Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind
by Matthew M. Hurley, Daniel C. Dennett, Reginald B. Adams
Some things are funny — jokes, puns, sitcoms, Charlie Chaplin, “The Far Side,” Malvolio with his yellow garters crossed — but why? Why does humor exist in the first place? Why do we spend so much of our time passing on amusing anecdotes, making wisecracks, watching “The Simpsons”? In “Inside Jokes,” Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, and Reginald Adams offer an evolutionary and cognitive perspective. Humor, they propose, evolved out of a computational problem that arose when our long-ago ancestors were furnished with open-ended thinking. Mother Nature — aka natural selection — cannot just order the brain to find and fix all our time-pressured misleaps and near-misses. She has to bribe the brain with pleasure. So we find them funny. This wired-in source of pleasure has been tickled relentlessly by humorists over the centuries, and we have become addicted to the endogenous mind candy that is humor.
Stephen M marked it as to-read
Inside jokes are the pinnacle of pretension and signify an author that aspires to the lowest of the low in comedic quips. They are the type of joke that says that any person who doesn’t happen to be in a select group of a few people are not a part of the joke and wouldn’t “get it” anyway. What is this? What is this abstaining from the hard work of making a good joke? To make a joke with mass appeal and universality is one of the most challenging aspects of the medium of comedy. The onus of the efficacy of a joke is on the comedian and not who happens to understand an arbitrary set of limited known references. How many times has someone made a reference that only two people in the room get? They all smirk while everyone else squirms in the awkward waft of unknowing that follows. I can personally attest to the people who aspire to this type of joking and it never turns out well for them. In fact, it leads to a further marginalization of their inclusive group. Groups that aspire to buttress their own views and opinions behind a wall of esoteric allusions only further the superior-than-thou mentality that informs their jokes in the first place. The jokers come under the impression that no one else is allowed in on the joke they create, given that others would never “get it” and therefore they abstain from even trying to make the jokes accessible. Perhaps this is routed in personal experience when they were made to look foolish for trying to explicate their high-minded personal interests in mixed company. Perhaps they even took personal offense for the fact that their closely felt interests were not accepted, and were even met with derision (obviously, the less people involved in said interest or in-group the more personal it becomes). So it is quite plausible that they react by hiding behind this wall of obscurity which only those deemed worthy may enter, protecting them from the open court of majority opinion. And this would obviously shed light upon why they make such jokes but it is to faulty ends. It will only further the derision and disapproval that drove them away from including others on their jokes. Just listen to what Jay Rubin says about it:
“ bit ya! you fickers don’t make those jokes anymore! I’ll get my payback on you batches! Then you’ll give me penky panic that I haven’t read enough literary pulp. Don’t make me get DD! He’ll tell you what’s up. I’ll throw cabbage at your faces! And then you’ll think Mark iz gawhjus! The Steve’s will come by and get you. Stephen M is wearing his blue IJ speedo. They all be going to penkfest and yell at Jus-tin for haitin’ on all the D. Mitch they’re reading and sign up for the J N-M booklist when he says Don’t Fucking Wonder because he’s been drinking and typing at 5 in the morning in Korea. And then Ian’ll turnip and write a bunch of Haiku’s that beet you across the face thyme after thyme. What music are you listening to while reading/reviewing this, eh? eh! Go write more interviews then. What, do I need to write a 100 word précis now? Or I’ll just come beat you over the head with Women and Men! Penis, bananas. And rockets coming out of penises in everyone’s books! I’m being conditioned by ya’ll and the dogs won’t shut up. No, wait that’s the cats, they’re talking to me again while naked Japanese women want to have sex with me. IFFER/ELAINE’s POSTING NAUGHTY PICS. I hope this makes BB’s reviewing hall of fame. And then we can have celebrity death matches with all our books. We can do it all night long! My books can beat up your books! I’ll just record this on the Big Audio Project anyway. Yeah, yeah this has nothing to do with the book! Flag it! Just don’t tie this to a chair and beat it with a hose! LGM. Karen reads soooo many fracking books! Oh well, we’ll just start up another group read anyway.”