Friday, June 1, 2018

Humor Fail

My joke in another post would have failed, so here is why

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Way back yonder, before Roku and other streaming devices, before we had the evil known as cable television, I saw an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show called "Father of the Week". It aired in 1962, so I appreciated it in syndicated reruns. Maybe I did see it on cable after all.

Rob (his character) was giving a talk to the kids about being a comedy writer. When he stumbled, the kids laughed. He pointed out that people laugh because they are surprised; something is unexpected. The old slapstick pie-in-the-face routine lost its charm long ago because it was used so much, but can be funny when it has an unexpected twist. Surprise is lost when jokes have to be explained, and they're usually not as funny.

My humor has been called "dry", and I see that this definition says that it is based on word play with a straight or "deadpan" expression. Well, some of my humor influences use plays on words. I like ambiguity in humor, but the word surely was ruined for me by the movie Airplane! Many of you will get it.

That's a problem with humor: someone will make a joke and people will not get it because of their frame of reference. This frame of reference often comes from knowledge and experience. Someone could make a joke about the recent royal wedding, and I probably wouldn't know enough about the subject to find it amusing. I could tell the same person a joke about geology and get a blank stare for my effort.

So, I had written a post on dark matter. Then I wanted to put in a joke, but it had problems. Since it would probably only be amusing to about five people, I will tell you why it fails.

First, it is based on American history and culture. There is a very old ruling that is often called the "one drop rule". That is, if someone has any trace of sub-Sahara ancestry (your white great grandfather married a black woman), then you are considered black. This is used for racism. In reality, there are ethnic groups, but not "races", as God made us all "one blood".

Second, the joke is in an article on theoretical astrophysics — at least, a portion that I kind of understand. Dark matter has never been proven to exist, only inferred by neglecting other possible explanations for what is observed.

Now for the joke fail, because I chose to lay out the background information in the last two paragraphs. Ready? The galaxy does not have enough dark matter to please secular scientists. But if it has a drop of dark matter, then the entire galaxy is dark, isn't it? Well, I hope the other parts of this article were a bit amusing and interesting.