Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The joke with three punchlines

It recently occurred to me that, in the last three weeks alone, I have attended two public sessions devoted to discussing fundamental tax reform.  And these are hardly the only two such sessions that I have attended in 2013 alone, or even since the start of the school year alone.

Fundamental tax reform remains a favorite topic even though, as I once remarked in the opening paragraph of some paper or other, "while frequently in the air, it is rarely to be spotted on the ground."  Indeed, I am admittedly a multiple offender in writing about the topic, which is why I can't remember offhand in which paper it was that I said that.

After a while, however, the topic grows sufficiently over-familiar that I am reminded of the joke (itself perhaps over-familiar by now) in which a bunch of comedians are gathered in a room.  One of them stands up and shouts "39!"  Everyone laughs.  Another one stands up and says "17!"  Everyone laughs.  A newcomer who has heard this going on for a few minutes asks the person next to him what they're doing, and is told that all the jokes are so familiar that each has a number, eliminating the need to recite the entire thing..

So the newcomer stands up and shouts "28!"  Dead silence.  Mortified, he asks the person next to him what he did wrong.  And here's the best thing about the joke, its own over-familiarity notwithstanding.  It has three alternative punchlines, and perhaps not everyone who is reading this blog entry has already heard all three of them:

(1) "You didn't tell it right."

(2) "They heard that one already."

(3) "They don't know that one."

Heard all three punchlines already?  Sorry about that, but perhaps this makes it all the more postmodern (over-familiar joke about over-familiar jokes).

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