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.