I don’t want to offend people, so my rule of thumb is to wait a suitable time on jokes – to avoid being the guy who makes a gag about a natural disaster and then finds out that someone whose child was hurt by it is standing next to me.
I don’t want them to get mad. They might have a meltdown worse than Fukushima.
Too soon? Maybe.
So I wait – and despite a recent study that indicates that jokes are safe to tell about five weeks after a disaster, I will wait a little longer.
Because to not do so would be as dumb as being O.J. Simpson’s next girlfriend, am I right?
Is that too soon? That was 1992.
A recent study revealed the time frame for how funny we think jokes are about negative events: Fifteen days is too soon. Thirty-six days is OK. After 99, they start to go bad again.
It came from the University of Colorado and Texas A&M University. They studied the reaction of people to jokes about Hurricane Sandy as it prepared to hit, made landfall and after it was over.
The jokes probably weren’t as funny as the gag about when Bing Crosby had his fatal stroke on the golf course in 1977 – his playing partners made him count it! – but they were reasonably humorous.
The jokes were considered pretty funny before the hurricane hit. Once the damage became obvious, they stopped being funny. Fifteen days after landfall, the perception of humor in Hurricane Sandy jokes hit bottom. But then they rebounded and were considered funniest 36 days after it hit. They became less funny as time progressed.
They got less funny as time went by – like Carrot Top.
I supposed the time frame may change – for instance, 9/11 jokes weren’t very funny 36 days after the attacks, as we dealt with anthrax being sent in the mail and the invasion of Afghanistan, for instance. So someone who really cares about the subject might say this study really is only applicable to Hurricane Sandy jokes. So maybe the study is flawed.
In fact, you could make a case that the study was designed so badly, its architect was Frank Lloyd Wrong! Get it? You don’t? He was an architect who died in 1959.
Still, the study could save us some trouble. If it saves someone from offending others by telling one bad joke, it’s perhaps worthwhile – especially since bad jokes have caused more depression than anyone since Herbert Hoover, am I right?
Too soon for Depression jokes? OK, I’ll keep going back.
It’s interesting that the perception of whether something is funny goes down as time passes. And do you know what goes down well with ice? The Titanic.
Too soon? It’s been more than 100 years!
The university study didn’t identify whether things seemed funnier if the gags were told to a group of people, which seems important. Because one thing we can say about humor is that it’s often contagious. Or course, the same could be said for the Black Death, too. Am I right?
Still too soon? Anyone still around from the 14th century?
Since I don’t want to be offensive, I keep things a safe distance in history.
I don’t want to be like the ancient Egyptian who got run over while crossing the road.
He wanted to see his mummy.
Still too soon?
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.