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
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.
I’m pleased to announce new dates have been added to the calendar. Just click TOUR for those.
Additionally, I am featured semi-regularly on a new prank show for TruTV. David Spade’s “Fameless” pulls the rug out from under all sorts of people who prove they will do anything for fame. They’ll insult people who don’t deserve it, they’ll scream in a stranger’s face, and put their own image above anyone else’s all in pursuit of fame. And for that, we prank them. The series premiere is on July 29, so tune in.
AND– yeah, more things!– new episodes of MOCKpocalypse will air this Fall on AXS TV. This time our talking heads will say a few words about stadium jams, grunge, movie music, cover jams, and a whole bunch more. Those episodes have already been shot and are in the can, so, keep an eye out for that.
Otherwise, you can always see what I’m broadcasting via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and generally graffiti in my neighborhood. Links are above.
As many of you are aware, I host a program called MANDATORY VIEWING on Mandatory.com. It’s a quick two-or-three-minute, click-able-content web series that features stories and videos that are relevant on internet each week.
Though the series didn’t start until May, it’s a neat little record of the strange, exciting, and goofy things that happened in 2014.
Right now, the show is not scheduled to return in 2015. But, it could! Especially, if you give a click.
In order of newest to oldest, here is every 2014 episode of MANDATORY VIEWING:
If you’ve been diligently keeping up with my doings on Facebook and Twitter, then, what I’m about to say won’t be news to you.
But, if you live in a cyberspace environment where you are continually bombarded by every announcement that everybody makes about every little detail of their lives, you may very well have missed my posts. I was probably buried under selfies, misspelled complaints, and a picture of a beagle wearing a fireman helmet.
Anyway, I’ve been hosting a new show on the internet called “Mandatory Viewing.” It’s only a few minutes long and covers a few relevant news items, pictures, or videos that are circulating around the internet. We shoot every week in a tiny closet in Santa Monica and pump out a high quality product to you on Friday at Mandatory.com.
If you have no interest in spending THREE MINUTES to watch an episode, could you please click the links anyway? Maybe set your volume to mute and walk away from your viewing device, so at least our advertisers think people are watching?
This week on AXS Live I had two interviews that seemed to get our viewers pretty worked up with anticipation.
First, on Wednesday, I sat down with the Executive Producer and Host of Spike TV’s Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer. All week leading up to this interview, people were sending me tweets, e-mails, and text messages… And they all said the same thing: “You’re interviewing Jon Taffer?”
No questions for the guy. No inquiries about what I was going to ask him. They all just wanted confirmation that the event was happening. Then, I’m sure they tuned-in to see if I would get yelled at.
I met Jon briefly before the show and, as you might guess, the guy is a pro. He showed up 15 minutes before his call-time, meaning he was poised and ready for a whole hour before he even went on camera. He was genuinely warm and charismatic and, overall, had a vibe to him like, “Okay, well, if we’re here to make television, let’s do it, let’s do the best we can, and let’s make it great!”
When Jon walked onto the set, he immediately saw the small gang of writers, producers, and crew who act as our in-studio audience. Without hesitation, he said, “If I knew there were going to be this many people here, I would’ve charged an appearance fee.” The guy was getting laughs before he even stepped into the lights. We liked him a lot. For more on Jon Taffer, go HERE!
Check out our interview here:
Then, on Thursday, I got to close out my week by interviewing Def Leppard. To be fair, Sav and Joe were not in attendance, so, technically, it wasn’t the whole band. But, we have a small studio– Once I take a seat, there’s barely enough room for three more legends to squeeze into frame. So, I like to think that things worked out for the best.
I didn’t get a chance to meet Rick, Viv, and Phil before the show. And I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Would they be snooty rockstars, completely pissed that they even agreed to do the program? Would I have to fill six-minutes of air-time struggling to come up with questions only to have them give one-word answers? Would it suck? Would I be embarrassed by rockstars on live television? All of those questions were piercing into my brain while I’m standing in the lights, talking into the camera, reporting the day’s big news stories. We. Are. Live.
Then, during a commercial break, one of our producers, Brigiite, pointed to the greenroom and whispered to me, “You’re making Def Leppard laugh.”
O-kay! Nice. Now, I just have to hope I don’t get too cocky during the interview, take a joke too far, and piss them off. Cool. Don’t ruin this, Stout.
At some point, I ran back to the greenroom to say, “Hello,” introduce myself, and thank them for coming. And, wouldn’t you know it, great guys. Happy to be there. No pretense. No expectations. They almost seemed surprised that I ran back to meet them. Perfect. I’ve got them fooled. They think I’m someone.
Jump to the interview.
The first thing out of their mouths was a joke about Rick missing an arm. Then, a quip about Phil’s wrist guard. Opening the door for me to talk about Viv’s health.
We have lift-off.
So, fun and easy. I really hope those boys come back and, maybe, play us a song or two… Check out the interview here:
Their new LIVE concert, filmed this summer, Def Leppard VIVA! Hysteria, can be seen in a movie theater near you, just click HERE! Or pick up the BluRay when it comes out on October 22nd.
Also, notice the seating arrangement: Rick was given the armrest, thus allowing Viv more room in the center, and Phil got the other armrest. Makes sense, right?!? If you’re not sure why that’s important to me, you haven’t ever looked at my YouTube page. Courtesy!!!
AXS Live airs every Monday thru Thursday at 7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific, on AXS TV. Oh, and we’re completely LIVE! Our slogan should be: “We don’t have time to pre-tape, so we just broadcast our mistakes.”