Appreciation for Nerdy Jokes.

Click the image for the 0ther 20 jokes in this post, some of them are pretty good,  a guy at mcdonalds told me #11 while in line at the Mcdonalds inside Walmart (of all places), and i thought it was great, it’s what lead me to post this actually.

Jokes are a hard sell, something as subjective as humor can vary so much from person to person it’s  almost guaranteed that you’ll never find a unanimously liked joke.  Niche jokes are a particularly hard sell, because you’re intentionally limiting your audience. For example a joke involving Micheal Jackson, is only going to well received if the listener has at least some understanding of who Micheal Jackson is, therefore your audience is limited to those who are at least aware of Micheal Jackson. Being an extremely well known pop singer/ poster boy for questionable behaviors, it’s a pretty safe bet that the listener at least knows OF him, at least enough so that the joke can be deemed entertaining.

The image above however, is to what I’d consider an extremely limited audience. for this joke to land sucessfully, you’re relying on your audience having the pre-existing knowledge of two things.

  1. μ – (mu) pronounced “myew” is commonly used in physics to represent the known coefficient of friction.
  2. Sufficient understanding of physics to understand and infer that the cat with the lower coefficient of friction will slide off the roof first.

depending on the situation, that could be a very significant assumption to make, though other times maybe not. if you happen to be a physicist, working in a lab with 4-5 other physicists, it’s pretty safe to say that there’ll at least be a snicker.  If you’re a salesmen standing around by the water cooler, or whatever those people do, this may not be the quirky ice-breaker for this situation.

The further you limit your audience, the bigger risk of a comical faceplant if delivering to a target who you don’t know anything about. It is for this reason that professional Comedians usually stick to a common theme. The best example of this is the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” cast. They all share a theme and expertly pluck around all sides of the spectrum to end up with an extremely wide potential audience.

  • Jeff Foxworthy focuses on a simple pattern of association, speculation, and delivery for rapid payoff.
  • Larry the Cable Guy, Makes observations in character to both endear and entertain the audience through the use of his character.
  • Bill Engvall bounces around between situational comedy through story telling, and makes use very frequently of his connection with parents and married men and women, for an entertaining combination of relatable humor, and an an interesting endearment-repulsion mechanic which works extremely well, especially on couples watching together.
  • Ron White employs an interesting combination of charismatic story telling, from a gritty tell it like it is perspective. He is also known do dive into very inappropriate humor, but does so in a way to pull the audience on his side of the fence, and pull them closer in disgust, rather than disgust them away.

Together These four men pull together to form the metaphorical megazord of comedy, with a little bit for everyone, but still all beating around the same bush, styling that is a proven moneymaker.

I’ve just described to you the #1 Rule in comedy, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

Jokes though with limited audiences can be great, not so much for big name comedians whose livelihood is supported by keeping fans happy and hanging on every word, For them. risking a joke that maybe 5% of the audience gets is rather dangerous, because if someone is confused, they’re not laughing. For you and I though, limited audience jokes can be great, Without worrying about pleasing a large audience, and especially with people you are familiar with.  When trying to generate humor, the most important thing to do is to lead the recipient to the payoff, not drag them by their hair.  The easiest way to do this is by making use of known correlations. That sounds very vague, but that’s the point. Think to yourself for a second, the best jokes you’ve probably heard, were ones where you heard it, processed it, and it clicked in your head.  This is actually a known tactic for professional speakers, songwriters, poets, anyone who tries to make a memorable impact.  The Ideological grounding of this is that something you figure out yourself is analyzed in a completely separate part of your brain from things that you are told.

To belch out an incredibly condensed and simplified  explanation derived in a 97 page Behavioral Neuro-Biology paper on geletology (science of laughter, yes it’s a thing, look it up)  by Robert Provine that i read about a year ago:

There are several theories regarding chemically why we find humor, most well proven are the incongruity theory, ( triggered when a comic uses misdirection to in a small way surprise us, causing our brains to quickly react in an unexpected way) , the Superiority theory,( Slapstick/ physical comedy hits on this by introducing either a likeable character, but detaches us enough through either stupidity or clumsiness that we can laugh at their apparent hardship, such as the 3 stooges, or an inherently dislikeable character, whom bad things happen too, but we laugh because their character deems deserved. The villians of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Dudley Do Right, fall into this category.)  and the relief theory. ( commonly known as comic relief, which is a sudden change of pace. I can’t think of a better execution of this than is found in Les Miserables, when the horrifically depressing chain of events drags Fontine’s basic life to hell and back in what i’ve previously described as one of the most heart wrenching downward spirals of any character in any media I’ve ever witnessed, is at it’s peak as Fontine lies in bed after selling her hair, teeth, posessions, and body, singing her iconic song I Dreamed a Dream. The stage changes and you’re suddenly hearing the catchy upbeat song of the Thénardiers.

All of these theories have one thing in common, they exist because of the situation in which we think about the subject. That is because in order to cause laughter , multiple areas of the brain must work together

  • The left side of the cortex (the layer of cells that covers the entire surface of the forebrain) analyze the words and structure of the joke.
  • The brain’s large frontal lobe, which is involved in social emotional responses, must be triggered with at least some “connection” to the victim or implication of the comic material in question.
  • The right hemisphere of the cortex carries out the intellectual analysis required to “get” the joke.

If all of these things do not occur, we find something unfunny. there is conflicting evidence regarding whether more thought = a better payoff, but my view is that there is no answer, and different subjects will have a different preference for how much thought is required to get the joke.


So now that I’ve shared the mechanics of both performing and processing comedy, listed the types of comedy that are theoretically present , and cited several examples of each type, I suppose i’ll get back to my original point. Nerdy jokes rely heavily on prior knowledge, which makes the right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex recall that information, and occasionally figure out the joke itself, which for people that DO get the joke causes both the reaction of humor and achievement.

For people that don’t have the aforementioned prior knowledge, or the deductive facilities to process the payoff, the joke isn’t gotten, that’s the end of the story.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s