A Word About Comedy, Chickens, and How To Avoid Rudeness

Once upon a time some clever man observing some nearby fowl happened upon the queerest thought. So queer in fact the absurdity and sarcasm of it made him chuckle. I like to think that this is the beginning of the world’s oldest joke. Perhaps this man was with some friends soon thereafter who were exchanging humorous stories when he spoke up:

Man: Say, I’ve a question for you. Why did the chicken cross the road?
Friend: *thoughtful*I’m sure I don’t know.
Man: Why, to get to the other side of course!
Friend: *genuinely delighted* Ha! Now that was clever! I didn’t see that coming!

No, doubt that friend told another friend and so the joke spread like wildfire. But human beings are reasonable creatures. Most of us know when a particular thing has outlived its usefulness. We retire the thing and move on. After decades of making unsuspecting hearers chuckle at the wit of it, the chicken joke finally became so ubiquitous that it was no longer humorous. So people ceased telling the joke but it is not forgotten. It remains as a memorial to the humor and sarcastic wit of our forefathers. Indeed, it has become the model joke and perhaps, some would say, the standard. But nevertheless it is retired. No one would actually dream of walking into a group or a party and actually delivering the joke expecting the same response as any other joke. Namely, because everyone and his brother knows the answer. The surprise is discovered. The cat is out of the bag. To actually in all seriousness deliver this joke would be probably raise some eyebrows (and even some ire). It is retired and we all know this.

But I see the end of another famous gag on the horizon though there are some who can not see the handwriting on the wall. There is another witticism that has simply run its course and there is no longer a need to bring it up or even attempt to deliver it. It goes something like this. A man is working on something and needs a hand from a nearby friend. The joke requires this kind of set up to work and therefore is usually delivered at the most inopportune times. Moreover it is a very one sided joke. It is only entertaining for the one delivering it. The conversation would go like this:

Man: I’ve almost got this—but I could you hand me those pliers?
Friend: *looking serious* No. *starts to grin* Ha! Just kidding. Here ya go.

Now the first man is simply annoyed and not at all entertained because he has had to wait unnecessary 5-10 seconds while his friend made this tired, irritating joke from which the first man derived no pleasure. It was simply a waste of time and breath.

I bring it up because this past week someone made this blasted joke at me and, frankly, something in me snapped. I kept my cool. It was probably apparent that I was annoyed but I did not let on that I was on the verge of screaming. This gag’s time has come and gone. Hardly anyone makes this joke anymore. But there are certain types among us who still find it fun to feign rudeness. Why anyone would find this entertaining is beyond me.

Please, people of the world, let this gag which has doubtless run its course, go away and join the chicken joke in the annals of humor history. It had a good run during its time but it has become an annoyance. So stop it already!

Josh H.

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