In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_n4dxoyc8wh2rzojag2eynor2eth

The Maze Runner

What’s intriguing about “The Maze Runner”–for a long time, at least–is the way it tells us a story we think we’ve heard countless times before…

Thumb_evfwnbohmbz7fedze6uuowisxcz

20,000 Days on Earth

In his music, he routinely celebrates/deconstructs his public persona: brutalizer, coward, agnostic, and wannabe deity. "20,000 Days on Earth" is accordingly not a biography, but…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

On Not Getting the Joke, Part Twenty-Seven Thousand Four Hundred Eighty-Two

gervais.jpg

While humor is a matter of personal taste, it's also a matter of misdirection (like magic), of absurd juxtapositions that violate expectations... and taboos. Perhaps you remember the image of one state politician's head pasted onto the body of another's baby -- and the latter's preposterous (and disingenuously exploitive) allegation that it was actually making fun of her child, rather than the politico who was portrayed as a baby. No one has been able to explain how ridiculing a baby could have been intended as funny, or as satire -- but, then, you'd have to be awfully thick to honestly believe that was the intent in the first place.

So, here's another strange one: In his new stand-up show, "Science," Ricky Gervais (best-known co-creator and star of BBC's "The Office" one of the great comic achievements of Modern Man) made a joke about regretting drinking and driving. You may or may not think it's funny, but here's the gist, according to Gervais:

"I've done it once and I'm really ashamed of it. It was Christmas -- I'd had a couple of drinks and I took the car out.

But I learned my lesson. I nearly killed an old lady.

In the end I didn't kill her. In the end, I just raped her."

Now, here's the way a writer in The Independent paraphrased it:

This kind of shtick falls down for me, however, when he describes the only time he found himself drinking and driving. Remarking that he nearly knocked over an old woman he adds: "I didn't though... I raped her." Gervais says that this is his "favourite" joke, but it is ill-judged to say the least.

Well, that's the way the clueless David Brent might tell it, but it's not at all what Gervais said. As he explained on his blog, The Independent's version is indeed unfunny, because it "contains no joke at all":

The joke clearly revolves around the misdirection in the term "nearly killed", suggesting "narrowly avoided". But, as it turns out, "nearly killed" means something much, much worse.

There will still be those, no doubt, who will persist in believing that the intent of the joke is to get a laugh out of the raping of an old lady. There's nothing that can be done for those people. You either understand the way the English language works or you don't.

Popular Blog Posts

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

Now, "Voyager": in praise of the Trekkiest "Trek" of all

As we mourn Abrams’ macho Star Trek obliteration, it’s a good time to revisit that most Star Trek-ian of accomplishme...

There's Something About "Blade Runner"

A new look at the role of hero and villain in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner."

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus