A Million Jokes, Only Eight Categories

by Michael Hartney on March 24, 2009

On March 20th, British newspaper Telegraph reported that evolutionary theorist Alastair Clarke has identified eight categories into which every joke ever told can fit, regardless of place or time.

Positive Repetition: We are, after all, two wild and crazy guys.

Scale: Wait a second…all those clowns can’t fit into that car!

Qualification: This apparently has to do with a familiar word being said in an unfamiliar way.  Or, as I like to call it, Seinfeld.

Qualitative Recontextualization: When something we know has changed.  Like Garth’s hair after settling down with Kim Basinger in Wayne’s World 2.  When in doubt, look to the classics.

Application: A double meaning.  Like “working girl”.  Or “pearl necklace”.  Or “anal intercourse”.

Completion: Where the audience is called upon to finish the joke.  Knock knock.

Division: A priest, a rabbi, and a polysexual water nymph walk into a speakeasy.  For the thrilling conclusion to this joke, look under the lobby doormat at 1540 Broadway (at 45th Street).  There will be a Post-It.

Opposition: Irony and sarcasm.  Like ray-hee-ain.  On your wedding day.

So there you have it.  Mr. Clarke sounds hilarious.  I just used opposition!  Oh, snap!  Oh, wait…is “oh, snap” positive repetition?  Hmm…I’m not sure.  Science, after all, is hard.

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