Overhauling of Old Jokes for Modern-Day Relevance and Accuracy.
BY Brian Boone
Old joke: “What is black and white and red [sic] all over?”
Punchline: “A newspaper.”
Argument for overhaul: This joke is primarily listed as a Category 4: Wordplay joke, but it is also listed under Category 7: Misdirects, and Category 12: Frequently Corrupted (e.g., in which the punchline is “two nuns in a chainsaw fight”). It turns on the similarity between “read” and “red” in order to confuse the listener as to what could possibly be both black/white and also red. No, a newspaper is read, not red, with the notable exception of the Financial Times, as well as the Soviet newspaper Pravda; for this reason the joke was never distributed in the USSR. However, newspapers are not “read,” either “all over” or “much at all” anymore. The Internet has slowly killed and continues to kill the newspaper industry, which has futilely fought back with smaller staffs, lower print runs, and draconian pay-walls.
Recommendation: The joke is to be reworded as “What is black and white and red [sic] all over? The digital version of a newspaper, on an Internet-enabled first-generation Kindle.”
Old joke: “What do you call a hippie’s wife?”
Old punchline: “Mrs. Hippie.”
Argument: The joke is a play-on-words (Category 4: Wordplay). “Mrs. Hippie” is a homophone, or sound-alike for the name of the state of Mississippi. The humor arises from the amusing English-language trickery, as well as from the irony over the complete lack of hippies in the state of Mississippi, past or present (see also Category 26: Hippies). While these Humor Sources are perfectly acceptable, it’s the innate senselessness of the joke upon which it must be changed. Hippies are marked by their rejection of societal norms and ritualistic traditions, up to and including marriage.
Recommendation: The new punchline will be “You call her by her name, or whatever she wishes to be called, as she rejects the patriarchal slavery of matrimony.”
Old joke: “Who would win in a fight between Mighty Mouse and Superman?”
Old punchline: “Superman, because Mighty Mouse is a fictional character.”
Argument: Nobody under the age of 70 remembers Mighty Mouse, and those over the age of 70 find him to be, at best, vaguely unsettling. People over the age of 70 are not to be trusted in matters of humor, for their main comedic icons are Red Skelton and amusing commercials for housewares.
Recommendation: Joke to be eliminated from circulation.
Alternate recommendation: The joke may be used—in a private setting ONLY— provided that “Mighty Mouse” is switched out for “Bing Search Engine,” which appeals to both Internet-savvy young people (as the new punchline implies that Bing Search Engine is such a failure as to be essentially non-existent) and the Mighty Mouse-familiar old people, who are users of the Bing Search Engine. The new joke further serves to make old people feel bad about themselves—as you know, all jokes are required to make one or more parties feel bad about themselves.
Old joke: “A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Hey, why the long face?’”
Argument: This is a rare Category 41: Meta/Assimilated Punchline joke, in that the punchline is subtly delivered and/or understood within the construct of the set-up (horses have long faces; the bartender notes this; if this were a joke about a human looking sad, or “having a long face,” it would have been followed by a traditional punchline). Occasionally, a joke can be a teachable moment. Every joke doesn’t have to be funny. This is one of those jokes: it must be rewritten—or a punchline added—to warn people about the growing public health crisis of horse alcoholism. (Subsequently, the joke will be reclassified under Category 11: Animals, and Category 99: Public Service.)
Recommendation: The new joke, in its entirety follows. “A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Hey, why the long face?’ So the horse says, ‘Because I am an alcoholic, and my body has been ravaged by the long-term effects of drinking. Please, help me.’”
Old joke: “Why does a fireman wear red suspenders?”
Old punchline: “To keep his pants up.”
Argument: A five-year, $18 million study of more than 300 fire departments in North America, Europe, and Asia found that 85 percent of all firemen and emergency rescue personnel wear yellow suspenders.
Recommendation: The set-up will change to the satisfyingly more accurate “Why does a fireman or an emergency rescue worker wear suspenders that are most likely yellow?” The punchline will remain intact.
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