The Joke That Does Not Die

You know that guy that isn’t very funny himself, but thinks he knows what is funny and what is not, and presumes to tell everyone that this or that kind of joke is “too easy,” or that cross-dressing is “the lowest form of humor,” or that Tommy Boy is “too broad?”  The only guy in the whole Scout troop, no, the whole Scout camp, that doesn’t laugh at a good fart joke?  Don’t you just hate that guy?  Yes, you do– I was there, and I saw you fart on me after I didn’t laugh at your first fart joke.

Truth is, sometimes it takes a dry, boring person to be able to see when funny people are stooping too low.  I’ve never needed to be a comedian to understand that there is no humor about gays– either the put-downs (there’s a whole voice, including a lisp, for all gays?) or the in-jokes (hooray for saucy Will & Grace puns!)– that is actually funny.  Anyway, I’m not here to enforce some kind of National Not-funny Treaty, but I would like to make just one little request.  There’s a new low in humor these days, descending far below the depths of the crotch-kick or even everything that happens in a Chipmunks movie.  It’s the one-word joke.


Now these guys know funny

Think of the first time you heard the word ‘bromance.’  You might have needed someone to explain it to you.  You probably smiled a little at the wit of the invention.  The second time you heard it, you laughed a little, and then you even used it, probably three times over a span of a month or two.  At that moment, ‘bromance’ was ready to be either ushered out of popular usage, or settled in as a normal word without humorous implications.  But then, some dude dropped it three months later, and he got a good laugh from everyone in the room. Time passed.  Someone else threw it out and again, great mirth all around.  You started to realize that everyone knew the phrase, no one found it surprising anymore, but some people still thought it was a good idea to say it, and then wait for everyone to giggle.  And it turns out people love to laugh at something that sounds obscure that they are totally in on, even though everyone else in the world is actually in on  it too.  So the one-word jokers look for opportunities to fit it into any conversation.  They don’t frame it in a humorous context.  They don’t work for it.  They just use the word, and that’s the joke.  “Yeah, we were really tight then.  Hello Bromance!”  Instant LAUGHS every time.

These words come along more than you realize.  Remember ‘cankles?’  Again, a nicely crafted put-down, in its day.  But as soon as everyone heard it, it wouldn’t go away.  One-word jokers would throw it out at parties and everyone would chuckle in recognition, some even re-stating the definition to make sure everyone was in on the craziness.  “Ha.  Cankles.  Calves for ankles.  So funny.”


Admit it- you got a lot of laughs with this one in ’98.  And last year.

Unibrow is the first one-word joke I can pinpoint, dating back at least 15 years.  It’s a perfectly fine word now that you’re not expected to laugh when someone uses it.  There was the absolutely dominating run of ‘white trash’ of the late 80’s and early 90’s.  You don’t remember it now, but the mere concept was sidesplittingly funny for, oh 8 years or so.

In our time, though, there is an undisputed champion of the one-word joke genre.  If you haven’t thought of it yet, it’s because you’re still getting laughs with it.  Seriously, people, you can’t just say ‘mullet’ anymore and expect people to crack up.  Sure, there are still pictures of mullets that are worth reflecting on, but the mere concept?  The word on its own?  It is time for mullet to give up its six-year reign as the superstar of the one-word jokes.


This is a picture of the definition of comedy

Why, you may ask?  Why now?  Because the throne has been taken by a new contender.  Yes, the ‘Cougar’ is here to stay.  I predict it’s got at least three solid years left, until it finally works its way up to the over-50 crowd, at which point it will finally lose every possible shred of comic value.  Until then, long may she reign.  Hah.  Cougars.  Older women on the prowl for younger guys.  So funny.

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10 Responses to The Joke That Does Not Die

  1. InkMom says:

    I have a friend who named her little boy “Cougar”, and I’m pretty sure she and her husband might have a few regrets right about now.

  2. Ha ha! True that. My hub was the inspiration for the “unibrow” joke but it was more like 25 years ago. My kids still crack up on his behalf.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m so out of the bromance loop. I don’t get it. But I guess that’s why they call me Dummy.

    Found you through Braden, btw. And I support your 3 days a week posting so your families can still be forever.

  3. Rachel says:

    Whether its the Kentucky waterfall, business in the front- party in the back, or the well-known shfelbee (short front long back), mullet jokes will never go out of style.

    And yes, I know you’re laughing right now.

  4. Christian says:

    So true big ry.
    Little kids say poop to make other little kids laugh. 40 years later they say mullet.
    Rachel, I will admit I chuckled at kentucky waterfall. Funny

  5. Davis says:

    The worst is when these terms finally make it into a trend piece in Newsweek or the big newspapers. I HATE those articles.

  6. Massey says:

    “Man-card” should also find a place on the mantle with “bromance” as a dead or dying one-word joke. At lunch today, one of the partners mentioned man-card no less than four times with regards to an associate attending the ballet this weekend. Tell me how this is not funny 100% of the time?: “You’re going to the ballet? Time to turn in your your man-card.” Nothing could have been more funny to him and less funny to me.

  7. Ryan says:

    Seriously, a little boy named Cougar in this day and age? That is really bad. I’d change his name to Mullet if I could.

  8. Ryan says:

    Davis, that is such a good point. I serious-but-playful trend pieces on crap like this. It makes me imagine the benighted editors looking down on the land and wondering what on earth is going on out there, then assigning some 48 year old lifer to get out there and “find out what this ‘Cougar’ thing is!!!’

    Massey, man-card is perfect. Just retire it, man. I honestly hold no ill will toward it. It is fun to look back on. But it can’t keep hanging around this long after it has exhausted its usefulness. It’s like you kept reminding me, right after our missions, that the Sheryl Crow song I was constantly singing in public places had actually come out two years ago, so I needed to stop. Same exact thing here.

  9. Charlotte says:

    I have a shirt with my alma mater’s mascot written across it. I’m starting to rethink wearing iit, thanks BYU and the one word joke.

  10. Ryan says:

    Yeah, Charlotte, it’s a tough time to be an adult female Cougar. Fan.

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