NON-NUTRITIVE HUMOR SUBSTITUTE

The fact that the Ferguson Police aren't smart enough to avoid using government email accounts to send one another racist jokes underscores the vast number of horrible (and horribly racist) being hurled through cyberspace like so many turds every day. Not too long ago, Scott Walker's ex-Chief of Staff was in hot water for sending the following joke. If you'll bear with me, I must quote it in full:

THE NIGHTMARE

In the nightmare I found myself nude in bed, and I was looking at a mirror on the ceiling, and I discovered that I am a Negro, and I’m circumcised!

Quickly I sat up, found my pants and looked in the pockets to find my driver’s license photo and it was that same color, black.

I felt myself being very depressed, downcast, sitting in a chair.

But it’s a wheelchair! That means, of course, besides being black and Jewish, I’m also disabled! I said to myself, aloud “This is impossible! It’s impossible that I should be black and Jewish and disabled!” “It's the pure and holy truth,” whispers someone from behind me. I turn around, and it’s my boyfriend.

Just what I needed!!! I am a homosexual, and on top of that, with a Mexican boyfriend.

Oh, my God …. Black, Jewish, disabled, gay with a Mexican boyfriend, drug addict, and HIV-positive!!!

Desperate, I begin to shout, cry, pull my hair, and Oh, nooooo…I’m bald!!!

The telephone rings. it’s my brother. He is saying, ‘Since mom and dad died, the only thing you do is hang out, take drugs, and laze around all day doing nothing. Get a job, you worthless piece of crap… Any job!’

Mom? Dad? Nooooo … Now I’m also an unemployed orphan! I try to explain to my brother how hard it is to find a job when you are black, Jewish, disabled, gay with a Mexican boyfriend, are a drug addict, HIV positive, bald, and an orphan, but he doesn’t get it.

Frustrated, I hang up. It’s then I realize I only have one hand!!! With tears in my eyes, I go to the window to look out. I see I live in a shanty-town full of cardboard and tin houses! There is trash everywhere.

Suddenly I feel a sharp pain near my pacemaker…. Pacemaker??

Besides being black, Jewish, disabled, a fairy with a Mexican boyfriend, a drug addict, HIV positive, bald, orphaned, unemployed, an invalid with one hand, and having a bad heart, I live in a crappy neighborhood.

At that very moment my boyfriend approaches and says to me, ‘Sweetie pie, my love, my little black heartthrob, have you decided what you are going to wear to Washington to see Obama?’

Say it isn’t so!!! I can handle being a black, disabled, one-armed, drug-addicted, Jewish homosexual on a pacemaker who is HIV positive, bald, orphaned, unemployed, lives in a slum, and has a Mexican boyfriend, but please, Oh dear God, please don’t tell me I'm a Democrat!

When my youngest nephew was about 3, I would tell jokes* to his older siblings and he would observe, not really understanding what a joke is or why the one I told was supposed to be funny. And every time he would laugh at exactly the right moment. He laughed because he understood that 1) what I was saying was a joke and 2) jokes end with a punchline and you're supposed to laugh at that point. It was the format he was responding to.

To me, the only thing interesting about this is marveling at what passes for humor among conservatives. You know my rule – if something is going to be offensive and racist, it better at least be funny. And that, to me, is the most offensive thing about this kind of "joke." It has all of the downsides of something racist, homophobic, and plain old mean with absolutely none of the upsides commonly associated with humor. Namely being funny or witty.

Until a few years ago when most of my family and friends who traffic in this sort of electronic detritus finally knew better, like most people I would receive emails of this type on occasion. And I reacted the same every time, not by saying "Hey this is really racist" (which would be denied flatly and produce an unproductive and overwrought exchange) but with "What about this is even slightly funny?" The email reproduced above looks like it was written by a 14 year old or someone with the mental skills and emotional maturity of a 14 year old. You know it's supposed to be a joke and it even shares many similarities in format with a joke, but it's devoid of everything that would make it even mildly amusing. It's stupid and sophomoric and unfunny to an extent that being racist and offensive isn't even the worst thing about it.

And so whoever writes this shit can rest assured that no actual humor needs to be involved because the intended audience is about as discriminating as my three year old nephew was. As long as they recognize the format and certain key concepts are invoked (farts, poop, black welfare queens, gays, etc.) they will laugh like trained seals and insist that it is Humor.

*Dog and a pony walk into a bar. Dog orders a beer. Pony orders *inaudible whisper*. Bartender says "I can't understand what your friend said" and the dog says "Don't mind him, he's just a little hoarse."

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49 Responses to “NON-NUTRITIVE HUMOR SUBSTITUTE”

  1. Arslan Says:

    Damn, even if we just ignored the racism and other heinous shit in that "joke," the punchline is so ridiculously unfunny. First he lists a bunch of things that your either born with, or you acquire involuntarily(e.g. you got in an accident that puts you in a wheelchair). Then the punchline is basically "I really don't want to be a Democrat." Gee, just change your voter registration then. Better yet, just don't vote for Democrats. One does not truly "be" a Democrat or Republican but by choice.

    Jokes usually have to contain some kernel of truth to be funny. If I say something like "What's the deal with all those Muslims getting drunk all the time," it's not funny because in general, Muslims are not known for hard drinking.

    Like so many other examples, here we see conservatives heaping racism and homophobia on top of a completely unfunny punchline.

  2. Racer X Says:

    Dog and a pony walk into a bar. Bartender says "Hey, why the long faces?"

  3. Talisker Says:

    @Arslan: Quite so.

    The not-so-hidden subtext is that Democrats are not fellow citizens who have made different political choices; they are monsters with an incurable affliction, forever beyond the pale of all that is right and true.

    I've heard Democrats talk about Republicans in much the same way; but at least the Democrats usually don't subject us to such awful attempts at humor.

    ####################

    A man walked into a bar with an amphibian on his shoulder, and said, "I'll have one beer for me, and one for my pet, Tiny."
    The bartender asked, "Why do you call him Tiny?"
    The man replied, "Because he's my newt!"

  4. Sifu Snafu Says:

    What do you call a black man flying a plane?

    The pilot, you racist bastard.

  5. anotherbozo Says:

    I still can't get past the use of the term "Negro." This was sent in an email, so it's a fair assumption that it dates post-1960?

  6. Xynzee Says:

    Two ants walk into a bar.
    You'd think the 2nd one would have ducked.

  7. Jerry Vinokurov Says:

    In honor of the great Richard Feynman, I refer to these sorts of "jokes" as cargo cult humor. All the formal properties of a joke, with none of the substance.

  8. Anubis Bard Says:

    It's not funny, but mostly because it comes from a different cognitive and cultural planet, not because it isn't a joke. It's an elaborate and exhaustive laundry list of conservative fear and contempt, but surprisingly painted upon one's own conservative body. Compared to the normal vitriol that passes for humor, it's done almost light-heartedly. Then after every possible example of conservative othering has been dumped down upon his head, the one final indignity that he can't bear is to discover that he is a democrat. Ha Ha, there is literally nothing worse than to find oneself an Obama supporter.

    To a conservative I'd think this is more than just the pattern of a joke. It has invasions, violations of various norms, a surprise twist and other things that go into making a joke. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy to despise conservatives and their humor, but I find this joke much more interesting to analyze as an actual, crafted conservative joke than to discard it as evidence of conservative vacuity.

  9. Anubis Bard Says:

    I meant inversions, not invasions.

  10. c u n d gulag Says:

    Conservatives aren't funny, because they suffer from an "irony deficiency."

  11. sluggo Says:

    I know funny.

    Imagine yourself driving a car, down a mountain road in a blinding rain storm. Every last brain cell is concentrating on keeping those four wheels on pavement. You could have Rodney Dangerfield doing his act in the next seat and you would not even smile. Because you are trying to concentrate. Think of that in the next meeting with the sour faced ass at work that everyone considers so serious. He is using all of his mental capacity just to keep up.

    One needs to have enough spare brain power to process humor. A joke needs to challenge your brain , yet not overwhelm it, for the joke to be funny to an individual. It needs to hit the intellectual sweet spot. Use your imagination about the intellectual sweet spot for these individuals that laugh at this.

  12. Emerson Dameron Says:

    A mushroom walks into a bar. The bartender says, "sorry, we don't serve mushrooms here." The mushroom says, "Hey, I'm a fun guy!"

    And the bartender says, "Well at least you're not one of those lazy, faggy democrats! Order up!"

    Maybe joke structure and the basic elements of comedy should be taught in middle school. So much of contemporary "humor" is just someone being a passive-aggressive asshole and hoping to get away with it with the guy-wearing-glasses "comedian" defense.

    As a big fan of surrealism and anti-jokes – the sort of material that can work brilliantly when the comedian knows which rules they're breaking – I resent that.

    Does anyone have footage of Glenn Beck's standup act? I've heard about it, but I'd love to see it for myself.

  13. Skepticalist Says:

    Even the worst "South Park" racist jokes are tempered with self-deprecating humor. That's the idea of it.

    Conservatives find their humor only at other's expense.

  14. J. Dryden Says:

    South Park's humor–however much it fails to land–is solidly based on the premise that racism is stupid–that even when racist stereotypes are enacted, it's the result of individuals making choices or reflecting cultural upbringing. Hence the proprietor of City Wok's fury at being informed that his behavior is the result of anything other than who he is as a person. (Again, this is not always apparent on first viewing.)

    This "joke" is not based in any such premise.

    P.J. O'Rourke remains one of the few conservatives who speaks from a position of A. self-aware self-mockery, and B. frequent empathy for those affected by social and economic injustice–blacks, the poor, addicts (categories he does not overlap.) He just doesn't believe that centralized government is to be trusted to competently address, much less alleviate them. Hence, his stuff is usually pretty funny.

    But he's an '80s-style conservative–one born out of the front-line observation of the burnout of the progressive movements of the '60s and '70s. Most conservatives to today STARTED with Reagan and then moved further to the right. And then further. And where Reagan used dog-whistle bigotry, the conservatives today see such nods to decorum as "capitulating to the fascism of the left." Hence, open racism, open sexism, open hatred of gays, and constant reassurance that such hatred is good and smart and brave.

    This "joke" really, really WANTS to use words like "nigger" and "faggot" and "wetback" and "kike." It really, really does, and you can juuuuust see them between the letters of each words. (Metaphorically–stop staring at your screen.)

    The terror is that soon enough, such jokes will speak their hate in such openness, and the creep will have been so gradual that the outcry will be mild and ineffective.

    Bottom line: This "joke" isn't meant to provoke a laugh–it's meant to provoke a nod. And that's scary.

  15. Skippper Says:

    The ironic thing is that conservatives are funnier when they're trying to be serious. Case in point: Last Sunday on the talking head shows when Traitor Tom Cotton announced that Tehran had fallen to the Iranians and that Iran was now setting its sights on Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut.

    The letter from the 47 idiots was addressed to the Foreign Minister of Iran, lecturing him on American politics. This is a guy who went to prep school in the US, got a BA and an MA from San Francisco State, and another MA and a PhD from the University of Denver. He studied international relations and international law and policy. He must have been peeing his pants being lectured to by a bunch of piss-ant Teabaggers on how the US government works.

  16. moderateindy Says:

    In honor of St Pats day…..
    Irishman walks into a bar in Dublin, orders three
    pints of Guinness and sits in the back of the room,
    drinking a sip out of each one in turn.

    When he finishes them, he comes back to the
    bar and orders three more. The bartender tells him, “You know, a pint goes flat after I draw it, It would taste better if you bought one at a time.”

    The Irishman replies, “Well, you see, I have two
    brothers. One is in America, the other is in
    Australia, and I’m in Dublin. When we all left home, we promised that we’d drink this way, to remember the days we drank together.

    So I drink one for each o’me brothers and one for me self.” The bartender admits that this is a nice
    custom, and leaves it there.

    The Irishman becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way. One day, he comes in and orders just two pints All the other regulars take notice and fall silent.

    When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, “I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your loss.”

    The Irishman looks quite puzzled for a moment, then a light dawns in his eye and he laughs. “Oh, no, everybody’s just fine,”He explains. “It’s just that since I married me girlfriend, to keep her happy I had to join that Baptist Church and I had to quit drinking……. Hasn’t affected me brothers though.

  17. Scotius Says:

    @J. Dryden,

    I used to think that PJ O'Rourke was funny too. In fact, he really was funny back in the 80s. Then I came across the following piece of "humor" from him a few years ago:

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704050204576218600999993800

    Looks like he hasn't aged well at all.

  18. quixote Says:

    @moderateindy, thanks for that! I laughed out loud, and every person I collared and read it to laughed out loud too. Made my day :D

  19. Mo Says:

    Dittoing quixote and forwarding it to all my deserving relatives.

  20. Major Kong Says:

    An Irishman walks out of a bar.

    Hey! It could happen!

  21. Michael Says:

    I remember thinking PJ O'Rourke was kinda funny until I grew out of the "girls are icky" phase and realized he never had.

  22. TxKid Says:

    A dyslexic walks into a bra…

  23. Mr. Wonderful Says:

    I've said this before–even here–but our host's long, hideous joke illustrates it: conservative humor is always (yes, always) about stereotypes. Okay, so are all racist, sexist, and ethnic jokes. So why are some funny (however deplorable), while these conservative efforts are so uniformly horrible?

    I think it's because the funny ones focus on (stereotyped) character traits that, while in a bigoted way are used to define specific races or ethnicities, are nonetheless universal. Jews are cheap, blacks are stupid, the French are cowards, etc.–the ethnicities are used to embody universal qualities, and we've all know times (if we're honest, which conservative jokesters usually are not) when we ourselves have been cheap, stupid, or cowardly.

    The punch line of conservative humor, though, is devoid of this universal component, because it's always "liberals are bad." That's why its audience will always laugh (or, at least, "laugh") and why the jokes are never actually funny. Their humor is an appeal to ignorance in the form of a joke, and an invitation to reinforce prejudice (and assuage insecurity) by displaying membership in the group. Conservative humor is group therapy for stupid people.

    BTW, Ed's observation about his nephew is right on. When my kids were 2 or 3, they'd discover knock-knock jokes and construct their own, e.g., "Knock knock." "Who's there?" "Ice cream." "Ice cream who?" "Ice cream cone." No, it isn't funny, but it serves as practice for mastering the form. The content comes later.

  24. Ed Says:

    P.J. O'Rourke was hysterical before he became a conservative. Dennis Miller was funny also before he became a conservative. Guys haven't said shit funny since.

  25. Skepticalist Says:

    This joke reminds me of Nazi humor.

    Even to them this kind of thing wasn't really funny. It was one of their simplistic ways to illustrate just how necessary it was to eliminate Jews, stutterers, epileptics and queers.

    Now it's migrated to the GOP. It fits in with "The 700 Club" too. The latter being Pleasure Police headquarters.

  26. PhoenicianRomans Says:

    @Skippper: The ironic thing is that conservatives are funnier when they're trying to be serious. Case in point: Last Sunday on the talking head shows when Traitor Tom Cotton announced that Tehran had fallen to the Iranians and that Iran was now setting its sights on Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut.

    Which is an interesting choice of fantasy targets to rant about – the US has ACTUALLY had troops in Iraq and the Lebenon – and is now sending them to Syria. So Cotton's anxiety isn't so much that Iran will prove a warmongering aggressive regional power – but that it will step on the US's perogatives as THE warmongering aggressive global power.

  27. PhoenicianRomans Says:

    Emergency dispatcher gets a call from a breathless hunter. Hunter says "You gotta get me help quick – I'm out here hunting with my buddy, and he's has a heart attack or something! I think he's dead!"

    Dispatcher says "Calm down sir, help is on the way. First things first though, are you sure he's dead?"

    Hunter says "Hold on" and puts the phone down. The dispatcher hears a pause, then a gun shot. Hunter picks up the phone and says "Ok, now I'm sure. Whats next?"

    Dispatcher says "Was he a Democrat or a Republican?"

    Hunter says "Democrat, just like me."

    Dispatcher says "Kill yourself too, hippy."

    Everyone laugh.

  28. Nate Says:

    I don't want the "conservative" sense of humor to go away. It's an obvious red flag to let anyone know who they are actually dealing with.

  29. schmitt trigger Says:

    Nate;
    fully agree with you.
    When you are at a gathering with a bunch of unknown people, and you are trying to "calibrate" your behavior to be accepted, nothing tells you to excuse oneself faster than listening one of these jokes.

    It saves you time and aggravation.

  30. JAFD Says:

    Two lawyers went to the shopping mall.
    One said to the other,
    "Let's go to the Food Court, and try some food."

  31. Xjmueller Says:

    A skeleton walks into a bar and says, "gimme a beer and a mop."

  32. Khaled Says:

    Part of being funny is being an asshole. If you're not making fun of someone, you're probably not that funny. What separates being an asshole and being a comedian is who you make fun of. Comedians make fun of people in power, assholes make fun of strangers and friends. Since part of being funny is making fun of people in power, conservatives who worship authority figures aren't funny. They don't understand the humor, because they suck up to authority, oligarchs, etc.

    South Park is funny, but remember the character who spews the most hatred and racist jokes, Cartman, is there to be laughed *at*, not laughed with. The South Park guys politically seem to be "libertarian", in the sense that they want to smoke pot but not pay taxes. Which basically sums up most WASPy people under the age of 35 that are libertarian.

  33. R E G Says:

    I have a ton of Irish relatives who could leave you breathless with laughter telling the most mundane of stories. In their memory and in honour of St. Patrick I will attempt to continue the story of "Joe" above.

    Upon learning he was a democrat, Joe was struck with a sudden crushing pain in his chest. When the white light had cleared he realized he was on the road to the pearly gates.

    To his surprise St. Peter came rushing down the road to meet him. "Joe! Joe! we had given up hope we'd ever see you hear. This is amazing – I can't believe you are finally here!

    We were sure that when you were crippled you'd "turn your face to the wall" and be along right quickly. But when Social Security gave you disability you perked right up…

    Then you met your nice Mexican friend.Now there's a man who took "visit the sick" and "feed the hungry" to heart. Knowing him did you a world of good.

    And who could imagine how far those secular humanists could run with free will, the Parable of the Talents, and human rights? When I was out on the Sea of Gallilee I never dreamed there would be handicapped accessible fishing for boys like you.

    It's just a near miss that you are even here today. If there had been a little more in the infrastructure budget the ambulance would have made it in time.

    Step on in! We're glad to have you! You'll meet God a little later.

    He's in a budget meeting.

  34. PhoenicianRomans Says:

    […]

    The actor concludes with "So the father is sitting there in a pile of shit, the sister and brother are screwing each other covered in vomit, and the family dog is eating the mother's entrails, ALL ON THE SAME STAGE!!"

    The agent sits there completely stunned. After a long pause he asks "And what will you call this act?"

    And the actor says "The Democrats!!!!"

    And the agent says "I'll book you on Bill O'Reilly tomorrow!"

  35. Noel Barrett Says:

    A priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says "what is this, some kind of joke?"

  36. Bob Says:

    1988 or 89 my eldest son was 3 or 4. An old college friend came to visit and one drunken evening I told him a joke….
    Q: Knock-knock
    A: Who’s there?
    ….and repeat waaaaaaay too many times. After a dozen or so knock-knock/who’s there’s I said “Philip Glass”
    I tell the joke, Bill, my old college friend laughs uproariously (we listened to a lot of Philip Glass back in the day) and Jed, my son knows he’s just hears a funny joke but has no clue what it means.
    For the next year or so it’s his go-to joke only in his telling the punchline is “fill the glass”. Get a room full of adults and the cute little boy starts in with the repetitive knock-knock which everyone plays along with because he’s a cute little boy. Finally he blurts out “fill the glass” to puzzled looks all around until I burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all, Jed bursts out laughing because he thinks it a killer joke and before you know it everyone in the room is laughing uproariously because no one wants to be the only person in the room to not get it.
    No one ever came to me later and asked what the hell it meant.

  37. Skepticalist Says:

    God must have farmed out the project of finishing the male urinary tract. Running a waste disposal system through an amusement park probably wasn't the original plan.

  38. Bitter Scribe Says:

    Isn't it funny (in the peculiar, not ha-ha sense) how racists just happen to gravitate to the staffs of conservative politicians?

  39. Arslan Says:

    Bob's story reminds me of the "No soap. Radio." joke experiment. It's an easy way to mess with people. You have one person who's in on it and then you need one or more people who have no idea. You tell the following joke:

    Two polar bears are sitting in a bathtub together. One of the polar bears asks the other to pass the soap. The other polar bear replies, "No soap. Radio."

    At this point, your ringer should burst out laughing(convincingly, hopefully). You laugh too. In most cases, the people around you will also start laughing just because they don't want to look like they didn't get the joke.

  40. democommie Says:

    Only jews are circumcised? Shit, I never even got a Bar Mitzvah and yet I'm STILL guilty of murdering JESUS? WTF?

    How did that joke manage to push all of those buttons and yet NOT fellate the NRA?

    P.J. O'Rourke can be funny, but he's still a classist jerk. One of the things that coincided with his "Road to Damascus" moment was his becoming well-to-do. I have about eight of his books. I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire.

    Good joke to tell your racist cath-o-lick* friends, when they roll out shit like the subject e-mail:

    What's the plural of rectum?

    Rectory.

    * Yes, I was a cath-o-lick before I became self-aware.

  41. Mr. Wonderful Says:

    I worked with O'Rourke at Nat Lampoon. He didn't lack talent, but his politics even then–not to mention the casual sexism, occasional 'funny' racism, etc.–were repellent. And his Sammy Glick-ish careerist calculations were contemptible. They "worked," in the end–he got made ed.-in-chief–but it caused an exodus of talent (including mine) and hastened the mag's demise.

    And don't get me started on John Hughes…

  42. Bitter Scribe Says:

    Mr. Wonderful: Is it true what Tony Hendra said about O'Rourke…that he kept trying to get R. Emmett Tyrell's stuff into the magazine? Hendra described Tyrell as "an odious little fruitfly" and his writing as "great swatches of Latinate alliteration draped over gutter-level bigotry."

    And I hear you about Hughes. Now there's a musical about how wonderful he and his movies were. Gag.

  43. Mr. Wonderful Says:

    Not while I was there, although it's possible he did after I left. Hendra's description is perfect. Tyrell's nasal retentive writing is to Wm. F. Buckley's (corrected from Fuckley) writing as Tucker Carlson's bow tie is to George Will's.

    I was asked to be interviewed for a bio about Hughes but declined–I didn't want to be the cranky old nay-sayer surrounded by acolytes.

  44. democommie Says:

    Speaking of people like Hughes and O'Rourke.

    I often hear people talk about what a great person somebody was, before they became rich. Wrong. Assholes are assholes, the difference is that they don't have to act like they aren't assholes when they're rich.

  45. bughunter Says:

    You've picked up on what I've been observing for years. Reactionary conservative "humor" solely consists of the repetition of their tropes and fallacies. They're dogwhistles downconverted to the range of human hearing, and stamped "joke." Notably missing are any sort of true wit, irony, inventive puns, surrealism, pranks, or, dog forbid, social empathy. It's all contemptuous stereotype and reinforcement of their cognitive dissonant paradigms.

    Good humor is observant and enlightening – or in the very least (in the case of slapstick and funny videos of kids and animals), relies on some empathy with the subject. We see none of that in conservative "humor." It's all bigotry, chauvanism and xenophobia dressed up in a clown suit.

  46. JAFD Says:

    Back in the 1980's, there was a series of soft-pore corn books, "Sapphire Star", written by a "P.J. Royce". Wondering if that was Mr. O'Rourke's way of picking up some extra cash. Seemed to be some similarities in the writing styles (but since it has been a quarter-century since I've read either, won't press the point very hard.).