The Art of the Joke

I've known for a long time that I'm not good at telling jokes. It's a fine art form at which not everyone is proficient. Today a co-worker told me a joke. It was as he was telling it that I realized how unusual it was for anyone in my generation to tell a joke. It was funny, don't get me wrong;

It was about a guy stuck in the hospital with Montezuma's revenge. He ends up shating his sheets, and is so annoyed with himself he roles them up and throws them out the window. There's a drunk guy down below, who gets hit with this mess, and flails around. Someone comes along and, laughing, asks what he's up to. He says he's not sure, but he thinks he just beat the shit out of a ghost.

The poor presentation of the above joke may illustrate why I don't usually dabble. In any event, I think it's funny. So why don't people my age usually tell them?

Maybe our fast paced lifestyle doesn't usually allow for the telling of jokes which contain lengthy preamble. This would be supported by the fact that I would expect more joke telling in a bar, a place where time is not usually short.

A big reason, I think, is that the joke is by definition canned. I laugh at things that are unexpected. Unexpected irony, association, shared and fondly remembered cultural history are all the stuff of day-to-day humour. The joke is not spontaneous in this way. You know it's a joke. You know you're expected to laugh at the end. With the spontaneity removed, the bar of hilarity is raised higher than it otherwise would be.

But that doesn't mean one can't enjoy a good joke now and then. I'm just not very good at telling them.

The Cadillac of Coffees

So I'm pretty tired this morning, and as I get off the commuter train on the way to work, I remember that we were about out of coffee. This won't do, so I pop into the starbucks at the quaint station. Usually my co-working coffee lovers get a pound of whatever 'bold' coffee is stocked at the time. I think they make it a bit strong, because the last pound only lasted a week and a half, and we're just making a 10-cup pot a day. Not wanting to be a freeloader, I sally over to the rack of beans.

Looking over the selection, I grab the only 'bold' non-decaf that's there. Arabian Roast. I walk up to the cash in my groggy state and wait while it is ground into life-giving powder. Then I give them my credit card and get the slip back. $16.17. I stare at the number. Is it in hex? No, that would be worse. I look up at the menu board with a bewildered expression, noting all the different varieties and observing their prices in the $10-11 range. If I was more lucid I might have said "No, no, I don't want to buy stock in Starbucks, I just want a pound of coffee." But instead I just mumble out "why so expensive?"

"That's a rare variety," says one clerk. "It's the cadillac of coffees," says another. Of course it's already ground at this point, so I just leave in defeat. It had better be fanfriggintastic, that's all I can say.