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,


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