I am not, at heart, a funny man. A look at anything I have written recently will confirm this. And if I had aspirations to be truly funny, I would tell actual jokes instead of long, pointless, meandering stories that less than 1% of the people on the planet can understand, let alone appreciate or be amused by. But I'll tell you one thing: as the co-creator of the Pierce-Conklin Humor Weighting System, I know what isn't funny.
Yesterday, I forgot my iPod and was left to listen to sports talk radio on the commute to and from work. But that's not what I'm addressing when I talk about not-funny. Sports can be funny; talk can be funny; and radio can be funny. On very, very rare occasions, even sports talk radio can be funny. What this is about is you. The public. The audience. The caller. The I'm-a-funny-guy-in-publics. You know who you are, because three of you called in to the sports talk radio show I was listening to, and you tried to be funny. And you weren't. But I'm here to help.
Now, I'm not trying to turn you into Robert Benchleys or anything. I'm just trying to keep you from embarrassing yourselves in public and ruining my commute on days when I forget to bring my iPod. Yes, I know, the hosts laughed at your 'jokes', but that's because they have to, and even if they didn't, they are morons. That's why you listen to their show. That's why they let you on in the first place. And I'm worried that you might make the mistake of thinking that since those guys laughed at you, you are funny, and while thinking that you'll tell one of your 'jokes' in public. Trust me: the result will be humiliation, divorce, and financial destitution, and that's if you're lucky. Follow my simply how-not-to-be-not-funny tips, and you will at least escape with your life.
Perhaps you remember the situation: the hosts, who are always looking for ways to fill airtime that doesn't require any effort on their part, asked you, the callers, to ring them up and suggest alternate careers for colorful basketball announcer Dick Vitale. This should have immediately suggested in your mind jokes that referred to Vitale's public personality: loud, energetic, enthusiastic, well-stocked with catch-phrases, perhaps even a bit annoying. Instead, here's what you came up with.
JOKE #1: "He should work with the circus because he's a clown, man! WHOOOOOOO"
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THIS JOKE: The joke itself isn't funny, because it's a terrible cliche. It's as predictable as the tides. "You are a clown! You should work in the circus!" Lame, caller, very lame. But as bad as the joke is on its face (the reason that it workd for Joe Pesci in Goodfellas is not because it's a strong joke, but because it was delivered in a menacing way by an incongruous character), the true disaster was the delivery. There are only three reasons to yell something and go "WHOOOOOO", and all of them have to do with an unjustified sense of accomplishment: yelling out the name of your sports team, seeking validation for a joke that you thought was funny but wasn't, or recognizing the existence of sexual innuendo. It would be the second that applies here, and while your drunken frat buddies may have high-fived you and returned your "WHOOOOOOO" every time you told some fourth-grade joke and pounded a Rumplemintz, we in the outside world are a tad more demanding.
HOW THIS JOKE COULD HAVE BEEN IMPROVED: Try telling a joke you heard in junior high instead of first grade, and for god's sake, put your hand down.
JOKE #2: "He should work for the CIA, because he can't keep his mouth shut, either!"
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THIS JOKE: Political humor is tricky. It has to not only appeal to your ideological base and 'cater' somewhat to their sensibility, but also be au courant and relevant -- and all that's on top of being funny. You seem to have gotten the core of the joke right: Dick Vitale should work for a group of blabbermouths, because he can't keep his mouth shut. Predictable, maybe, but funny if posted in the right way. However, it's the relevance where you lose the joke. The CIA has been in the news a lot lately, but not for being blabbermouths; there have been CIA leak stories, but they're about the leak of a CIA agent's identity by a high-ranking member of the Bush administration. Also, the CIA has been criticized by the other side for gathering bad intelligence, but that wasn't the thrust of your joke. As it stands, the joke makes no sense.
HOW THIS JOKE COULD HAVE BEEN IMPROVED: Make it refer to actual aspects of the CIA. Like, you could say "He should work for Scooter Libby, because he can't keep his mouth shut either!", or "He should work for the CIA, because he too sufferns intelligence failures". There are ways to appease either end of the political spectrum with this joke, but you have managed to find none of them.
JOKE #3: "He could be the new spokesman for Viagra!"
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THIS JOKE: Despite whaat the howling laughter of the hosts might have indicated to you, references to the penis are not inherently funny in and of themselves. This joke had no apparent referent, not even to Mr. Vitale's first name: you just said "Viagra" and hoped that people would laugh because, penis. This joke went wrong because it did not contain an actual joke.
HOW THIS JOKE COULD HAVE BEEN IMPROVED: By not telling it, or, alternately, by including some humorous content of some sort.
Next time, we'll discuss funny things you can say while standing in a long line. Thank you.