In a world where people are still making intellectual jokes, it’s easy to get confused about how to parse the meaning of a joke, says Jason Witten, author of the book Understanding Jokes.
Witten explains that the two basic types of intellectual jokes that you can recognize are the “synthetic” and the “real” joke.
Synthetic jokes are jokes that have been made up out of nothing, such as a random idea or joke about a person or place.
They often have a “syndrome,” which is a way of saying they are made up, Witten says.
The real joke is “more like a real story, but not necessarily in a real place or in a literal sense,” he says.
There’s also a “real story” part to a synthetic joke that involves the actual setting, such that you get to see a version of it in real life.
These jokes are easier to tell because the audience knows that the real story is being told.
But, as Witten notes, you still have to figure out what the joke is and why you’re laughing at it.
So how can you tell a synthetic, real joke?
For one, it needs to have a beginning and an end.
That means that there’s no way to get from a fake, random, or fictional idea into something that actually makes sense, Witty says.
A real joke needs to start with an idea, he says, and end with a situation.
A synthetic joke doesn’t have to end in a situation where you’re in a “hot seat,” but it needs a “loud and clear” ending, like “the doorbell rings,” Witten adds.
This is why “real jokes” are more likely to have endings that are obvious and unambiguous.
Witty’s advice to reading an intellectual humorist is to look for these subtle clues and the real-world implications of their jokes.
Synthetics, like real jokes, can be hard to parse, but Witten points out that when you know how to read them, you’ll be able to interpret them with more clarity.
Synthesizers don’t have the same kind of audience to appeal to, but they can have the most impact, Widdet says.
They’re easier to read and understand than real jokes.
To learn more about understanding intellectual humor, check out this article on the subject.