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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Apropos of Nothing — April Fools Day joking against law of humor

    I write a humor column. No, really, that’s not an April Fools’ Day joke! Seriously, these columns were supposed to be funny all along, and if you’re laughing harder about that claim than anything I’ve written before, I’m in trouble.

    Anyway, in honor of April Fools’ Day, I’m writing about the concept of humor, which pretty much guarantees this column won’t be funny. Jokes about jokes are a joke. I mean, dissecting jokes is like dissecting frogs ­— there’s not much life left in them once you’ve taken them apart to see how they work.

    I’ll start with April Fools’ Day, even though I think it’s a psychotic holiday that’s only marginally about comedy. On this day, you can tell all sorts of outrageous lies to people, get crazy reactions out of them and just by saying “April Fools’” everyone is socially obligated to forgive you for lying and to act like it’s the funniest thing ever.

    I pity the fools who created this ridiculous holiday, and I can only speculate on their motives. Luckily, I have a non-serious column that allows me to do all the irresponsible speculation that I want.

    My theory is that, just like there are people who think the “goodwill and togetherness” message of Christmas has been obscured by commercialism, there are also people who think the trickery aspect of Halloween has been overshadowed by all the sugary treats. This pro-trickery lobby convinced some president, probably William Howard Taft, to create a holiday dedicated to messing with people (this might not be completely historically accurate). You can’t tell me Taft didn’t have a sense of humor. That mustache of his has to be one of the greatest pranks ever pulled upon the American people. But I digress.

    April Fools’ Day might be the worst day to prank people, because it’s expected. Humor relies on timing and surprise. It lives in the middle ground between what’s ordinary and boring and what’s disturbing and threatening. When something is amiss in a non-threatening, wacky way, people’s brains don’t know what to do, so they laugh.

    There are several varieties of humor. Many people like physical, slapstick comedy, but it doesn’t necessarily work in a written column. Hey, some guy just slipped on a banana peel and fell down! See, I guarantee you did not laugh at that. That’s why I use absurdity, observations and wordplay instead.

    Speaking of wordplay, I’d like to defend the humble pun from those who say it’s the lowest form of humor. Pun jokes take advantage of the element of surprise. In jokes like “I’m reading a book about anti-gravity, it’s impossible to put down,” or “I’m glad I know sign language, it’s pretty handy,” you expect a normal sentence, when all of a sudden you are pun-ched by a double-meaning or unexpected word.

    I’ll admit bad puns can be pretty lame. I’ve read a Laffy Taffy wrapper before. But it’s all about quality and context, and there’s no reason puns can’t be cool. Even the hippest comics can’t live without them.

    When intellectuals declared that “irony is dead” after 9/11, Jon Stewart quipped, “Why did irony have to die? Why couldn’t puns have died? Or would that have been too devastating to Mr. Al Yankovic?” However, Stewart himself later used the awesomely bad pun, “Mess O’Potamia,” to describe the Iraq War. He just couldn’t resist the power of the pun.

    John Pollack, a former winner of the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships — no joke, this competition actually exists — published a book in 2011 called “The Pun Also Rises,” which argues that puns are part of any sophisticated culture. He notes that William Shakespeare and other literary geniuses use brilliant wordplay, double entendres and puns in their writing. So, if you want to say puns are stupid, you’re also saying Shakespeare is stupid, and you don’t want to mess with the Bard. In my book, the pun is mightier than the sword! Well, probably not in an actual swordfight, but you get the point.

    Be responsible this April Fools’ Day and use humor in moderation. Don’t prank and drive, and make sure your riotous jokes don’t start actual riots on University Boulevard.

    Disclaimer: As a general rule, nothing in Logan Rogers’ columns should be taken seriously.

    — Logan Rogers is a second-year law student. Follow him @AproOfNo

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