His comment was: “That’s an old joke that I have seen on the net for years. This sounds like you saw it yesterday or something. Weird.”
This raises a good point about using humor.
When is it OK to use “old stuff,” to recycle humorous jokes and stories?
Acccording to many researchers much smarter than I, there are only Seven Basic Plots for all of literature:
- Overcoming the Monster
- Voyage and Return
- Rags to Riches
But according to Cecil Adams in The Straight Dope, “never mind the 36, 20, 7, or whatever basic plots–take out sex, violence, and death and you lose 90 percent of literature right there.”
You also lose a lot of the humor out there too.
The point being, there really is no new humor. Everything is recycled.
For a great example, grab a Boys Life Magazine from the 1970s and compare the jokes to a current issue.
So when we are looking for a joke, story, or observation to illustrate a point, the objective is to find the humor that fits. If you are concerned about being called out on old material, there are a couple of ways to handle this.
Start by saying: “I’m sure you’ve all heard the story about…”
Or, if very recent: “Did you hear what Letterman (or Leno, or whoever) said about this the other night?”
And if there is someone out there who has heard your story?
Trust in the fact that when most people say they can never remember jokes, it’s the truth. My job has been humor for a number of years, and the second time I took Comedy Defensive Driving, all the jokes were new again.
Another good strategy, when using humor, is to personalize the story, make it your own. Instead of “Two guys walk into a bar…” say “I stopped by the lobby bar for a drink last night…” or you may be able to change that particular venue into, “I stopped by Starbucks this morning…” Consuming alcohol is not always required for the punchline, a bar is just a place to meet. Make it a church, a restaurant or a football game.
It’s your story to use as you please, football can become baseball, a bar can become a classroom, strawberries can become Toyotas. Remember, if there are only seven basic plots, how you dress them is your option.
And if you are telling what is ostensibly part of your own story, who can say they have heard it before?
Next I’ll post an example of a modified story and variations.
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