I often hear the lament that no one is allowed to be funny or make jokes anymore. As one of the many humorless feminists on this blog network out to ruin all of your fun, I totally agree and look forward to a world free of jokes, especially from men.
That was an example of an Insider Joke. The other two types I’ll be discussing are the Unexpected Reference and Wordplay.
It is possible to take an Insider Joke, Unexpected Reference, or Wordplay and use it in a way that is oppressive. Although you could potentially insult someone using them, they can be made without insulting people. What makes them less likely to err in that way is that they don’t inherently hinge on punching anyone to make them funny.
Punching up is never oppressive, of course, but that’s a topic for another day.
The Insider Joke
The joke I made in my lede relies on awareness of three things.
- Re feminists: The stereotype that we are against humor because we aren’t fans of certain types of jokes
- Re Freethought Blogs: That most of us here are feminists and one of us, in particular, wryly refers to their role as “Professional Fun-Ruiner“
- Re me, in particular: That I wrote a piece about how much I hate it when men excuse sexism with the pathetic excuse for a defense known as “it was just a joke”
As long as you have some sort of familiarity with any of those three, you would recognize the facetiousness of my remark, even if you didn’t find it funny. Some might argue that it could reinforce rather than subvert stereotypes. I feel comfortable making it because it’s about me rather than anyone else and fairly well-ensconced in a context that makes what I meant clear. It is possible that someone might read it and take me literally, but I think it is not very probable.
Insider jokes can be even less tricky than the one I made, though. I’ve been known to say things like “Damn, those teeth are whiter than Mormonism.”
The Unexpected Reference
The moment that I realized that people mistake references for humor was a glorious one indeed. I went from sullen-seeming weirdo to less-sullen-seeming weirdo who said funny things sometimes.
I started with song references. I found that the cheesier and more novelty-driven the song is, the better. If you can think up a song lyric that everyone knows but few people think about that relates to the situation at hand, someone will laugh.
“Whiter than Mormonism” is something of an Unexpected Reference, too, in that it brings together two things based on a commonality that isn’t all that obvious at first (whiteness of two kinds).
Finding commonalities between disparate things on the linguistic rather than the conceptual level is at the heart of wordplay, including puns. But all this meta talk is so boring and I’m hungry since I skipped breakfast to write this; let’s talk about pasta instead of this linguinistic stuff.