Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Week In Review Director's Cut

Hey, Awards!

Last Week's Swinging Dicks

In third place, winner of two long screws meant for use in the mounting of Pottery Barn's Rustic Wine Glass Ledge in my dining room: Steve U, with 7 Favorites in the last five days.

Here's my favorite comment from Steve U from last week. This was one of last week's very best comments.

In a tie for second place, proud co-winners of a pair of "toggles", meant to anchor two long screws in the mounting of Pottery Barn's Rustic Wine Glass Ledge in my dining room: RMJ=H and Doug Exeter, with 8 Favorites each in the last five days.

Unbelievably, this is my favorite comment from RMJ=H from last week. RMJ=H had a lot of funny comments last week, but as I go back through them, I find myself really laughing a lot at this one.

This is far and away my favorite comment from DougExeter from last week. I know it's dark and some people are doing the whole "too soon" thing, but this joke absolutely killed me.

And in first place, winner of Pottery Barn's irredeemably awful Rustic Wine Glass Ledge, for which one will need neither the long screws nor the toggles because it is completely stupid and dysfunctional and is surely meant as some kind of malicious eff-you to anyone unfortunate enough to purchase it, but should do just fine as fuel for the fireplace: Raysism, with 9 Favorites (!) in the last five days.

Here's my favorite comment from Raysism from last week. So simple and so funny.

This fucking crap is yours if you want it. If anyone wants to putty up and repaint my goddamn wall while you're here, well, I sure wouldn't complain about it.

Wait, there's more!

The Monday Comment of the Day, from Raysism.

The Tuesday Comment of the Day, from IronMikeGallego.

The Wednesday Comment of the Day, from Steve U.

The Thursday Comment of the Day, from DougExeter 

The Friday Comment of the Day, from RMJ=H 

Congratulations, funny types.

The Unwelcome Lesson of the Week

So, I'm going to use someone's joke here, and I'm going to do it entirely without permission, and I'm going to beg that person's forgiveness, but, anyway, I think we can use it to work something out.

Here's the joke. Sorry, boss.

So, this is a dialogue joke. It has a couple of things going on:

1. It references the picture at the top of the post.
2. It appears to suggest something about Adam Morrison's personality.
3. It appears to suggest something about Luke Walton's personality.
4. It appears to suggest something about Ron Artest's personality.
5. It uses repetition, presumably to develop rhythm and timing.
6. It seems to be taking a shot at Adam Morrison's clothing.
7. It seems to pivot at the end, redirecting the dig at Lamar Odom.

I'm using this joke because I had a chance to learn what it is about: Lamar Odom is known among some people for having questionable taste in clothing.

Or . . . hang on a second, is that really what this joke is about?

For people who know a thing or two about Lamar Odom, his consistent choice of strange-looking jackets probably has a little bit of juice in it as a joke angle. For the rest of us, we might be able to divine from the content of this or another, similar joke that it reveals this particular truth about Lamar Odom, but that's not likely to be a very funny realization. And the author of the joke was smart enough to realize that Lamar Odom's poor taste in jackets was not, alone, enough to carry a joke. He packaged it, intuitively enough, inside a dialogue set-up, giving himself plenty of room to tease out this angle and supplement it with other funny little touches. That's the right move.

But let's look at the joke again: what is it about? I ask this because you've got to do an accounting of your joke, and in that accounting, the question must be asked: what's really funny about this joke? What's funnier: that Lamar Odom is known by some to wear ugly jackets? Or that a group of NBA players is sitting on the sideline of a game playing broken telephone? For my money, the broken telephone angle is the far funnier of the two. Think of all the room you're given to play around within that premise! Think of how perfectly absurd that idea is, before you even start dumping in the outrageous details! That's a fine starting point for a great joke, and if you want to punch it up with a silly, over-the-top criticism of Adam Morrison's clothing or, by extension, Lamar Odom's clothing, by all means, go nuts.

When I think of this joke, it brings to mind this joke, from a few months ago. Both jokes start with something known (or supposed) about a marginal NBA player. Both jokes use an absurd circumstance as a way of making use of what is known (or supposed) about that player. But the first joke fails to realize that what it is about is the silly circumstance, whereas the second joke packs all of its humor inside the circumstance. In other words, the punchline of the first joke shouldn't be that Lamar Odom wears crappy clothing - there's just not much there. When you've incorporated a circumstance that is all alone a lot funnier than that idea that spawned the joke, stick to the circumstance, and use the original idea as just some of the accent work of your joke. There's no rule that says your joke needs a punchline -  this is one of the funniest things I've ever read, and it has nothing like a punchline. Don't feel like you're bound to the idea that spawned your joke, especially if it brings you to a delivery device that is so, so much funnier than the original idea.

Make your joke about NBA players playing broken telephone on the sideline, use the players' idiosyncrasies to punch up that idea, and if there's not one strong punchline among those idiosyncrasies, say "to hell with a punchline" and just work the angle. It's the difference between a joke about Lamar Odom's bad jacket and a joke about Nick Young washing his dishes in the dryer. Or a joke about something that's not really widely known about a marginal player and a joke about all the fun that can be had inside the premise of a sex-for-access advertisement written by a depraved Edgar Allen Poe. Know thyself, gentle joke!

Hey, how about that Beyonce! Have a splendid evening. It's wonderfully flattering that you talented sumbitches keep checking in. Thanks for reading, as always.


  1. Recently the "too soon" debate went on (again), which I never really understood, but I want the record to show that, after
    [url =] this comment[/url] I get it.

    It's not too soon. It may be in poor taste. But, mostly, it's just not funny. Simple enough.

    1. I don't know, I think it's kinda funny. But, yeah, the only fair judgement of a joke is whether or not it's funny. "Too soon" and "poor taste" - those are just subjective, unenforceable value judgements, and I happen to subscribe to neither of them.

    2. Take this for what it's worth-- says the guy who scored with a Caleb Moore death-joke-- but a joke's got to have some special momentum to overcome the humor-drag of, y'know, murdered children. And hell, if the joke's essential punchline is, "Hey, remember that some kids died" then, yeah, no amount of time is going to save that one.

    3. I think the issue is that "funny" is also a subjective value judgement. That choir joke is really barely a joke at all, and I certainly don't think it's funny, but because that guy probably walks around using "Just sayin" and "that's what she said" as unironic punchlines on the reg, how are we supposed to tell him he's a shithead? "That's not funny" or "Your sense of humor/humor instincts are junk" has little weight when you can find a dozen burners to laugh at this type of trash:

      There's always someone that will laugh. Carlos Mencia's career depends on it.

    4. Look, I'm not going to say laughter is the same thing as sneezing, but if sneezing is at one end of the spectrum and, say, voting is at the other, laughter is absolutely on the sneezing end of things, know what I mean?

      In other words, I'm not totally convinced "funny" is a value judgement so much as it is the result of a mechanical process. Wait, no, in fact, I'm totally convinced it is the result of a mechanical process. "Funny" is something that happens to you whether you like it or not. Anyone who would make the argument that laughter is something we arrive at carefully or intellectually or with any value judgements has never lost their shit inappropriately during, say, a church service.

      Which is all a long way of saying we can't really choose to think something is funny or not. But we can certainly choose whether we think something is in poor taste. And I happen to be someone who is very rarely offended by a joke. I do have limits, but death jokes just don't even begin to approach them. That is subjective.

    5. I agree with what you're saying, re: mechanical process, and, not to be a pedant, but I'm thinking of "subjective" in the "occurs to everyone differently" sense. You may not know going into a joke what you'll think of it. But after the fact, you assign a value to it that explains just how funny you thought it was. That will be different for most everyone, which along with the fact that finding the damn thing funny was out of our hands to begin with, makes it really hard to prescribe a humor recommendation.

      Not that I don't agree that the "Too soon" people are awful, or that certain things should be obvious as being funnier than others, just unhelpfully pointing out that I don't think the resolution to that conundrum is to say that offensive is relative while funniness isn't.

    6. I agree with everything you and SavetoFavorites have said about this. I just think it's important to parse out the difference between why a joke might not work versus why a joke is out of bounds. A joke doesn't work if it doesn't make you laugh, if it doesn't trigger an involuntary response. That's a fair standard we can all apply. But suggesting that a joke is out of bounds involves incorporating a different set of rules, rules which are different for each of us and can't be applied with any amount of fairness.

      So long as we're all talking about the same thing - whether the joke worked - then we're being fair to the author. Did the joke do as intended, did it trigger the response? After all, the joke is intended to trigger the response. But we can't begin to hope to consistently provide an honest appraisal of the offensiveness of different topics, and anyway, a joke's purpose is not to interact in a meaningful way with our moral center. Subjecting it to that additional criteria is pointless.

    7. Right, what I forgot to say is this: I agree that humor is subjective, I just don't really agree that it's necessarily values-driven. And the important part is that an appraisal of a joke shouldn't include a values-based component, because personal values are much more variable than the way the basic mechanics of a joke work upon our sense of humor.

  2. A great man once said, "Always the fake bridesmaid that's dead with leukemia and never a real bridesmaid which would've totally satisfied all his needs if he would have just asked."

    That's the saying, right?

  3. Replies
    1. In all seriousness, I appreciate all the effort that went into picking apart my attempt at a joke. My first reaction, before even reading the post, was that here was a photo that could be turned into a comedic broken telephone bit. While it lacked the execution in the end that we've come to expect from the heavy-hitters at Deadspin (no, I am not disillusioned enough to place myself in that category), I thought there was a decent amount of room to work with, and got a bit of joy from spinning it from an 'Adam Morrison is a country bumpkin' into a 'Lamar Odom' needs a stylist joke, slipping in a little 'Ron Artest is not intelligent' angle as well.

      Anywho, always in appreciation of the time it takes to put these recaps together, Shitehawk. You're performing an integral service for those commenters whose egos need gentle strokes every so often, and for commenters like myself who are on the verge of breaking down all together. Again, thanks.

  4. Also, I remain amazed that, of all the jokes I told last week, you singled out a Polish joke.

    1. What can I say? I thought it was hilarious. I'm chuckling about it right now.