What's funny? What isn't? And why do I never get a laugh when I tell that joke about the moose?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Did You Hear the One About...?

Welcome to the first posting on: “The Awkward Silence” or “Well, I thought it was funny.” It’s a blog dedicated to funny stuff. At least, as the title suggests, stuff that I think is funny.

Not everybody agrees.

Long ago, I realized that my sense of humor is a bit…skewed, at least by the usual standards. I think puns are funny, for example. I like jokes and shaggy dog stories. On the other hand, I usually don’t care for slapstick, and most stand-up comics leave me cold (Dane Cook should spend his days selling ice cream from a Good Humor truck).

Obviously, this leaves me a bit out of the mainstream—although I am very popular with Good Humor men.

Having a slightly off-center sense of humor is kind of unfortunate if, like me, you’ve spent part of the last 30 years writing humor columns and funny plays, performing as an comic actor and improv comic, and otherwise trying to tickle the public’s funny bone.

I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for the laugh.

Anyway, the idea of “The Awkward Silence” is to create a kind of forum of funny: exactly what is funny? Why is it funny? And why does Paul Murphy get more laughs telling exactly the same joke than I do?

Anyway, something to keep in mind as you read—and hopefully respond—to this blog. Please respect other people’s opinions. Humor is entirely subjective, after all. Even if—no especially—if you disagree, try to do so without attacking the individual. After all, there’s only one opinion that really matters.


(See, that was a joke. Damned crickets.)

In closing, I’d like to explain this blog’s title.

Years back, I was directing a holiday performance of “The Shop Around the Corner” at a local theater. I had a cast of around 14 men, women and kids sitting on the stage while I spoke to them.

I told a joke. And I sat back, expectantly.

I don’t remember what the joke was—that’s not the point. I was the director. The director of a play is exactly like the boss in any office—if he tells a joke, you laugh, whether you think it’s funny or not. That’s one of the unspoken rules of capitalism.

But after I told this joke, I got nothing. Nada. Zip. Blank looks and the slight shuffling of papers.

You could almost hear the lonely howling of wolves in the distance.

After a subjective ten years, my 12 year old daughter rose to my defense. My daughter was one of a chorus of urchins that was to sing Christmas carols as various emotionally significant moments of the play. Into the middle of the yawning void, she called out the following:

“The awkward silence means it’s a joke.”


  1. An honor to be first to comment on An Awkward Silence. A brilliant idea for a blog and just the right person to do it. Looking forward to more.

  2. So, Jerry, are you going to tell us the joke about the moose?

  3. Jon,

    I'm saving the joke about the moose for an afternoon when I have nothing else to write about.


  4. So this guy walks into a blog...

  5. That was funny. Oh wait, was there a joke there?

  6. Jerry, as a dyed-in-the-wool Lutwidgean, you should have been thoroughly prepared for awkward silences, as after "Then the words don't fit you." (And if it's been dyed in the wool for *too* long, the sweater won't fit you either.)

  7. (Oh, I *did* already have a Google account. From Bleacher Report, I guess.)

  8. (Or maybe it's from Nate Silver's political blog, where there's a custom of coming up with definitions for the "words" they make you type to confirm that you're not a computer program. Except that you can't do that here, because you can't go back and edit your post after you type it.)

  9. I'd forgotten, moose jokes are restricted.

  10. Take it from a CEO. Not all my jokes are funny, and not everyone laughs (at least not in my company).... :)

  11. Jeez, Lee, you must be telling them wrong.