Innovation and Evolution in Comedy by Meta-Humour as seen through Neil Hamburger

Comedy seems to always be in style. Old jokes will always make people laugh (under the assumption that one hasn’t heard the joke before) and certain elements of humour (such as slapstick) never seem to really change at all.

So the question is: how does humour evolve. Perhaps a better question is how has humour evolved.

Like usual, I am full of questions and lacking in terms of definitive answers. I do have a hypothesis however, and it relies on Meta-humour.

I could give you some half-right, adverb heavy definition of what meta-humour is. However old habits die-hard and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! So I shall turn to Wikipedia to provide, once again, some much needed clarification!

“"Metahumor" as "humor about humor". Here "meta" is used to describe the fact that the joke explicitly talks about other jokes…
Another kind of metahumor is when jokes make fun of poor jokes. For example, a comedian may tell a terrible or absurd joke on purpose, knowing that the terribleness of the joke itself will be humorous. Anti-humor may be viewed as a kind of metahumor. Comedians such as George Carlin and Mitch Hedberg are examples of comics who use metahumor of this sort extensively in their routines. Hedberg would often follow up a joke with an admission that it was poorly told, or insist to the audience that "that was funnier than you acted." These followups usually get laughs superior to that of the percieved poor joke and serve to cover an awkward silence. Johnny Carson, especially late in his Tonight Show career, used to get uproarious laughs when reacting to a failed joke with, for example, a pained expression.

Alas! It all makes sense!

Regardless, I still hear some of you rustling. Some of you are not so satisfied with this explanation. You yell “If this is the future of comedy, why are all the example comedians dead!??!” at the computer screen in front of you.

First of all, calm down. There is no reason to get excited. Especially at a time like this!

Secondly, while Mitch Hedberg and Johnny Carson may be (meaning they are) dead, Mr. George Carlin is still alive and going strong. How dare you spread such vile rumours!

More importantly, there are many examples of modern comedians who utilize meta-humour and are responsible for innovation and evolution within the art of comedy. My favourite of these joke-in-a-joke telling rascals is Neil Hamburger. Writing about him does not do this man justice. He truly must be seen to be believed.

Wikipedia Entry on Meta-Humour

Neil Hamburger Squidoo Page

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posted by mikeyarmo @ 12:22 PM, ,

An Anachronism is a What?

Dear reader, our entry today is slightly out of the ordinary. Fear not; change is a good thing! Besides, this could be the beginning of a new vocabulary segment….or something of that nature.

So what is an anachronism anyway?

anachronism (from the Greek ανά, "against," and χρόνος, "time") is something that is out of its proper time. For example, if a play set during the Roman Republic portrays a person using an electronic computer, the computer is an anachronism

“How wonderful!” you may be exclaiming to yourself (or to someone who is within hearing vincinity). Please wait, as it does get better! For we have an answer to a question that has not even been asked yet. That question being: What is anachronistic displacement?

“Anachronistic displacement is a psychological condition referring to an obsessive or dysfunctional belief or claim that a person "belongs" or should properly exist in another time period, and are thus unable to deal with ordinary factors in the everyday world. Senior citizens in particular can often experience feelings of anachronistic displacement if they feel the modern world has evolved to the point where they no longer "fit in" or understand their surroundings.”

As a result of this entry, the actions of countless numbers of people will change in the future. A true pradigm shift has taken place. See the example below!

Old Way (Pre- anachronism Post):
Friend: Wow, I love The Beatles. I believe from the bottom of my heart that I should have been born in the 60’s. I hate these so-called modern times.

You: I think you have a psychological condition

Friend: What!? How could you say such a thing?

You: No seriously, check Wikipedia.

Friend (After taking your suggestion): Wow, you are correct. I should not have doubted you.

New Way (Post- - anachronism Post)

Friend: Wow, I love The Beatles. I believe from the bottom of my heart that I should have been born in the 60’s. I hate these so-called modern times.

You: I think you have a psychological condition

Friend: What!? How could you say such a thing?

You: No seriously, check out What I Learned From Wikipedia.

Friend: What’s the address?


Friend (After taking your suggestion): Wow, you are correct. I should not have doubted you.

What a change! See how useful this blog can be? Now go fourth and let your friends (or enemies if you hate this place) know about this blog. It’s so obscure I sometimes forget it exists….IT DOESN’T GET ANY COOLER THAN THIS!

Wikipedia page on Anachronisms.

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posted by mikeyarmo @ 6:14 PM, ,

What is Stereotype Threat?

To start things off on a slightly unrelated note; history is being made today on this modest little blog. A post will contain information from sources that deviate from the great Wikipedia. Of course, this website is not simply about Wikipedia; but about using the Internet to learn about all sorts of fascinating things that we would otherwise not know about!

The question is “How Dangerous are Stereotypes” and the resulting answer may be surprising. We were told from a young age to believe that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. New research (including a recent study coming from the University of British Columbia) shows us how wrong we were.

The three-year study at the University of British Columbia involved 135 women taking challenging math tests similar to those used for graduate school entrance exams.
Before they were given the test, the women were required to read one of four essays - three of them dealing with gender difference in math. One essay argued there was no difference, a second argued the difference was genetic and a third said the difference was the result of social construction and the way girls were taught in elementary school. The fourth essay covered the subject of women in art.
Research has shown that simply reminding a person that he or she falls into some stereotyped category can change the person's performance, in what is known as a stereotype threat.

Unbelievably, stereotypes are so strong that even members of the group being judged start to believe the hype and become self-fulfilling prophecies.
There has been discussion as to whether stereotype threats curtail the results of minorities on the SATs and other standardized tests. An interview with Claude Steele, a professor at Stanford who was a leading researcher in the area of stereotype threats can be found here. An excellent discussion regarding Mr. Steele’s study and the issues which question the results of his research can be found here.
You always have to hear both sides of a debate!
I believe that this new study out of the University of British Columbia sheds more light onto the effects of stereotype threats, but more research must be done. Regardless, this is an unbelievably interesting field of study and I will be following new developments and dutifully reporting on them for you right here!

MSN Technology article regarding Stereotype Threat Study regarding Women and Math

Homepage of Ilan Dar Nimrod, coauthor of the study.

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posted by mikeyarmo @ 7:45 PM, ,

What is Crowdsourcing?

We have all heard of Offshoring, or as it is often incorrectly referred to as, outsourcing. Some within the U.S political machine claims that the movement of jobs from America to other counties is hurting the American people and is changing the way people are employed. While this is not worth arguing (because it is wrong and I have more important things to do with my time) there may truly be a force at work that is changing the way Western country-people are employed. That force is called Crowdsourcing.

“Crowdsourcing" is a term coined by Wired magazine writer Jeff Howe and editor Mark Robinson in June 2006. It describes a business model akin to outsourcing, but relying upon unpaid or low-paid amateurs who use their spare time to create content, solve problems, or even do corporate R&D…Crowdsourcing attempts to replace selectively hired, trained and managed workforces with mass volunteer participation and self-organization. While not a new idea, it is becoming mainstream. Open source projects are a form of crowdsourcing that has existed for years. People who may not know one another work together online to create complex software such as the Linux kernel, and the Firefox browser

Obviously, this is a phenominon that could only have existed because of the Internet. One additional benefit of this new form of getting work done is that it allows new job seekers who are fresh on the job market (like the recently graduated) to enter the field of their choosing to get some much needed experience!

Real life examples of businesses relying on Crowdsourcing include: Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) . In both cases, crowdsourcing is being used to solve s complex problem, which can be potentially solved in a wide variety of ways. Instead of these companies bearing the full costs of testing/implementing each solution, they are relying on a variety of unpaid freelancers to test their hypothesises, all of whom are competing for one grand prize (or paycheque!). You gotta love the competition behind it all! In fact, it is likely the competition behind crowdsourcing that makes it so appealing to participants.

Crowdsourcing Wikipedia Page

”The Rise of Crowdsourcing” article from Wired Magazine

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posted by mikeyarmo @ 11:21 AM, ,

What’s the Deal with Some Countries Driving on the Left Side of the Road?

What’s the Deal with Some Countries Driving on the Left Side of the Road?
As every “stupid American vacationing in Europe” film has taught us, the entire world does not drive on the right hand side. Apparently, driving on the left hand side may be beneficial for those who are most concerned with their safety…

Approximately one quarter to one third of the world's traffic travels on the left-hand side of the road. Some claim that this practice arose from the prevalence of right-handedness, although such prevalence occurs in virtually all populations, regardless of which side of the road is used. In any case, the need to be ready for self-defence on rural roads inclined most horse-riders to keep to their left when encountering oncoming wayfarers, so as to be able to deploy a sword or other hand-weapon more swiftly and effectively should the need arise. Also, those on foot and in charge of horse-drawn vehicles would more usually hold the animals' heads with their right hand, and thus walk along the left hand side of the road.

….Research in 1969 by J.J. Leeming showed that countries that drive on the left had a lower accident rate than countries that drive on the right, but this research is sharply criticized in Peter Kincaid's book on the rule of the road. Some countries that have switched to driving on the right (such as Sweden) saw their long term accident rates increase by more than any increase in traffic volumes. It has been suggested, but not proven, that this is partly because it is more common to be right-eye dominant. Traffic flows in a clockwise direction when driving on the left which enables right eyed people to use the right eye to see oncoming traffic. When overtaking on a right-side-driving road, the right-eyed driver looks in the wing mirror with the left eye and also views the oncoming traffic with the left eye which is not suited to the majority right-eyed people.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t perfectly buy that Sweden example. I am sure that part of the increase in accidents was a result of people being confused/making mistakes as a result of the change! Could you imagine if all of a sudden you were expected to drive on the opposite side of the road? It totally defies convention and would likely leave you susceptible to more accidents! Regardless, I am glad to live in a country that drives on the right side of the road. As a lefty, its nice knowing I can hold a sword facing oncoming traffic!

Wikipedia Article on Driving on the Left or Right

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posted by mikeyarmo @ 10:29 AM, ,

Do Societies Psychologically Change The Perceived Effects of Alcohol on an Individual?

Believe it or not, apparently so. Next time, just purchase non-alcoholic beer instead… according to this the end results will be the same (regardless of whether alcohol is included or not)!


“Alcohol expectations are beliefs that individuals hold about the effects they experience from drinking. They are largely beliefs about how the consumption of alcohol will affect a person’s emotions, abilities and behaviors. To the extent that alcohol expectancies can be changed, it may be possible to reduce a major social and health problem, that of alcohol abuse (Grattan & Vogel-Sprott).

… people in a society generally believe that intoxication leads to aggression, sexual behavior AKA "beer goggles", or rowdy behavior, they tend to act that way when intoxicated. If the society teaches that intoxication leads to relaxation and tranquil behavior, it virtually always leads to those outcomes. Alcohol expectations vary within a population so outcomes are not uniform (Alan Marlatt & D. J. Rosenow)

…Alcohol expectations can operate in the absence of actual consumption of alcohol. Research in the U.S. over a period of decades has shown that men tend to become physically more sexually aroused when they think they have been drinking alcohol, even when they haven't. Women report feeling more sexually aroused when they falsely believe the beverages they have been consuming contain alcohol, although a measure of their physiological arousal shows that they are physically becoming less aroused."

This reminds me of a story a friend told me back when I was younger. He was a player on a house league hockey team that had fought hard the entire season to earn their place in the championship game. The team ended up winning the championship game and as they made their way back to the locker room, they found a dozen bottles of champagne waiting for them. This was beyond the wildest dreams of the team of 10 and 11 year olds, who quickly ran to the bottles to celebrate in style. The kids chugged the stuff back, and before anyone could say "underage drinking ticket", the majority of the team was stuttering their words, unable to keep their balance and laughing their heads off. Of course, they had all drank non-alcoholic champagne (their coach was not that insane!), but they were all acting how they thought they were suppose to act. My only question is, had they have lost that game, would they have all become violent/emotional drunks instead?

Alcohol Expectations Wikipedia Page

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posted by mikeyarmo @ 1:48 PM, ,

What emerging trend has changed our world profoundly and can be considered the catalyst of a new era in the 21 century?

I’m sure many of you were quick to the buzzer, ready to answer “The Internet” of “the E-revolution” or some other derivative suggesting the World Wide Web. However, an interesting article on “Professonal Amateurs” might change your mind.
As outlined in the below excerpt:

Recently, the term Pro-Am has been used as a descriptor for an emerging sociological and economic trend. This has been described by a UK think tank, Demos, in the book The Pro-Am Revolution: How enthusiasts are changing our economy and society (2004), by Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller.
Pro-Ams occur in populations that have more leisure time and live longer, allowing the pursuit of hobbies and interests at a professional level. For example, authors of encyclopedia articles have traditionally been paid professionals, but recently amateurs have entered the field, participating in projects such as Wikipedia. Other Pro-Am fields include astronomy, activism, surfing, software development, education, and music production and distribution. Open source/Free Software such as GNU/Linux was developed by paid professionals at companies such as Red Hat, HP and IBM together with Pro-Ams, and has become a major competitor to Microsoft.
Pro-Ams - people pursuing amateur activities to professional standards - are an increasingly important part of our society and economy. For Pro-Ams, leisure is not passive consumerism but active and participatory, it involves the deployment of publicly accredited knowledge and skills, often built up over a long career, which has involved sacrifices and frustrations. The 20th century witnessed the rise of professionals in medicine, science, education, and politics. In one field after another, amateurs and their ramshackle organizations were driven out by people who knew what they were doing and had certificates to prove it. The Pro-Am Revolution argues this historic shift is reversing. We're witnessing the flowering of Pro-Am, bottom-up self-organisation and the crude, all or nothing, categories of professional or amateur will need to be rethought. Based on in-depth interviews with a diverse range of Pro-Ams and containing new data about the extent of Pro-Am activity in the UK, this report proposes new policies to support and encourage valuable Pro-Am activity.
—excerpts, The Pro-Am Revolution (2004)

I think that the effect that the internet has had, in conjunction with the professional amateur "revolution" cannot be overstated. Blogs (like the one you are reading now) are as easily accesable as the strongest academic/professional publications on the internet. Even more interestingly there are "profesional amateurs" pulling in more readers and "hits" to their websites than profesional websites!

Professional Amateurs Wikipedia Page

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posted by mikeyarmo @ 1:27 PM, ,