During the month of June, I did a little experiment.
Every day I would log onto the internet, take a trip over to my search engine of choice, and I would type in the word “joke.” Then I would click on “News” and refine my search to the past 24 hours. Then, I would catalogue a few of the links.
The results weren’t always about jokes. Sometimes there were articles using some slang perversion of the word “joke.” “This new law is a joke.” Or, “That new operating system is a joke.” I ignored those entries.
When I started this little process I didn’t think I would have many results about actual jokes. I figured, if I was lucky, there might be some new article about jokes every day. Or maybe every other day.
I was mistaken. I had no idea there was going to be so much. Consequently, I had to be a bit selective with the number of articles I catalogued.
Any time Ted Cruz made a joke on the campaign trail, there were 15 articles written about that particular joke every two minutes. In that instance, I would only grab a couple of those for my archive.
For all the big, national joke debates, I wouldn’t (couldn’t?) grab all the different articles with all the different perspectives. I might grab one piece that included the joke and who was offended. Or maybe one about how the joke works to highlight some larger issue that is controversial. A few days later I might grab a link to the apology for the joke or possibly an article condemning the inefficiency of the apology.
I only tried to catalogue articles about jokes that caused controversy. I picked articles where people were debating a joke or where people were fired from their job over a joke. In general, I just wanted to see how many different jokes would be examined in the media over the course of the month and I wanted to get some idea of how often people were arguing about jokes.
During this process, Emerson University announced that it would begin offering a degree in the subject of comedy. I included links to a couple of those articles because, as you can imagine, some people think a degree in comedy is stupid. They consider it akin to basket weaving. And, thus, that kind of disagreement counts as joke controversy, as you can readily see in the articles’ comment sections.
I selected think-pieces by authors who would pine over the state of comedy and victimization and privilege and, generally, complain about jokes.
I included an article where someone made a joke and the media misinterpreted it and, effectively, made themselves look like fools. The controversy, of course, was over their misinterpretation and not the actual joke.
I didn’t feel the need to exclude any results that dealt with international celebrities, or politicians, or their joke controversies. If it dealt with jokes and was listed in that day’s search engine results, I collected it.
Again, I didn’t grab everything. If 500 pieces were written about a topic, I would just select one article for my little June archive. And because I was just grabbing the most popular articles at the top of the search engine listing, there were probably a bunch of mini-controversies that went unnoticed. So, while the list may be long, it still isn’t nearly everything.
I also didn’t spend every moment of each day sitting at the computer, clicking refresh, digging for more. I just took what the search engines gave me and did a quick cut and paste.
Overall, I’d say I was pretty lazy in my selection process. This was not an attempt to do any sort of scientific polling. This was a snap shot. And, yet, despite my lack of specificity, the articles revealed some similarities.
(1) If you read every single article I selected, you won’t learn anything about the topic of jokes. Nothing. All of these articles claim to cover the topic of jokes and yet not one ever makes a factual statement about jokes. Oh, sure, you’ll learn about people’s feelings toward jokes, but there is nothing objective about jokes. Nothing about style, or structure, or what makes a joke “funny.” Nothing that you can carry from one joke controversy to the next. After a whole month of articles about jokes there’s not a shred education about the topic. Just a bunch of opinions.
(2) While the articles contain zero valuable information on how to evaluate a joke beyond personal taste and gut-feeling, the comment sections were full of people responding with their own individual preferences about humor. In effect, the readers aren’t even doing anything to hold the authors accountable to talk about jokes. Instead, everyone is just waiting to pile on with their own opinions.
(3) The articles about humor that begin with the words “No Joke: [subject of article]” or “Did you hear the one about…” are so numerous it’s depressing. I tried to avoid them and, instead, looked for other links that presented the same information in a less hack way. The onslaught of that kind of unoriginality over a mere month of research makes me question whether these authors are even bothering to read each other’s articles. Essentially, it’s people who don’t write comedy, don’t perform comedy, and don’t even read articles about comedy who are authoring the articles about jokes.
(4) There were fewer results on Saturday than any other day of the week. Strange, since weekends are some of the biggest nights for comedy. In most cities, the number of stand-up comedy shows double on Friday and Saturday. Silver-screen comedies are released in movie theaters on Friday. But, when it comes to the internet on Saturday, everything seems quiet. No anger. No controversy. Apparently, that gets saved until Monday. At which point the blogs and vlogs pounce. Somehow it’s only a controversy if some media source can capitalize on it for a few clicks and potential ad sales. So, you have to wonder how many of these joke controversies are media driven and how much are actually fueled by moral outrage. They certainly aren’t fueled by knowledge about jokes.
(5) People are getting upset about jokes nearly every single day. Sometimes multiple times each day. Joke controversies aren’t just happening on a grand scale every few weeks, it’s a constant activity. And, even though it’s incredibly common, again, the arguments that fuel these controversies have nothing to do with actual facts about jokes, it’s people’s feelings about jokes.
It should come as no surprise that when people argue about something they don’t understand based solely on their feelings, the argument never gets resolved. And because people aren’t learning anything new about jokes, their feelings continue to remain their only method for joke evaluation. And because everyone has different emotional responses for different reasons, controversy remains. The people who find a joke to be “funny” continue to feel that way while the people who don’t find the joke “funny” continue to feel the way they feel.
Until people gain some education about jokes, they will never have the ability to say, “I understand why the joke is good, but I don’t like it.” Without understanding facts about joke structure and how humor functions, people will just continue to say, “I don’t like it, so it’s bad.” And someone else will retort, “I do like it, so it’s good— And if you don’t like it, you’re stupid.”
And the fight will persist, ceaselessly.
I’d also like to note that after a month of keeping track of joke controversies, my laptop died. True story. The mindless outrage of the internet had taken its toll and my machine cracked under the pressure. And that is why I am posting my results from June, now, in August.
So, without further ado, here is a sample of the reporting, attacking, and defending of jokes that was done over the course of one month.
Monday — June 1, 2015
Caitlyn Jenner transition turns Wendy Williams into a punch line — She Knows
Fox’s Neil Cavuto ‘Hateful’ jokes about Caitlyn Jenner — Complex
Dance Mom’s Abby Lee Miller Berates Young Dancer with Oral Sex Joke — The Hollywood Gossip
Tuesday — June 2, 2015
Wednesday — June 03, 2015
Thursday — June 04, 2015
Ted Cruz apologizes for Biden joke — Philly.com
Keith Olbermann Is Not A Fan Of Ted Cruz’s Tom Brady Joke — Huffington Post
Dear Prudence: My Fiance loves to laugh at a website shaming fat people — Slate
Amy Schumer is 160 Pounds and can catch a dick whenever she wants — PaperMag
Catching Dick: Not Why We Care About Weight — Huffington Post
A$ap Rocky: ‘Rod Stewart Mixtape News Was A Joke’ — ContactMusic
Friday — June 05. 2015
A World that Won’t Laugh with You — NY Times
The Dangers Of Political ‘Foot-In-Mouth’ Syndrome — NPR
Drake Bell Apologizes for Jenner Tweet — USA Today
FHRITP jokers confronted by Canadian Journalist — Huffington Post
‘Ghetto’ Awards Given to Middle School Students Is a Horrible ‘Joke’ — BET
Saturday — June 06, 2015
A Badly Timed Joke: Apologies of the Week — Newser
Wrestler Tweets and Deletes apology about old “jokes” — WrestleZone
Sunday — June 07, 2015
Clint Eastwood Caitlyn Jenner joke — USA Today
#HoldaCokeWithYourBoobsChallenge Provokes Anger Among Cancer Sufferers — gloucestershireecho.co.uk
Huckabee Has History of Controversial Jests — ArkansasNews
Monday — June 08, 2015
Rumor about RHOBH vagina joke — CelebDirtyLaundry
Tiger Woods made a Joke — Yahoo
Jerry Seinfeld Says Colleges Are Too Politically Correct — Huffington Post
Tuesday — June 09, 2015
Scots sold into Slavery Joke — ely-news.co.uk
Huckabee Transgender Joke — Huffington Post
Joyce Carol Oates’ Joking about Jurassic Park, OR IS SHE?!? — Salon
Wednesday — June 10, 2015
Nobel Laureate ‘trouble with girls’ joke — Boston Globe
Joke Photo / MERS fear — Washington Post
Hillary Clinton Joins Instagram With Pantsuit Joke — Huffington Post
Bill Clinton Cracks Jokes About Marijuana, and Himself — Bloomberg
Reaction to Caitlyn Jenner Joke on Baltimore Menu Goes Viral — Baltimore Sun
Thursday — June 11, 2015
Joke about FIFA on Swiss TV ends with communications director leaving his job — Fusion
Kylie Jenner’s Brother Makes Graphic Sex Joke about Her — The Hollywood Gossip
‘Bro with no Ho’ diss — Washington Post
Friday — June 12, 2015
Women’s Soccer Joke — Huffington Post
Down’s Syndrome Group Furious about Comedian booking — Belfast Telegraph
Caitlyn Jenner “Family Guy” Clips — Huffington Post
Saturday — June 13, 2015
Apologies of the Week — Newser
Sunday — June 14, 2015
Kathy Griffin speaks with NPR on Comedy And Intolerance — KWIT
Spanish Official Apologizes For Twiter Joke About Holocaust — NY Times
Monday — June 15, 2015
Nobel laureate Tim Hunt says he was forced to resign over joke — Washington Post
Can I Say That? Stand-Up Comedy in the Age of Political Correctness — Pop Matters
Anatomy of a Knock Knock Joke — PJ Media
Tuesday — June 16, 2015
Fox News Anchor Jokes Coming out As Transgender is like Self-Identifying “as a Cat” — E! Online
The Problem With Aziz Ansari Writing a Book About Something He’s Never Done — Splitsider
Judge Fails to See Funny side of Sword ‘Prank’ — Darlington And Stockton Times
What China’s ‘morality-building’ comedy boom says about standup — The Guardian
Wednesday — June 17, 2015
Osborne’s Unwise Joke Mars Solid Debut — New Statesman
Hillary Clinton is Owning the Joke About her fashion choices — Washington Post
Actress Isabella Daza Apologizes for Hashtag Joke — Inquirer
‘Rape Joke’ During U. of C. Graduation Prompts Apology from Professor — DNA Info
Have you seen Isreal’s ‘funny’ video? Surprise the joke’s on you — Haaretz
Thursday — June 18, 2015
Demonic Macaulay Culkin is the Latest bad twitter joke — Inquisitr
Possible student expulsion for joke plotting to kill superintendent — WQOW
In Defense of the ‘Dad Joke’ — Globe and Mail
The Unexpected Cost of an Innocent Joke — Business Management Daily
Dear Abby: Bad Language and Racist Jokes Set Poor Example for Kids — Chron
Dear Abby: Father’s crude jokes, cursing set bad example for kids (SAME AS ABOVE) — AZ Central
Comedy Central in the Post TV era — NY Times
French Government Warns Citizens About America’s Prudish Humor — Travel Pulse
No Sex Jokes Please, French Government Advises Travelers to U.S. — Bloomberg
Friday — June 19, 2015
Liberal Candidate Withdraws Over Domestic Violence Joke — Huffington Post
Kelly Osbourne Dolezal Joke “Too Soon?” — Inquisitr
Athlete Apologizes for tweeting joke about Stowaway Death — Standard
Alec Baldwin Makes Awkward Joke about Selling Taylor Swift’s Pee as Perfume — Hollywood Life
Athlete Needs to learn to take a joke — NY Daily News
Richard Dawkins comes to defence of Tim Hunt after “feeding frenzy” — Home.bt
Handle with humor: why we want you to laugh about climate change — Guardian
Outrageous Treatment of Los Angeles Teacher who told a Joke — Washington Post
Politically correct police order ‘hilarious’ incest joke signs to be removed from pub — Express
Tiger Woods made a joke that was Sorta Funny — GQ
A Show Finds Humor in Gaza’s Headlines. Will Hamas Get It? — NY Times
Infuriated Jon Stewart Can’t Even Bring Himself to Joke about Charleston — Jezebel
(And if he could, he would be lambasted for it in every way possible. So, now, what is the point of this article?)
Only Joking… ‘One day a sociologist will chart the death of humour in western society’ — ft.com
Saturday — June 20, 2015
[Nothing. I checked back a few times over the course of the day, but there hadn’t been any change. I guess the internet was still dealing with all of their feelings about jokes from the day prior.]
Sunday — June 21, 2015
Wife of Israeli Leader Tweets Obama Race Joke — Politico
Obama Coffee Joke Prompts Apology from Israel Minister’s Wife — SMH
The hysteria over Sir Tim Hunt’s Joke Stops Open Debate — Telegraph
‘I laughed at sexist joke. So fire me’ — iol
Fox News can’t take a joke: The best comedy takedowns of blowhard conservatives — Salon
Monday — June 22, 2015
Cian Healy’s joke about gay pride march — Herald.ie
Just Joking: Sexist Talk in Science — plos.org
Ted Cruz’s Gun Control Joke Falls Flat Days After Charleston Shooting — Think Progress
Woman Says Facebook Post about Killing White People is just a joke — Dallas News
Cam Newton Mocks Tom Brady with Under Inflated Football Joke — Bleacher Report
Boston isn’t laughing at Cam Newton Deflategate Joke — Black and Blue Review
Teacher’s ‘drink urine’ joke misunderstood — TodayOnline
Amy Schumer Isn’t as feminist as the internet thinks — TheWeek
Big Brother’s Sam is offended by Marc after another fat joke: “It’s hurtful” — Digital Spy
James Jordan says same-sex partners on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ will be treated as ‘joke couples’ for ‘comedy value’ — Standard
Jimmy Kimmel making fun of India’s sanitation problem is not funny at all. It is offensive — ibnlive
Tuesday — June 23, 2015
Sonakshi Sinha reacts to Rishi Kapoor’s joke on her weight! — DNA India
Dapper Laughs Liverpool gig slammed by Liverpool feminists — Liverpool Echo
Killing Jokes — Huffington Post
With Bad Humour Comes Great Responsibility — Free Malaysia Today
No, New York Times, Massacres Aren’t Funny — Forward
A pre-historic case of not getting the joke — NY Post
Wednesday — June 24, 2015
Mitchell: Crude, racial joke puts doctor in hot water — Chicago Sun Times
Parents Sue School District For Suspending Students For Making Hitler Joke On Social Media — CBS Local Los Angeles
Chris Rock Jokes About Terrence Howard’s Domestic Violence Allegations — Billboard
People are “just joking” about locking all the hipsters up — right? — San Diego Reader
Bags of fun? Not when the sexist joke is on you — WomensAgenda
Thursday — June 25, 2015
Billionaire Deletes lesbian joke about Hillary Clinton — Politico
There’s nothing funny about your racist joke — Huffington Post
We joke about it, but it’s not that funny: Incontinence — Daily Record
President’s “My House Joke” causes backlash — KATU
Dapper Laughs: My Suicide Tweet Wasn’t a Joke — BBC
Still Funny? Paris Diplomats Joke About NSA Spying Before WikiLeaks Release — Global Research
Paul LePage Jokes About Shooting Newspaper Cartoonist — Huffington Post
Survey: University of Chicago is full of sexist jokes and gross sex stories but not much rape — The College Fix
Lazy at Best, Harmful at Worst: Dapper Laughs and the Problems With Sexist Comedy — Huffington Post
Jane Austin: Monica Lewinsky and Sean O’Brien show why cyber bullying isn’t an online joke — MAA
Friday — June 26, 2015
Seth MacFarlane tweets (and deletes) Gay Marriage joke — USA Today
Darren Criss apologizes for Caitlyn Jenner joke — EW
UPDATE: Readers Weigh In On Darren Criss’ Apology for Recent Caitlyn Jenner Comment — Broadway World
Doctors recorded verbally abusing anesthetized patient — Star Phoenix
A more mindful Carlos Mencia — Miami Herald
UA grad weighs in on ‘Ted 2’ Arizona State jokes — AZ Central
Elisabeth Hasselbeck Stuns Fox & Friends Audience with Dirty Joke — Mediaite
Open-Hearted “Self-Facing” Humor Builds Bridges — Huffington Post
The Lakers drafted someone who once made a Kobe Bryant rape joke on Twitter — Washington Post
MMC’s ‘joke’ hits ethnic nerve — iol
Jeremy Clarkson Makes Reeva Steenkamp Joke in South Africa — Contact Music
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made a poop joke about Obama & the Supreme Court — Business Insider
Charleston Cop Makes Joke About Emanuel AME Shooting — The Source
J.R. Reynolds: Dehumanizing people is no joke — Battle Creek Enquirer
MSM: Joking about dead terrorists is ‘insensitive,’ but making fun of vaccine-damaged children is hilarious! — rinf
Saturday — June 27, 2015
Rita Ora Causes Controversy with alleged Gay Joke — Metro
CNN mistakes Dildos for ISIS — NY Mag
People make same dumb kitchen joke a lot — SB Nation
Female Professor Fired for curse words and the occasional sexually-themed joke — The Advocate
Sunday — June 28, 2015
Bob Costas apologizes for comments he intended as sarcastic — MSN
Amy Schumer: Comedy’s viral Queen — The Guardian
Kobe Bryant Forgives new Lakers teammate for ‘rapist’ tweet — NY Daily News
Matt Cooper’s wife Aileen Hickie makes an unintended “mickey” joke — Independent.ie
Vietnam clip makers apologize for ‘kiss cam’ joke — tuoitrenews.vn
BET Awards’ Domestic Violence Joke With Rihanna And Floyd Mayweather — Uproxx
Monday — June 29, 2015
Amy Schumer could have responded better to claims of ‘lazy’ racism — SMH
What’s the Deal with Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, and PC? — Daily Kos
Tuesday — June 30, 2015
Nick Jonas Slams CrossFit For “Ignorant” Diabetes Joke — Gossip Cop
Paris Hilton Prank: Heiress To Sue Everyone Involved In Fake Plane Crash — Inquisitr
At What Point Will Comedians Stop Responding to Social Critics? — Paste Magazine
(Real nice… When comedians do respond, they shouldn’t. And when then don’t respond, they’re accused of being bad at taking criticism. Cool.)
Wednesday — July 1, 2015
Man jokes about marrying his dog, get’s fired — wtsp.com
Joke Fail: Conan Doesn’t Know Jeb Opposed Confederate Flag 15 Years Ago — Newsbusters
Privilege makes them do it — what a study of Internet trolls reveals — LA Times
When It Comes To Racist Jokes, There’s A Real Reason Why No One’s Laughing — MTV
Did Famous Comedian Steal Lincoln Man’s Joke? — Journal Star
Bristol Palin Catholic Schoolgirl Porn Joke Prompts Conservative Group to Call Out TMZ — Edge Boston
Finally, the last article on the last day of my experiment included a FACT about humor. One fact. And it only took a month of digging.
Why do people laugh? You asked Google – and here’s the answer — The Guardian
Considering this is just a small sample, did you even realize that jokes are discussed in the media this often? And this poorly? How is it that so much is being written about jokes, but none of what’s being written has anything to teach us about jokes? Please, for the love of whatever, post your comments below.