Friday, June 17, 2011

A Great Observation And A Wonderful Joke"

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,

“I’m scared.”

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.


Mac said...

One of my favorite jokes is a bit longer, but bear with me.

A guy jacks in his high-powered banking job in London and moves to an abandoned cottage in the remote Scottish Highlands.
It's bliss - he hasn't got anyone hassling him over the phone because there's no phone. No distractions like TV or internet, so he spends his days reading or walking in the breath-taking landscape.
After a couple of weeks he's sitting up late one night and has to admit to himself that, as calming as his life is now - he misses people, and he needs human interaction.
Just then, there's a knock at the door - it's a huge man with a big red beard. He introduces himself himself as "Jock, your nearest neighbor" - who lives five miles away. Jock invites the banker to a traditional Scottish Highland ceilidh (party).
The banker is delighted.

Jock - "It'll be a wild night - lots of drinking and f**king."

Banker - "Sounds great! Who's all going to be there?"

Jock - "Just you and me laddie, just you and me. . ."

Gary said...

I will certainly attest to Mr. Bierce's insightful assertion. While in high school, I certainly knew there was a place called Vietnam, I heard the name spoken on TV when I passed through the living room on numerous occasions. I even knew it was somewhere in Asia. Less than a year out of high school, I learned first-hand about the shimmering waters of the MeKong River, and all the other unknown rivers/streams/canals in the MeKong Delta. I know a whole lot more about the geography of SE Asia than I ever wanted to know. And thanks to that adventure, I learned about Ambrose Bierce taking a freshman English class when I returned to the world. Didn't he also write The Devil's Dictionary? Ah yes, he did. Available at, of course!

My favorite joke is a shimmering tribute to simplicity. But unfortunately, the punch line is 100% visual.

Good joke, Mac.

Have a good weekend, all!

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; I'm sure "they didn't see it coming," is the closing line to both an great observation and a wonderful joke. To be completely meta it's a great observation that is also a wonderful joke. Now I wonder where it is.

Anonymous said...

I actually posted this on here the other day just because when I saw it I thought of you for some reason, but this little film is the dramatization of a joke that I think fits in with this post, so here it is again.

The Tailor said...

Quite effective material, thank you for the article.

online pharmacy said...

I have just learned so much about great observations and wonderful jokes, I thought I already knew, but I was so wrong!!