Stuff I learned on
Roughly 40 people participated in Joke Night this weekend. It was a really fun thing to work on with a courageous and creative team. These are my initial takeaways from the event.
People really own their jokes.
People are walking around every day with at least one terrific joke in their head. We spent a lot of time in preparation copying jokes out of a book and cutting them into categorized boxes so that people who don’t feel like they know any good jokes would have one to read, and a few people took advantage of our preparation. But most of our joke-tellers came eager to tell the one or two jokes they know really well and have been telling for years.
Story jokes win the day
I envisioned an evening of short jokes told in quick succession, but the jokes people told were overwhelmingly of the narrative type.
Laughter is medicine
(Everybody says that, I know; I once bought my wife a T-shirt that said, “Actually, medicine is the best medicine”).
Telling a joke and being rewarded with a room full of laughter is a kind of restorative magic that everyone deserves to experience. This was at the heart of the idea for Joke Night, that, in the words of its creator, it would allow people to “shine.”
Even courtesy laughter achieves a kind of placebo effect.
Jokes are inter-generational
Two of my favorite moments of the evening: a man in his 80’s masterfully telling that long joke about the guy who orders three drops of whiskey at the same bar every day (look it up), and a six year old (okay, my daughter) gleefully pronouncing the punchline to the “What’s-the-last-thing-that-goes-through-a-bug’s-mind-when-it-hits-a-windshield” joke (“His butt!).
Bathroom humor won’t kill you
There was a moment when someone used the word “asshole” in a punchline, and I froze. It was funny, though. There was a “fart” joke and an impotence joke, and nobody stalked out in indignation.
Clean, family-friendly humor was on the marquee, but that’s a slippery standard. A couple of off-color jokes don’t ruin the event, as long as they’re actually funny.
Jokes thrive in community
I’m excited to see a community of joke-tellers emerge and carry on Joke Night, because so much of what I enjoyed about it was seeing people I know well shine in a way I never saw them shine before. Most of the people there knew each other from church, and that, I think, made the jokes easier to laugh at.
There were non-church folks there as well, and for them, too, Joke Night was a chance to experience their own community; they sat together and got up to tell jokes together.
Of course, a couple hours of laughing together makes a community out of a room full of strangers. Maybe joke night is building a community.