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Saturday, 10 December 2016

When is a joke not a joke?

When is a joke not a joke?
When it's from a Christmas cracker.
For our Christmas Special of The Museum of Tat we reviewed some Christmas crackers - if you haven't listened yet, skip below and listen before you read the following...


The Remains of the Day...
So, the crackers held four jokes in all - and they were not only not very good, some of them weren't really jokes.
Here's the first joke:
What do you get if you cross Father Christmas with a detective?  Santa Clues!

Right... it looks like a joke, it's structured like a joke, and if you don't hang around you might not notice that it isn't.
So, the joke looks like it's a simple bit of wordplay - it should end on a pun...

What do you get if you cross Father Christmas with a detective?  Santa [Insert Pun Here]
Unfortunately, Clues doesn't rhyme with Claus.  I don't think alliteration is enough to provoke a laugh response.  It's a half joke, it's got the right idea, but doesn't actually deliver.

Next joke from the cracker:
What do you call a man who claps at Christmas? Santapplause!

Where to start... well, on the surface this looks like a better joke than the last, because it does contain a functioning pun, justifying the term joke when describing it.
However, dig just a little deeper and you immediately see the joke doesn't function properly.  You see it now?  Of course you do.  The joke is only funny if the man referred to in the joke is Santa, but the set up doesn't really push you in that direction.  Statistically speaking, a man clapping at Christmas is almost certainly not Santa for two reasons.
1. The population of the world is approximately 7.4 billion and the odds that one of those 7.4 billion, who identifies as 'a man', is going to be a specific person (Santa) is so improbable as to be practically impossible.
2.  Santa doesn't exist.
Beyond setting up the approximate timing of the event in question - clapping at Christmas time (somewhere between early December and early January potentially) - the joke doesn't give any clue, even half hidden, that the identified man would be so improbable (nay imaginary) a figure as Father Christmas.  It just refers to him as a man.  So when the punchline turns out to be a pun on Santa Claus, it delivers no punch, no satisfactory payoff.
Additionally, the answer makes no sense.  If you saw Santa Claus clapping, you'd be receiving Santapplause, but you wouldn't call him that.  So, perhaps it should read.

What do you get if Father Christmas is particularly pleased with you? Santapplause.
Not perfect, some additional context, say that you're an Elf in Santa's seasonal Pantomime at the North Pole, might help make the joke function better.
Though, it still isn't really very funny as it's just a basic pun.  There's only so much of a laugh response to be expected from basic joke structures.

Next cracker, next joke:
What do the reindeer sing to Father Christmas on his birthday?  Freeze a jolly good fellow!

This joke is the only one we recognised from a previous Christmas/Life and were happy to move on.  Yes, the manufactor lost points for so unoriginal a joke, at least it functioned, which was something of a relief.  Beyond the improbability of reindeer singing, especially when there are plenty of Elves available, it works well.

We therefore come to the issue of the final joke of the Christmas Cracker set.  Two jokes per cracker, unfortunately the same two joke slips were replicated throughout the set.  Epic fail.

Father Christmas wins a saucepan in a competition.  Now that's what you call pot luck!
The problem with the joke is simple - whilst it does work as a play on words [saucepan - pot luck etc] the connection to Christmas is tenuous in the extreme.  This is an example of a cut and shut joke.  As with cut and shut cars, where the front end of one car is welded to another, this joke has been bodged together by some cracker cowboys.  Who the original joke referred to we may never know, but it almost certainly wasn't Father Christmas.  As my colleague Mr Fouldes said on the show, in the character of Colin, it feels like something from a stand up comic's set performed in a working mans club in the 1970's.  The Mother-in-law won a saucepan in a competition the other day... [pause] Now, that's what I call pot luck.  Which reminds me, I'm next on the snooker table... 
Whilst I'm all for the occasional resurrection of an old joke, this bodged restoration of a not so classic gag has left me flat.
On top of all the other problems with the crackers in question, these jokes really were insult after injury.

The Museum of Tat Christmas Special can be heard below... Enjoy.

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