CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For years I've been embarrassed over being incapable of telling a joke out loud without botching the punch line. Turns out I was simply ahead of my time. I was telling anti-jokes and didn't know it. Seems I'm not defective after all. I'm a specialist.
I'd never even heard of anti-jokes until my teenage daughter recently began rattling off one after another, which she was reading on Twitter.
"What's green and has wheels?"
"I dunno. What?"
"Grass. I lied about the wheels. What did the farmer say when he lost his tractor?"
"I have no idea. What?
"Where's my tractor?"
It was, in a way, like being transported back through time to when, at age 5, Celeste learned her first joke. ("Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9.") So amused was she by this joke that she honed the telling of it to perfection by telling it a few hundred times in rapid succession. In a single day.
I would've sworn that joke could never be funny again. And then she told me the anti-version.
"Why is 6 afraid of 7?" Celeste asked.
Before I could reply, she said, "It isn't. Numbers are not sentient and thus are incapable of feeling fear."
Most anti-jokes are spin-offs of familiar old jokes, except the punch lines are altered in such an absurd way that the revised is often more funny (I think) than the original.
"A duck walks into a bar. The bartender says, 'What'll it be?' But the duck doesn't say anything because it's a duck."
"A man walks into a bar. Except it was a metal bar, like a pole, and it hurt."
Or (my favorite):
"A dyslexic man walks into a bra."
I come by my appreciation of anti-jokes likely because of something that happened ages ago, on a road trip to the Ozarks for a family reunion. While on our way there, Dad told a long, drawn-out joke about a polar bear that had no punch line whatsoever. We thought it was awful. Gave him a hard time about it.
But once we were at the reunion, my brother and I were soon begging Dad to tell his polar bear joke. When he got to the end of it, Kurt and I were laughing hysterically. Some relatives joined us, either pretending to get the joke or unable to resist laughing too, while the rest stared at us like we'd lost our minds.