’s because four doors would make them chicken sedans.”
I also cannot recommend touching someone’s arm before delivering a punchline of a bad joke enough. They probably don’t want to be touched but that’s okay because they probably didn’t want to hear the joke either. Touch them. Hold onto their arm and make them a part of what you are doing, regardless of what they think they want.
I can recall a time that this worked perfectly. It was winter and I was walking with the love of my life past some Santa ringing a donation bell. I quickly wrapped my arm around her, squeezed her against me and stopped walking. “Do you know what they call Santa’s helpers?” I asked.
She informed me that she did not and seemed terrified but elated with how immediately weird and intense I had become.
“Subordinate Clauses.” I raised my eyebrows in flirtatious self-satisfaction while she giggled and tried her best to pretend she hated the joke. Perhaps she did hate the joke but she loved me for telling it. I’m not entirely certain on how these things work.
The last few days have been incredibly busy. I’ve hardly had time to think.
I would love to hear any old or bad jokes you, or your friends, are particularly fond of.