I heard these recently, and, for me, they both hit the target, dead center.
Great observations and wonderful jokes have three things in common. They may have more things in common and I can’t think of what the others are right now, but I know there are at least three.
One, great observations and wonderful jokes are startlingly original. Two, in the case of the observations, they are shimmeringly insightful (and if that insight elicits laughter as well – extra credit.) Wonderful jokes are hilarious (and if they’re insightful as well – ditto on the extra credit.)
The third element, is that both great observations and the wonderful jokes are constructed so artfully, you do not, in any realm of possibility, ever see them coming.
Here now are examples of what I view as Top of the Line versions of a great observation and a wonderful joke. See what you think.
And feel free to offer examples of your own.
The Great Observation
The following is a quote by Ambrose Bierce, a man I know nothing about, but of whom I became an instant fan when I heard he said this:
“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”
The Wonderful Joke
My “body mechanic” – yes, I have a “body mechanic”; doesn’t everyone? – who’s a former Los Angeles police officer, revealed the local constabulary’s predilection for noirish humor, which he exemplified by passing along one of our Police Force’s favorite jokes:
A man takes a little boy into the forest. They press ahead, going deeper and deeper. It’s dark. It’s creepy. There are wild animals growling in the underbrush.
The little boy says,
To which the man replies,
“You think this is scary. I have to come out of here alone!”
(It may not be everyone’s favorite subject matter – or anyone’s – but you’ll have to admit – unless you heard it before – you did not see it coming.)
“Getting it right” makes a writer dance and sing. That’s because it’s so incredibly difficult to do.
Hats off to Ambrose Bierce, and the originator of “the kid’s not coming out of the forest” joke.
They got it right.