Jokes, Dark Humor and Obscuring the Meaning of the Inside Joke

Some jokes are so bad, so inappropriate, that they are funny, at least to myself and other like-minded and tortured souls. If you wonder if you are such an individual, I picked a few jokes I found in the deep disturbing crevices of the internet’s files of the human mind. If you laugh, then you get it. If you don’t, you won’t.

1. An owl and a squirrel are sitting in a tree, watching a farmer go by. The owl turns to the squirrel and says nothing, because owls can’t talk. Then the owl eats the squirrel because it’s a bird of prey.

2. Q:When does a joke become a dad joke?    A: When the punchline is apparent.

3. To teach kids about democracy, I let them vote for dinner. They picked pizza. Then I made tacos because this isn’t a swing state.

Dark humor is used to express the absurd insensitive paradox and cruelty of the modern world. Researchers suggest that processing morbid humor requires a little more brainwork than processing regular, normal-people jokes. In particular, the phenomenon is called frame-blending. This is when a subject is framed one way, and then shifted to a different frame to create humorous effect. When the subject matter of either frame is sinister, sad, or unpalatable in any way, the conscious mind has to overcome this distaste to get the punchline of the joke.

 Laughter is what they call a typical reward mechanism.

Humor has evolved as a way for human beings to find allies and collaborators. It’d very hard to fake getting a joke, people laughing together at a funny remark can be assured that they share information.

So my humor in particular, can be very dark. Some of what I have to say you will relate to, some will sound too painful to joke about. Humor is how I process the pain, it’s how I channel joy in this out of touch world. This process is how I create as an artist.

How I use my experiences, as unhappy and not normal that they are, I have channeled joy, but I am still broken.

I am a puzzle I am trying relentlessly to put back together.

So when I write to you, the reader, I want you to know that it’s ok to laugh, or not. To cry, or not. To feel your truth your way. But I am sharing my pain in the only way I know how, and I truly just want you to laugh with me. Writing is part of my puzzle. A lot of my experiences are sad and my jokes can be dark, but they are my pieces I am trying to make palatable and hope to just connect with people, with laughter and understanding.

Because the puzzle that is I is missing those very pieces and will never be complete until I find them.

When I was a child I could make the other kids laugh. I was picked on and bullied but I loved to make people laugh. So I would say what everyone wanted to say and got the laughs, and friends for those fleeting moments of candid joke telling.

To say that I was in trouble all the time is an understatement. It was worth it.

But it got complicated and I learned along the way that a joke is best when folks are laughing with me, not at me, but that’s a fairly thin line to walk. I was not rewarded in any other way but with the laughter. I got punished and ostracized but for a few moments a day I would get laughs and that felt good. Great in fact. Did it sustain me? No, not really.

As I grew and the years went by, the theme of my life was apparent, this juxtaposition of my truth, and everyone elses, felt like an inside-joke for myself only- and for a while, I lost my funny bone. I was deranged, maybe, and couldn’t tell if laughter was with me or at me. It used to really matter to me that it was with me because I was made fun of relentlessly, and am certain still are. So I try to keep funny and inclusive in my storytelling so others do not feel that fear, but with an inside -joke kind of vibe. So you, reader, are in on the joke because I gave you pretext about my life, then pulled a frame-shift to a funny dark thought and bam! it’s just funny-to me.

When you laugh at an inside joke, it’s like being a member of an exclusive club. Humor is as close as we get to an “honest signaling mechanism”.

I perform a glass blowing demonstration at the Texas Renaissance Festival and try to make it informative and funny. It just doesn’t do to joke at the audience, one must share the same knowledge and experience that is apparent at such an event. So one jokes with the audience and it is a raw, yet familiar and sweet connection that is fleeting, candid, dark and silly and just fun. This opportunity to share with people in this way has helped me pick up a lot of pieces that were once lost. Sometimes its just not funny to anyone but me and that’s ok.

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