BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL
Linguist Robert Hetzron offers this definition:
“A joke is a short humorous piece of oral literature in which the funniness culminates in the final sentence, called the punchline. In fact, the main condition is that the tension should reach its highest level at the very end. No continuation relieving the tension should be added. As for its being “oral,” it is true that jokes may appear printed, but when further transferred, there is no obligation to reproduce the text verbatim, as in the case of poetry.” (Wikipedia).
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“You’re a joke.” “What a jokester you are.” “That’s quite a joke!”
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I heard, learned, was told that a person studying a foreign language really knows the language if he or she can tell a joke in the foreign language, or could understand jokes told in a foreign language.
“Did you hear the one about the . . . ?”
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I’m supposed to have a pretty good memory for details if I can remember them. I cannot tell jokes, or remember punchlines, or remember those details that make a joke “work.” That “punchline” eludes me, so I have historically been a very poor joke-teller. I’ve neither comedic tendencies nor gifts for telling.
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“The Story of Mel Fami”
Once upon a time, there was a great baseball pitcher, Mel Fami. He had a powerful left arm, but he had two major faults: He drank too much beer; and when he did, his pitching was wild and erratic.
A new, fresh young batter came up from the Minors and had to face Mel Fami for the first time. Pitch one: “Ball!” Pitch two: “Ball!” Pitch three: “Ball three!” Next: “Ball four!” So the young player made his way to first base.
The next batters were up, and walked. Bases loaded. Mel Fami was pulled. And the rest of the story . . . Page Two.
As the young player made his way across home plate, leaving the field, he noticed a pile of empty beer bottles close near Mel Fami’s dugout.
“What’s that all about?” he asked a teammate. “Oh, that’s Mel’s beer. The beer that made Mel Fami walk us.”
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Remembering jokes is a skill and an art. I’d never make a stand-up comedian. Nevertheless, teaching, my career, has often afforded me the opportunity to be a ham, a play actor, whether in the Head Start classroom, or in a graduate class. I even was a clown.
“Standing before the audience, reciting his lines, he told them about R-O-Y-G-B-I-V. Or about Pythagoras and his triangle, to demonstrate 127 feet from 1st to 3rd across the pitcher’s mound, or to explain the Oxford comma.” The story continues . . . Not too much humor there, unless accompanied by music” “Conjunction Function”
So I have left the jokes to those who have degrees in the comedic arts, who memorize well (which I always despised doing), who excel in punchlines. I, on the other hand, will continue socially, as best I can, in my humility, knowing my shortcomings, and that “Life is the search for the perfect night’s sleep.”
© James F. O’Neil 2022