I used to love telling long jokes.
I still love jokes, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that the faster the lead-up, the more abrupt the punchline, the better the effect.
And it all has to do with the internet.
Playing sports in high school, there was nothing better than telling jokes on a dark bus on the way home. We’d all crowd around a handful of seats and tell the dirtiest, most ridiculous jokes we knew. And of course, the longer the joke, the more time you killed and the longer you got to be the center of attention. One of my favorites was about 3 guys who show up in front of St. Peter at exactly the same moment, and madness ensues (it’s really not funny enough to share anymore).
But when I tried to tell the same jokes in college, they weren’t as funny–not to me or to my friends. They took too long and the punchlines were too childish or “hey-look-we’re-talking-about-sex!”
The same thing happened when I first started writing for the web. Years of English papers and creative writing projects poured out onto the page. And they sucked. It took a while to figure out that we don’t read websites the way we read other media. I’m still working on that (as you can tell from this longish post).
Is it a coincidence that I was part of the first class of freshman at Virginia Tech who were required to bring their own computer (1998, not that long ago!)? Is it a coincidence that we were starting to consume more and more media online and were starting to get bored with the old long format?
Maybe. But it helps me remember to keep it short, make it surprising, and hopefully give people something they can take with them. And it helps me tell better jokes.
Sorry it took me so long to get to the point.
New favorite joke: A tray of muffins are in the oven and one muffin leans over and says, “Boy, it sure is hot in here.”
The other muffin replies, “Holy crap, a talking muffin!”