4 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Joke on Social Media
If social media’s taught me anything, it’s that many well-meaning people have a sort of super power when it comes to ruining jokes.
When I’m not filling the internet with writings about spirituality and music, I’m telling jokes on Facebook and Twitter. After having thousands of great jokes destroyed within a couple comments, I’ve learned a few things I’d love to pass on to you.
Here are 4 ways to ruin someone else’s perfectly good joke on social media.
1. Exploit the obvious
70% of jokes are simply pointing out something silly that everyone can identify with (and then 15% pop-culture references, 10% high-brow humor, and 5% made up statistics). Pointing out things that are funny, and that everyone can relate to, is simple Seinfeldianism.
You feign irritation, point out the infraction, and everyone has a good laugh.
An example of this would be the way that girls use exclamation points on Facebook. I think many believe that the difference between a good update and a magical update is based on the number of exclamation points it’s been bedazzled with.
But I guarantee that when you make a funny update about exclamation point misuse, you won’t be able to count to three before you get a comment with twenty exclamation points. I’m just thankful they’re not in the same room to give me that self-congratulatory “get it!?” face.
I used to work retail and it never failed. If I was washing a the glass front doors, people would say, “Want to come do that at my house?” Or if they found an item without a price sticker, they’d regale me with the “It must be free” punchline. And they’d all stand there looking at me like I’d never heard that before, and I should congratulate them.
The “exploit the obvious” joke destroyer is from the same lazy, common family as these retail quips. A joke works when you’re not expecting the result. If you can telegraph it from a mile away, it’s not funny.
This morning I tweeted:
Social media beginner tip:
Want to sound super condescending? Start your reply comment with “Um . . .” or “Uh . . .” Works like a charm!—
Jayson Bradley (@jaysondbradley) July 07, 2014
I then said to myself, “‘Um . . .’ response in T-minus-5 seconds.” Can you guess how the first response began? Yep.
2. Explain the joke
One beautiful thing about a well-told joke is that it contains enough nuance that the listener will have to connect the dots before they discover why it’s funny. But a lot of times, people will make the connection, and think they’ve stumbled upon their own joke.
As a dumb example, I once posted “One good thing about grocery store reward cards: Girls are regularly asking for my phone number.” One of the first responses was, “Yeah, because they have to.”
GREAT JOB! You got the joke, and in posting that statement, you ruined the only good thing about it. Now the reader doesn’t get to take the set-up and make the connection themselves.
3. Bury the joke in sincerity
I think that this might be a bigger problem if you have a lot of Christians (or grandparents) on your friends list.
One day you post an update that says, “There are times where I’m just not in the mood to meet new people. I call those times ‘daytime.’’’ One of the first comments you receive is, “You know, Jesus died for those people.”
John Acuff calls this a Jesus Juke. It’s when someone takes an aspect of your joke and either uses it to make a serious statement about the “people today” or, like in this example, shames you for your lack of spirituality. It’s super annoying.
It doesn’t have to be a Jesus Juke, however. It can just be someone who is so sincere that they can’t just enjoy a funny statement without getting hyper serious.
This morning I was reading a discussion/debate about gun violence and the argument went in the direction of having more people armed to cut down on gun violence. I thought about using that same argument for schoolyard bullying and jokingly quipped:
My son got punched on the playground. I thought maybe if all kids had fists, no one would get punched. Turns out they all have fists already.
— Jayson Bradley (@jaysondbradley) July 7, 2014
It was a pretty stupid joke, but it wasn’t really a political statement. But of course someone got super upset because they thought they could substitute the word “gun” for “fist” and understand the point I was making. So obviously he had to point out that not everyone has guns. . . *sigh*
Sometimes a joke is just a joke. . .
A perfect example of a response to this joke shortly followed:
@jaysondbradley If all fists are banned, only the criminals will have them!
— Chuck McKnight (@ChuckMcKnight) July 7, 2014
He got the joke, elaborated upon it, and made it better. Nice job, Chuck.
4. Make up your own joke
My friend, Jeffrey Kranz, who runs OverviewBible.com, posted the following update last December:
“If you were to ask me how 2013 treated me, I’d say things are OK with me these days:
I got a good job.
I got a good office.
I got a new wife.
I got a new life.
The family’s fine.
2014 has some big shoes to fill.”
Now, some of you might instantly recognize that this as an allusion to Billy Joel’s amazing “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” It worked because this friend had experienced similar changes in his life.
I read the update and was delighted at his wittiness. But not everyone got it . . . (Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you don’t get the joke, it’s not for you. It’s okay to keep scrolling.)
Soon the update was awash in comments about his “old wife.” It’s like someone sees a jokey update and thinks they’ve wandered into a comedy open mic and treat the original poster like, “Thanks for getting the room warmed up for me. I’ll take it from here.”
Have some other ideas to help people destroy Facebook jokes? Leave ‘em in the comments.