In my last blog, Jokes without Performed Setups, I discussed how some setups exist in shared knowledge and don’t need to be express by the comedian. In this blog, Joke without Performed Punches, I’ll show how some setups are crafted that the punch doesn’t need to be expressed by the comedian.
It may seem odd, but there are some jokes that don’t require an expressed punch. An example of this is the following joke where the setup leads to an inevitable, obvious punch:
“I went to this expensive restaurant that had a waiter for everything. The water waiter gave me water. The food waiter gave me food. The head waiter…”
How did you complete the punch? Me too.
Jokes without performed punches require a specialized setup. This joke begins before it begins. First, we must have the shared knowledge that restaurants have head waiters. Second, we must also know that head means oral sex.
Next the above joke uses a rhythm of three with the word, “gave”, and the connector, “head”, to manipulate the audience into finishing the joke for themselves.
Lastly, the reinterpretation, about the speaker receiving oral sex, is so strongly implied the punch doesn’t need to be said. The audience supplies their own meaning of the connector, “head,” to create the reinterpretation, oral sex, and that shatters the target assumption boss.
All of this very clever use of the rhythm of three along with some well used ambiguity gives us a joke without a performed punch.
Whereas this joke by comedian and friend Zorba Hughes works off of shared knowledge.
“The Smithsonian has opened the African American museum. And they found the actual bus Rosa Parks road when she refused to give up her seat to a white man. I only have one question. Are they going to put the bus in the front of the museum …?”
This joke requires the shared knowledge of American history when blacks were required to sit only in the back of the bus and to give up their seat if a white person requested it. And that Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus and refused to give up her seat to a white man.
If an audience member doesn’t have this shared knowledge, then they won’t get this joke because they won’t finish the punch, “or in the back of the museum.” This is another way of writing a joke that doesn’t have a performed punch.
Joke without performed punches is another reason to know and understand my mechanisms of target assumption, connector, and reinterpretation. This knowledge of joke structure gives you the awareness and language to identify and discuss unusual joke structures.