Joke Books and Their Routine

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Jackie Stam
Unit 5
Comp and Lit 1

Holt tells us that joke books became routine after the first one was published in English in 1484. Jokes remained fairly lowbrow until the middle of the 19th century when with especially the clever retort became prized in English culture. A typical joke concerned a hefty fellow rushing to Florence late one evening. He asked a peasant “Do you think I’ll be able to make it through the city gate?” The man replied, “Why if a cart of hay can make it through, you can, too!”

No one embodied this shift better than Oscar Wilde. Holt tells us that in the 1890s, poet Sir Lewis Morris complained to Wilde because he was not to be named England’s poet laureate. “It’s a complete conspiracy of silence against me,” Morris said, “a conspiracy of silence! What ought I to do, Oscar?”  “Join it!” Wilde replied. While detailing this history, Holt discusses the three major theories of humor. The “superiority theory”, propounded by Plato and Groucho Marx, sees the essence of humor in mockery and derision, in the “sudden glory we feel when” those we dislike are leveled whether they be the high and mighty or members of religious and ethnic groups.

After researching about various television shows I found this joke from "Friends," episodes two hundred and two. It is a dialogue between Chandler and Joey who are asking their friend Carol about breastfeeding. Chandler asks Carol, "Carol I was just wondering if Joey could ask you questions about breastfeeding?" Carol replies, "Sure." Joey then asked her, "Uh, does it hurt?" Carol said, "Well, at first but not anymore." Joey then says, "Oh. Chandler?" Chandler then asked Carol, "So uh, how often can you do it?" Carol replied, "As much as he needs." Joey then said, "Oh okay I got one. Uh if he blows into one does the other one get bigger?"

There are topical jokes, perennial jokes, cultural jokes, and universal jokes like, “I was so unpopular when I was little, even my imaginary friend...
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