21 Comments

  1. Master is annoyed at the kid’s pseudo-profound nonsense, and is setting up an imminent demonstration of actual humor at kid’s expense.

  2. “Pendulum swings” would be the wrong metaphor, since there are many more than two positions as to the favored styles of humor that are IN or OUT at various times. But there are some wide, tidal movements. “Observational humor”, with Seinfeld as a noted representative, was rather OUT for a while, when the IN thing was briefly called “Alt comedy” and then morphed into a thing for personal quasi-true semi-confessional barely-funny monologues, embodied especially by Marc Maron, Tig Notaro, “Lewis Szekely” if you will, and not too long ago (2018) dismembered and buried by Hannah Gadsby from Down Under and I don’t mean just Australia!

    But trends aren’t 100%! You can still do observational humor and be funny — and successful. Maybe it’s coming BACK IN? And for the longest time “one-liners” was a term associated with the oldest of the old-fashioned, the holdovers from Vaudeville and The Catskills. But .. but but .. there was the strange realization that the ineffable genius that was Steven Wright was actually doing One Liners!

  3. According to Wikipedia: “British comedians Richard Herring and Jo Caulfield wrote in an article that observational comedy “essentially involves saying ‘Did you ever notice?’ and then recounting something that will hopefully be universally familiar, but that won’t necessarily have been consciously noted by your audience”

    so my first thought is: non-observational humor would be contrived and actively set-up, and would involve things that never exist in the world but which every one is consciously familiar with. No-one in real life slips on banana peel but everyone is familiar with the joke

    but then I figured I was overthinking it: Observational humor is observing something. The student will not observe the banana peel.

  4. Are there any stand-up comedians who do knock-knock jokes? 😛

    FWIW, in an NPR interview (along with Steve Martin) Mr. Seinfeld said he didn’t like the term observational humor.

  5. Speaking of knock-knock, maybe you will have better memory of this than I can summon, or a better search strategy, but I cannot find the song I want to link or quote!

    It was in the general style of jazz or pop music of its time, which I take to be 1940s or 1950s. But it was more like a novelty song in effect. Over a marking-time decorative instrumental beat, two male talking-singing voices (I suppose the band leader and either an actual lead vocalist or an instrumentalist pressed into this role) exchange lines in a series of knock-knock jokes.

    And memorably, they don’t pronounce knock in the normal way, starting from the /n/ sound. Instead, they make an initial /k/ very distinctly! So it is like “ka-nock ka-nock!” / “Who’s there?” and into the joke.

    Any memory of something like that, Grawlix or anybody?

  6. “…non-observational humor would be contrived and actively set-up, and would involve things that never exist in the world but which every one is consciously familiar with.”

    I’m reminded of Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest as the the night watchmen on SNL. The entire sketch was them saying “don’t you hate it when” followed by arcane, violent things that never actually happened to anybody.

  7. Mitch

    A group that frequently played on the Prairee Home Companion did that. But they were a contemporary live band (maybe they were covering yours).

    On of their jokes was the “Kanock, Kanock, Who’s there, Obama, Obama who, Obama self; don’ wanna be Obama self”.

  8. I can’t believe my reply was swallowed!

    Thanks much, Woozy and Mark in Boston!

    That Fletcher Henderson clip is wonderful! (I see I could have included “swing” when I was trying to name the underlying musical style.) The music is right, but this isn’t precisely the performance I recall, as they aren’t doing the two-syllable pronunciation of “kn-nock ka-nock!” .

    The series of puns on the band members’ names suggests this could have been used in that slot where you sometimes get players’ intros and a bow and maybe a lick!
    (Also what I’m remembering was a series of classic silly knock-knock jokes, not only the names.)

    Woozy, it’s been a while since I heard the Prairie Home Companion (and didn’t they finally change the name?). But I could have caught a nostalgia / cover band doing this at some point. I’m sure I heard it from a recording going back to the original time, though.
    Your writing it as Kanock, Kanock, Who’s there, ” shows it comes from the same sources for sure. I love that Obama update!

  9. After a little more searching, I found this cover/update clip. Weird that there were zero likes/dislikes on it!
    The kanock-kanock jokes start around the two minute mark.

    Like the Fletcher Henderson clip, sometimes it is just drum knocks instead of saying the “kanock=kanock”. But that one never quite said it, and this modern cover (which may therefore come more directly from the original I’m thinking of) does use it. Also most of the jokes turn on such old-fashioned phrasing (“Ethyl gas”) you know they were working with older material.

    But frankfurter memories!

  10. Knock, knock.
    Who’s there?
    Amish.
    Amish who?
    Really? You don’t look like a shoe.

    Yea, yea, ok. You wouldn’t know if they looked like a shoe or not because they’re on the other side of a door, but I’ve loved this joke since I was a kid. YMMV.

  11. Oh this is the best yet!

    Kanock kanock!
    Who’s there?
    Dishwasher
    Dishwasher who?
    Dishwasher way I shpoke before I got my falsh teesh

  12. So Ritch Dworsky was doing a cover

    Well, cover in one sense, as we’ve seen the framework and aspects of the music go back, to the 1930s. But it really looked like most of the inserted knock-knock jokes were newly written for the performance.

    Though it was nice to end with what seems to be a tradition: “Saul” / “Saul who?” / ” ‘S’all there is, there ain’t no more!”

  13. I like the ones that turn out to be songs.

    Sam and Janet. Sam and Janet who? Sam and Janet Evening!

  14. I almost posted this song when I made the knock-knock reference.

    Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Note many of the jokes in this song refer to other Spike Jones troupe’s performances.

    Interestingly…

    “But the mania only morphed into an even more popular form: the knock-knock joke. And by the mid 1930s, knock-knock jokes were to be heard everywhere. Strangers told them on the streets. Businesses staged knock-knock contests. Swing orchestras wove knock-knock schtick into songs.”

    https://www.npr.org/sections/npr-history-dept/2015/03/03/389865887/the-secret-history-of-knock-knock-jokes

    Heh…

    “After all, in Europe, incessant wordplay was being treated as a psychological condition. Sigmund Freud had impugned puns in his 1905 book Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconcious. In 1929, Austrian psychoanalyst A.A. Brill was exploring a malady termed Witzelsucht — an addiction to wisecracks, according to Psychology Today. And German neurologist Otfrid Foerster identified manic punning in what eventually became known as Foerster’s syndrome.”

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