Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Half Joking Whole Earnest - not so funny jokers!

“Many a true word hath been spoken in jest.”

I appreciate clever humour; intelligent wit and banter in the right context in the right company can be somewhat amusing.

What do you do when someone habitually says something that is not clearly received as being particularly funny and which contains some kind of veiled attempt to jibe or ridicule? When the attempted joke falls flat it is followed by 'Only joking!' 'Just kidding!' 'Only a joke!'


Here’s an example; ‘nice shirt but it’s wasted on you!’ ‘Yeah good one’ you think and then before you can say anything ‘only joking’ he says. Or, ‘where did you get your haircut? You should ask for your money back!’ (for the umpteenth time). And then you know what comes next don’t you? 

If, as happens often you respond to this 'only joking' joke with a hint of confusion expressed in quizzical tone accompanied by a facial contortion you will get the reply; 'only joking ...' And this makes everything right again. End of story. Right?

This is an easy out for the person who is known to embed a subtle message of criticism in some vague ambiguous utterance or contained in supposedly playful banter that can be construed as borderline offensive and less than amusing. This is not clever humour by any means. It is predictable and not worthy of an adult, senior in years.

Now I appreciate that it may be an issue of interpretation and so one may be inclined to allow the 'only jesting' jester the benefit of any doubt, but .... there is a consensus that when this jester jests he is also conveying a not so subtle jibe or dig at the targeted jestee.


I'm paranoid I hear you say but I'm not the only one who receives these gems of kiddology in such a fashion. The jester in question will also add to the 'only joking' line 'you should know me by now' chestnut. Now it would seem I don't know him that well and I should for if I had I would have ‘got the joke!’


No I don't know him (nor should I nor do I want to) whatever that means and his 'just a joke' caper is not a joke at all!


What's the goal of the 'just joking' and 'you should know me by now' faux wannabe humorist? What is he doing that he thinks others don’t know what he’s doing? I do have some theories but I won’t go into them here. I will however suggest some ways to deal with such boorish behaviour:
  • Avoid spending unnecessary time with him.
  • When he is only joking just respond by saying ‘is that so?’
  • Say ‘I don’t quite get what you mean but I’ll sleep on it.’
  • Say to yourself ‘his behaviour is bad but he is not totally bad.’
  • Remember that there are people in the world who lack any kind of insight and thus don’t change.
  • Say ‘that’s interesting’ and move on.
  • Tell him his behaviour can be offensive (though this doesn’t sit well with a narcissist).
  • Ask him to explain what he just said as it isn’t clear.
I will leave you with this quote from Clementine Ford who writes:

‘ ….. smart comedy doesn't spin gold out of an easy target. Jokes that rely on sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia or ableism to draw a laugh aren't saying anything new or interesting. Instead, they're doubling down on tired, hackneyed tropes about people who experience less power than the person telling the joke.’


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