Comedy writer Axel Loffmann thought it was just him. Maybe he was going through a dry period. But when Loffmann asked around the comedy community (Schenectady), he started hearing the same thing over and over: they were all out of jokes.
“I’ve warned people for years that we were facing a funny shortage, but they all laughed,” says Loffmann. “Well, who’s laughing now? Literally no one.”
It’s difficult to quantify the exact decline in funny in recent years because nobody takes this stuff seriously. But observers have seen plenty of anecdotal evidence pointing to a global comedy shortfall.
“If we look at the number of banana peels produced, that has remained consistent over time,” says ecomicist Gretchen Smakbautum, whose name has plummeted in comic value in recent months. “But the number of people slipping on said banana peels is rapidly approaching zero.”
According to Smakbautum, there have been no documented funny things since December 27, 2022 when Grandma’s dentures got clobbered by the ceiling fan. “Since then, squat,” said Smakbautum, who then proceeded to recite an entire Monty Python sketch, which was funny in high school but now just sad.
The humour shortage seems to be hitting western countries particularly hard, and countries like Canada and the United States have been reduced to importing their comedy from so-called “Comedy K” countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kookamonga. Ironically, there are a lot of Polish jokes.
A survey of North American comedy clubs reveals that more and more comedians are opening their act with, “Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘comedy’ as…”
Even the simple Rule of Three appears to be broken, and experts believe the only way to remedy this is through government intervention, a societal reassessment of what exactly comedy is and a third thing that breaks the pattern in a surprising way but in this case doesn’t.
So what is the reason for this dearth of yuks? And why isn’t anyone suggesting “Dearth of Yuks” is the name of their death metal band?
Some have blamed “woke” culture for chilling comic expression, with comedians afraid to push boundaries for fear of being “cancelled.” But a team of scientists from the Poughkeepsie Institute of Groucho Glasses has concluded that this so-called “edgy humour” has always really just been comedians saying “fuck.”
Instead, we must turn to that usual scapegoat: the Internet.
Over the past decades, the Internet has triggered a global glut of gags, with humour being produced at a tremendous rate and made cheaply available. However, with no regulatory body to manage comedy supplies, it was only a matter of time before comic set-ups were, like actor Chris Pratt’s already limited goodwill, depleted.
The comedy market has also been flooded in recent years with cheap and poorly constructed satire that has lowered public confidence in comedic output.
“People would throw something on a ‘fake news’ site about, say, how Obama drinks the blood of puppies. But lying is not the same as satire. Satire is complex and must include rhetorical indicators such as irony, hyperbole or wordplay,” says Gretchen Smakbautum, whose pants kept falling down with unsatisfying comic timing.
Then there is the fact that humour is based on surprise, and nothing is surprising anymore. Comedy simply can’t compete with the outright lies and fabrications of the post-Trump era. Plus, with wars, extreme weather events, earthquakes and Republicans, the world simply isn’t funny anymore. Normally this paragraph would end with some kind of zinger. But, alas, no.
So is it the end of comedy? There is hope that there may be as yet untapped sources of humour. For example, early research suggests that there is comic possibility to be had in that middle state between dreaming and wakefulness. Other people’s dreams, of course, are inherently boring, so the challenge is to construct something both funny and coherent out of semi-conscious thoughts like “handshake water” or “International Slope Day: A Celebration of Minor Inclines.”
And of course, in the words of beloved comedienne Whitney Houston, “I believe the children are the furniture,” and like a three-piece sectional sofa, youth may be the centrepiece around which we build our living room of laughter. For wherever there is child laughing uproariously at, “Knock knock. Who’s there? Poopoo,” there is hope.
Ross, the internationally acclaimed mirth expert madame Farcedepet has declared “Funny won’t die as long as Mr. Murray is alive.” So I think we’ll be OK as long as you look after yourself really well. Fingers crossed. 😉
“Farcedepet” — that’s terrific. Hi, Marc. Always a pleasure to hear from you.
Hopped over from Ned Hickson’s post, and am booked solid for the rest of the evening. I have a work deadline and I hope you and Ned are happy to be giving my boss an aneurysm.
Ned is the best. Hope they treated you well at the border.
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Slam bam thank you Ross. Back in full form.
Ending’s weak, but so am I.
A weak way to end the weekend or a strong way to start the week?
Can we blame it on the Russians?
I’ll allow it.
In Australia, the trend you note has been one of sharp decline since May 2019 when former Labor party leader, Bill Shorten lost power and with that Australia lost the ‘Zinger’.
Ask famous Australian comedian Shaun Micallef about that – his Mad as Hell satire program is no longer on TV.
An amusing piece, thanks.
PS: to the other person in the world who might just find my comment mildly amusing, I salute you cuz.
To explain the joke to others
a Zinger is a weak put down – has no sting.
You’re on a roll. I’ve been sent your way by two separate bloggers I follow (Ned, and Bill @ PinkLightSaber), and as far as I know they’re unaware of each other.
I think they’re on to something…
I’m not sure whether they do, but I’m proud to call them both friends. We’ve all been hanging out here for 10+ years now.