Monday, January 29, 2007

So I Bit Him

As hard as this may be to believe, I put a lot of thought into my writing.

(It would be just like me to insert a parenthetical exhortation here; something along the lines of “Stop laughing! It’s true!”, but since the whole point of what follows is that I work hard to get you to laugh, that would be contrary to my purpose.)

(So I won’t.)

Now, unless you were here yesterday, this dissertation will not make as much sense as it otherwise might. I suggest that before we go any further, you review the previous entry.

OK, that was a rather cursory review by some of you, but I guess it will have to do. Obviously, the whole thing was a pastiche of jokes and the set-ups to those jokes. I’m going to take one of those jokes and sacrifice it on the altar of knowledge. It will be dissected for your benefit.

(This aside is NOT a joke, so please pay attention. Once a joke is ripped apart, in an effort to find out what makes it tick, it can never be fully repaired. It dies, in most instances. In addition, the person witnessing the dissection will never again be able to look at that style of joke in the same innocent way he or she once did. From then on, knowing the inner workings of the joke, he or she is jaded and not so easily amused. So I’m basically screwing myself here by sabotaging my own audience. Fuck that noise! I’m outta here!)

(Ha! See what I did there? I told you there was no joke coming, relaxing you. Then I sprung a very aggressive joke on you, one that included an obscenity. If you laughed, the joke worked. If you didn’t laugh, hey, I already told you there was no joke there. A win-win situation.)

Here is the joke we will be observing in its death throes:

Rage against the machine, my brother!

(Or my sister. It’s hard to tell from this distance.)

Taken out of context, it is not as funny. This is why I suggested that a review be done of the entire piece. The set-up included two visuals. One was of a reader sitting at a computer wearing just underwear. This would be you, if you were just wearing underwear, but some other imaginary reader if you were dressed in any other fashion. The other visual was of me standing behind a podium and delivering a speech while not wearing pants.

The first part of the joke...

Rage against the machine, my brother!

... is simple enough. The idea of my showing solidarity with someone simply because we both happen to be underdressed is funny in and of itself. Adding an exhortation with political overtones makes it even more so. What a silly thing to base a political bond upon!

(It is near impossible to read a sentence like “Rage against the machine, my brother!” without conjuring an image of some white doofus giving the black power salute. This part of the joke really works only if that visual pops into the head upon reading it. Without that visual, it’s much weaker.

Trying to induce a mental picture is an extreme leap of faith. The person telling the joke is assuming that the audience is smart enough to form the picture without a true visual aid. Whenever someone makes a joke of that sort, he is complimenting your intelligence. You’re welcome and I apologize for the digression.)

The second part of the joke...

(Or my sister. It’s hard to tell from this distance.)

... is the part of the joke that I’ll truly deconstruct. Not that the line, as given, is all that and a bag of chips. It’s just that there were many different ways to end the joke, all with laugh potential. Here are the alternates that I decided not to use:

(Or my sister, if the floral pattern is any indication.)

(Or my sister. If so, what are you doing after the speech?)

(Or my sister. Hey, wait a minute! You ARE my sister! Put some clothes on, Sis!)

(Or my sister. I’m not wearing my glasses, so it’s hard to tell.)

(Or my sister. And if so, you might want to consider a depilatory.)

(Or my sister. Whichever it is, you look cold.)

(Or my sister. Whichever it is, you were probably surfing for porn. Taking your looks into consideration, that’s probably your best bet.)

(Or my flat-chested, hairy sister.)

You may like one of these alternates more than the one I chose to use. De Gustibus Non Est Disputadum, as my grandfather used to say after he’d had a few stiff ones. But really, in this case, De Gustibus Is Very Much Disputadum. I’ll go through the thought process by which I came to use the ending I actually used.

(I didn’t necessarily write out all of these at the time, of course. I might have typed one, thought another, erased the initial attempt and replaced it with a slight variant, etc., but for purposes of illustration, we’re going to pretend that I have an orderly mind, when in fact what I need is an orderly.)

First, you have to understand why this second part of the joke could really and truly have been special. If you’re sitting at the computer and reading the piece while at work, it’s just a throwaway. It won’t ever be more than that. But for the person actually sitting in front of the computer, at home, in his or her underwear? It’s like I somehow singled you out for special treatment. In some magical way, I actually saw you in your underwear from wherever I was writing! THAT is a tremendously funny concept.

(Or my sister, if the floral pattern is any indication.)

This is funny. We start with the idea that I can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman who I’m talking to. I lean towards it being a woman because of flowers on the person’s underwear, but I leave open the possibility of it being a guy wearing flowered underwear, which is a funny visual. It also has a subtler level, in that I can readily distinguish flowers on the underwear, but I’m unable to distinguish any sexual characteristics other than the flowers.

As a matter of fact, this was probably the funniest alternate - for everyone reading the piece who wasn't actually sitting at the computer in his or her underwear. I rejected it because I wanted to see if I could hit the magical humor target described above. The chances of someone actually sitting at the computer wearing flowered underwear was much slimmer than that of someone actually sitting at the computer wearing underwear, period, especially considering my limited readership.

(Or my sister. If so, what are you doing after the speech?)

Also funny. I assume that some female sitting in her underwear might be an easy hit for a pervert like me and I’m willing to deviate from my speech in order to BE a deviate. Problem is, I couldn’t come up with a clean segue into the next section. I could have gone back to the concept of the person actually being a guy and riffed about my not being homosexual but still so desperate for a date that I was willing to take my chances – or something along those lines - but I preferred to keep any possible scatology at bay early on since I would probably be doing a number of penis jokes later in the piece. I didn’t want to lose the bite then, you should pardon the expression.

So do I pretend to have gotten an answer from the female? Or do I just go on without getting an answer and let the bit die? The latter is probably the best choice, but I decided that I didn’t want to end the bit with a question, so I continued trying to come up with something else.

(Or my sister. Hey, wait a minute! You ARE my sister! Put some clothes on, Sis!)

Again, it ruined the possibility of hitting a few of you with a direct shot. I also don’t really have a sister. I operate under a strange sort of moral code that won’t allow me to make a joke like that. If somehow the joke had been constructed so that the line could have been...

(Or my mother. Hey, wait a minute! You ARE my mother! Put some clothes on, Mom!)

... I might have considered it a keeper, since I actually have one of those.

(A mother, not a keeper.)

Just a quirk on my part. I sometimes make up stuff, but I never invent relatives.

(Or my sister. I’m not wearing my glasses, so it’s hard to tell.)

This was what I originally decided to be good enough. I then went on to write the rest of the piece. Upon reading what I had written, I saw that I had made a joke about glasses later on. In that joke, I didn’t call them glasses. I figured that using the word “glasses” in this earlier joke (or even a variant, such as “spectacles”) would render the later joke both less funny and less logical. So, I continued looking for a better ending.

(Or my sister. And if so, you might want to consider a depilatory.)

This was mostly just a matter of personal taste.

In this version I’m thinking it’s probably a guy, but maybe it’s just a hairy woman. Well, I first didn’t want to truly insult any woman I was lucky enough to make that magic direct hit with. I also don’t necessarily find hairiness in a woman a complete turn off, either – I mean, if she doesn’t look like freakin’ Sasquatch or something - so I wasn’t interested in perpetuating the idea that full Brazilian is what most guys want.

(Or my sister. Whichever it is, you look cold.)

This kind of assumed that the person, male or female, would not be wearing a bra and would have their high beams on. I can imagine a woman sitting at the computer in her underwear, but not just in panties. In my experience - which may be limited - a woman at home either wears both or nothing. So, as amazing as this may seem, I rejected this one for not being realistic enough.

(Or my sister. Whichever it is, you were probably surfing for porn. Taking your looks into consideration, that’s probably your best bet.)

Too insulting. I didn’t want to make a direct hit and then immediately alienate that person.

(Or my flat-chested, hairy sister.)

Again, too insulting.

The general idea is that it is definitely a guy I see, but I’m hedging my bet. That’s funny. But, aside from the reasons given above concerning the “depilatories” joke, I never – and I mean NEVER – make jokes about flat-chested women.

I find it tremendously rude to make jokes concerning a physical feature of a person when that physical feature is something the person was born with. Anyway, a woman’s beauty isn’t limited by the size of her boobs. In fact, I think just about all boobs are lovely. A woman with smaller boobs can be just as sexy and good looking as anyone else.

(If a flat-chested woman wants to make a joke about herself, that’s her business and it most certainly can be funny. Someone else doing it is just rude and ignorant. Likewise, if your physical deformity is self-inflicted – a bad toupee or a beer gut, for example – that’s fair game for everybody. Calling someone without a right arm “Lefty”, isn’t.)

Now we come to the ending I chose.

(Or my sister. It’s hard to tell from this distance.)

It’s not as big a laugh as some of the others, but it’s still good. It allows the possibility of making that direct hit and for both sexes, too. It doesn’t insult anyone because what is lacking is my own visual acuity and I’m not taking a potshot at anyone else’s physicality. Taking into consideration everything we discussed above, I considered it the best line to use. Humor is about the most subjective thing there is, though, so your mileage may vary and I don’t have a problem with that, you tasteless bastard.

So there we have the dissection of a joke. It has been ripped apart so thoroughly and pedantically that even a tag team of Mel Brooks and Neil Simon would have a difficult time putting it together again. Or my sister, if she weren’t so flat-chested and hairy, using her one arm to surf for porn while sitting there in her flowered panties without a bra on.


Peter N said...

I sometimes have so little time, but when I see a new "SulPost" I MAKE time. Here's your quote..

"As hard as this may be to believe, I put a lot of thought into my writing."

And I say, no s*it!!! Your fan Peter

The Omnipotent Q said...

In answer to your Super Bowl question Suldog....

Doug Flutie?

Suldog said...

No, Q. Steve DeBerg, with the Atlanta Falcons, age 45.

The Omnipotent Q said...

Wow, I would NEVER have remembered him. Great question, Suldog...

Whaledancer said...

My brain hurts. can i have some cheese to make it better? Or some bacon?
Cuz they make everything better.....

Stu said...

The following is said with sincerity: I believe you could have submitted this to the Monty Python team in 1970 and they would have crafted it into hilarity.