Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Missing The Joke"

Or so it might seem.

It is always helpful when a reader suggests an idea for a possible blog post.  I have little difficulty eating out virtually anywhere… with the exception of “TRAIF” – The ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ Pig Parts And Bottom Feeders Restaurant.” 

The hard part is deciding which restaurant to select. 

I have frequently experienced myself and my spouse agonizing over where we should eat, the decision-making process becoming so arduous, we stay home, settling for toasted cheese covering “borderline” white bread.   (“Is that green or is it just the lighting?”)  But at least – accompanied by a relieving sigh – the night’s dinner venue has been finally determined.

Such is the paralleling arrangement in this context.  The writing process itself is comparatively doable.  The “what to write about” process? – A neverending conundrum.  So when somebody selects a subject for me, I say an appreciative “Thank you” and I get down to work.

Which is my backdoor imprecation, saying, “Feel free to suggest.”  

In the recent post “Horsing Around” (1/16/17) – chronicling the counterpart equine incarnation to Cirque du Soleil – commenter Stephen Marks detected an available joke opportunity and wondered, if, ajudging the available joke negatively, I had deliberately let it go by.

As if it were a fish I had caught and had immediately thrown back, braying blood-lustily,


Well… sometimes it works that way and sometimes it doesn’t.

Let us break the thing down.

The Times When It Works That Way

You have a funny joke idea but your execution is a “3.”  Trusting the underlying concept, you try to rework it into a “7”or an “8.”  If you can’t, you discard it, sallying forth in more profitable directions.  

The underlying idea may have worked.  But the consequent payoff did not.

That’s the “No minnows” determination.

The Times When It Doesn’t Work That Way

“Missing a joke”, alluded to by commenter Marks, suggests, you know, like a miner panning for gold missing a nugget nestled in the riverbed.  I submit herein that jokes differ significantly from nuggets.  And not only because there has to my knowledge never been a “Joke Rush.”

I have mentioned elsewhere – possibly numerous “elsewheres” – and this could well be a minority opinion – that a joke is not funny until somebody laughs at it.  Preferably somebody not the originator of the joke; otherwise, it’s babbling, followed by a self-conscious giggle.  (In mining patios, these are the “iron pyrites” of jokes, otherwise known as “Fool’s Comedy.”)

Unlike gold – which can be objectively recognized as gold – all jokes are not similarly valued everyone.  Or, more significantly in this context, even recognized by everybody as jokes.  Or more significantly in this context even more so perceived as agreed-upon areas to find jokes.  You miss it, not because you find it comedically unworthy, but because your particular joke-finding machinery does not identify it as a joke. 

I do not wish to list the categories of jokes I do not engage in, fearing sounding condescendingly “superior.”  The relevant point here is, it’s not that I “miss” them.  Or that I am “above” them.  Being distinctively who I am, I just have no idea that they’re there.  (By the way, that’s why sitcom rewrite rooms have different varieties of writers.)

Commenter Stephen Marks devised a joke, premised on a “play-on-words” intersecting a mathematical discipline with the name of Roy Rogers’s horse.  When I read it, I laughed a significant amount.  (Check it out.  You might like it.)

Commenter Marks wonders if I deliberately left the joke out, a question based on the assumption that that joke was available for all to see, implying, therefore, that the reason I excluded it involved a negative judgment concerning its funniness.

That is not at all the situhaytion.

I occasionally include “plays-on-words” when they occur to me, which is rarely.  Other writers – that’s their specialty.  Our local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, employs such a person whose seeming sole responsibility is to devise word-playing headlines for its various articles.  Today’s entry, referencing Clippers’ superstar Chris Paul’s distress over injuring his thumb during last night’s game: 

The Thumb of All Fears For Chris Paul

I believe I went “Ugh!”  (Simultaneously wondering if the newspaper’s limited resources might not be better served paying investigative reporters.)

My point parenthetically proving, that in every comedy substratum, some jokes are punnier than others.

Sorry.  It seems to come with the territory.

The “play on words” commenter Marks suggested, for which he deserves credit for noticing and successfully executing?  I did not miss it.  And I did not reject it. 

I just had no idea of its existence.

If I had, as the sole determiner of what goes into these posts,

I might well have included it.

But then I wouldn’t be me.

I would be more like commenter Stephen Marks.

1 comment:

Stephen Marks said...

Holy shit Earl damn fine piece of writing, and no I'm not saying that because you referred to that silly pun. I asked and you answered. Referring to a joke " if it were a fish I caught and immediately thrown back". The part about starting with a joke being a 3 and trying to rework it into a 7 or 8, that is from a professional folks, that is mentoring material for all you aspiring Pomerantz's out there. And it's free! I always thought jokes came at comedy writers like headlights on a busy highway, so many and you can see every one of them. I guess I was wrong.

Thank you so much Earl for devoting an entire post to my question. "Situhaytion", caught it, lol.