April Foolishness — part two.

April Fool’s Day – post two


Here I admit to the “joke” I mean to make – not a practical joke as such, but a fun chance at cross promotion.

I got the idea from the Austen fandom.  On April fool’s people would take the most delayed long-running stories, and ask the author permission to “finish” them.  Sofie and I granted such permission one year, and the person had Darcy-the-dragon accidentally burn Lizzy.  The end.

I wasn’t very happy with THAT format, because it came out under our names, which means it was confusing, and people were going “What?” when we continued, even though it had been explained it was a prank.

So, what I’d planned to do was exchange with four friends and do an episode in their world.  I was going to take Tom and Kyrie to a convention… and of course indicate I had Kate’s permission, etc.

What went wrong was mostly me, but also my friends.  We all seem to be doing ten thousand things at once.  If we get a chance, we might still do it in future as a fun thing.

This is my favorite sort of April Fool’s joke – kind of like that documentary below – because while played perfectly straight, it doesn’t expect to FOOL anyone.  (The documentary didn’t, according to its history.  It wouldn’t, back then.  I wonder if it would now, because so few people are around farms?)  So it was funny to everyone (pretty much) how well it was done, without being mean.

My problem with most April Fool’s joke is what I call “humiliation humor.”  More and more comedies, even romantic comedies seem to rely on it.  My husband and kids get confused when I leave halfway through a movie because I can’t stand it, and it’s a romantic comedy.  But you  know, the sort of thing where say the nerd is convinced the prom queen is in love with him, and it’s all set up to have his face rubbed in it that she’s laughing at him, makes me sick to my stomach.

Perhaps it is an overdeveloped sense of empathy, but I see nothing whatsoever funny about that sort of thing.  Perhaps it is because I was not only the much younger cousin, but the much younger playfellow in all the groups I belonged to, which meant that I was often the butt of such jokes, often unintentionally.  (How?  Well – “go lick soap” is a Portuguese expression, like “go soak your head.”  At around two I didn’t know this, so when my cousin Natalia told me to go lick soap, I went and reported back it tasted awful and did I have to do it again, which made all her friends crack up.)

But in a way, the basis of ALL my ethics, defective as they are, is a horror of unwarranted cruelty.  Or unexpected cruelty.

What I mean is, say your ten year old did something awful.  He knows it, you know it.  When he comes back, he expects to be punished.  But say your two year old did something awful and has no clue it’s awful.  You call and he comes to you, all smiles, because normally you’re nice to him, and you yell at him and punish him.  The last one makes me physically ill.  (Which means my kids got at least one and often two “free bites” where I just told them why it was awful.  After they were cognizant this worked pretty well.  Third time they got justice of hand on rump quickly, and that stopped it.  Mind you, I made it VERY clear before I was displeased, enough to discourage the behavior.  I just didn’t snap out with yelling and punishment.

Now say your kid did something for which he expects to be REWARDED (it’s amazing the stuff kids misunderstand) and you spring anger on him.  THAT just makes me want to hide and cry, even just watching it.  (For instance, once Robert decided to clean the kids’ bathroom for me, when he was four.  There were things he didn’t process, such as “you don’t mop carpet.”  He expected praise.  I did praise the WISH to help, then explained what he’d done wrong, and pointed out this was why it was better – even though I knew he’d wanted to surprise me – if he asked me how to do it, until he was a little older and knew how things worked.  Carpet in a kids bathroom was a stupid idea anyway, and got replaced shortly after.)

The reason I dislike MOST April fool’s jokes is that they set up that sort of situation. The situation where the prankster feels ‘better’ than the pranked, by fooling the victim.

(Most comedies these days are the same thing.  They’re trying to make the viewer feel superior to the character.  I wonder if this is because most of the Hollywood writers lack all empathy?  Of because they have such insecure egos they must be bolstered this way. Not that I don’t love the “Big Lie” type of joke, I do – but there are ways to do it.  Look at “While you were sleeping” – thank you to Rebecca and Alan Lickiss for introducing me to it – it is one of those, and you’re sort of leaning back and going “whoa, that’s gonna be a mess.”  BUT no one is made the “stupid” part for falling for it.)

I do enjoy and used to look forward April Fool’s jokes you sort of know are coming, sort of are looking for, and can admire for ingenuity.  Say, the Scientific American April article.  (My favorite was the wooden Roman computer.  I can’t now remember whether it was fed on punched wax tablets.)  There are others.  A fellow writer announces he’s quitting EVERY year, and tries to come up with different reasons.  (Some hilarious, some very plausible.)  Those, like the spaghetti below, are more of a shared joke.

My big issue with those in this day and age is that it gets reported on the net at a remove, and the indication that it’s a joke, AND the date get lost.  For instance, my son, last year announced he was selling Ninja Nun to a Japanese company whose name translated to “April’s Fool”.  It was clear from the drawing style, etc, that it was a joke, let alone the improbability of any company wanting to buy a tiny webcomic.  BUT months later, he was still getting notes from people asking what he was paid and how he made contact.

My husband announced he was selling his first novel, under conditions NO ONE WOULD TAKE, including selling his copyright clear and forever, and having to store unsold books, and having to sell all books himself.  And putting up $4000 of his own money to get traditionally “published.”

We thought he made it as outrageous as possible.  And yet… yeah.  Some people still find that post and send him congratulations.

So… I decided not to announce that, after seeing the light, I’d joined the communist party and/or was giving up writing forever.  Because it probably WOULD lose me readers and be brought up years from now as “Sarah Hoyt is a secret communist” or “she said she wasn’t writing another word and she went on writing, and I lost all respect for her.”

Hence what I was planning, more of a joke on the characters, because let’s face it, having Kate’s Jim faced with a shape shifting DRAGON at a con, and having people trying to pretend it was a costume would be hilarious.

Ah well.  Maybe one of these days the individualists will organize.  For now, though, I’m going to do some work – and that’s no joke.

115 thoughts on “April Foolishness — part two.

    1. Every year I mean to write an RFC for ICMP over ICBM. You can get up to 12 bits in a single launch. This is the real ping of death.

      1. On a rather lower-scale side, I have actually contemplated the possibility of using modems to communicate through water, by boosting the power output to drive an underwater speaker/microphone setup.

  1. I have seen one unacceptable joke this year. An announcement of the death of queen Elizabeth. Some things are too morbid for humor. Hmm Mad mike announced he was taking a hiatus from writing to concentrate on his bladesmithing. April fools maybe?

  2. Darkship Magic

    I never wanted to crash land on a parallel Earth. Never wanted to see the power gauges racing the altimeter for the bottom. Never wanted wonky maps that were both certain this was North America and uncertain as to which mountain range we were hurtling toward. Never wanted to learn the truth about Magic. Never wanted to meet anyone named Never. You always get what you don’t ask for.

    Which was why I had a death grip on my seat, while Kit, my pilot husband, fought cranky, underpowered controls. My eyes were locked on the altimeter as I switched off the nav computer and fired up the simple radar mapping system. It took much less power, especially with the tiny search pattern I set. All we needed was a flat spot about twenty meters diameter, close enough to a power source to recharge the coils . . . if I could repair them . . .

    The radar map was jagged. Mountainous. “It is slightly less mountainous to the west of our landing cone.” I tried to not yell. The whistle of a fast atmospheric entry was faint through the dimatough hull.
    The view through the forward screen was dim. The filter that protected my husband’s sensitive eyes made it difficult for me to see anything. Of course all I could actually see was a thick cloud layer. We dived into it, and the view dimmed further, then brightened slightly as the filter adjusted.
    Kit muttered something under his breath. Whether he was cursing the controls, my report, or me was hard to say. But with a battleship hot on our tails, ducking through an odd magnetic anomaly had seemed like a good idea at the time. Except that it had drastically drained our power supply. And except for the comet that had popped up out of nowhere. Dodging it had used up a huge chunk of what was left in the coils, leaving us with, probably, enough for a controlled landing.

    If we could bleed off enough velocity with a shallow angle entry.

    The attempt to do so looked like it was going to fly us straight into the side of a mountain.

    “Kit, bank left. Now!” My voice rose toward the end, as the radar image enlarged and the range numbers scrolled down.

    We popped out of the bottom of the cloud deck face to face with a classic volcano. It stood well above the lesser mountains around it. Kit hissed and banked harder. I don’t think we scrapped hull as we shot past.
    I jerk my attention back to the radar. “There’s a valley ahead . . . ”

    He grunted.

    No whistling atmosphere, now. A sinking feeling. The kind that means you aren’t quite falling out of the sky.


    I don’t think you can fly a spaceship dead stick, but Kit was using as little power as possible. He attention flicked from altimeter to power gauge. “You’d better be strapped in!”

    We skipped over trees, topped a low grassy hill . . . I think we spotted the buildings simultaneously. We both cursed. Kit triggered the retros. We hit with a thump, bounced, thumped, slid, still downhill, an out-of-control slither on grass changing to a grinding jitter and jerk as the ruts of a road diverted us, caught and spun the ship sideways . . . tipped . . . thudded back onto the landing gear.

    We stopped, the nose of the ship perhaps two meters from a barn to the left, an ornate little two story building to the right. There’d been a fence, a garden . . . I hit the release and staggered out of my seat.

    “Athena!” Exasperation in his voice, Kit grabbed for me.

    He knows better, but the last couple of hours had been strenuous. More for him than me, so instead of punching him I just ripped the jacket open and eeled out of it as I ran out the door. I hit the airlock release and bolted through. Please don’t let anyone be dead, please . . .

    The back door of the building opened and a man leaped out. I put on the brakes, scrambled back toward the ramp.

    Tall, very dark, vaguely roman, breastplate gleaming, leather strips for a skirt, spear in his right hand. He jerked to a halt. We stared at each other in mutual consternation. Confusion. I shook my head, eyes adjusting to bright sunlight. He switched the spear to his left hand and leaned on it. Dark, stooped, bald. Grey all through his remaining hair. How had I gotten the impression of armor? He wore a food stained apron over shirt and pants.

    His eyes left me, to run over the spaceship that had landed in his back yard. The door opened behind him, more people emerging. A spectacular blonde woman, left hand raised as if ready to throw, but there was nothing in her hand. A tall dark haired man grabbed a girl of perhaps ten and firmly placed her back inside, blocked a dark hair boy . . . and turned to stare at Athena. His gaze did not meet her eyes . . . it was focused a bit lower.

    I glanced down. No wonder I felt chilled. Apparently I’d also left my _shirt_ in my husband’s grasp.

    Thumping footsteps behind me. Kit held out the missing garments and stepped in front of me. “Sorry. Emergency landing. Did . . . was there anyone . . . ”

    A snort from the right. An old woman limped around the end of the ship, thumping her cane. “No, you missed everything except my fence and a some rather interesting variations of sunflowers.” She cocked her head and studied him. “I’m Lady Gisele, and I suspect you are from a very long ways away.”

    The blonde woman stepped up beside the old man. She eyed me, brows disapproving, shoulders stiff. Jealous. Reminded, I slid my arms into my shirtsleeves and examined the closure. No hope, I’d managed to rip the cloth. I overlapped the edges and used the jacket like a belt, tying the sleeves tightly enough to maintain decency.

    “I am Never Happydaut. This is Harry Traveler.” The dark old man. “And Dydit Twicecutt.” She nodded toward the younger man. Gave him a disapproving frown. He moved his gaze away from my now covered chest and managed a credible disinterested expression.

    I eyed the low tech look of the place and felt my stomach sink.

    Kit glanced over at the charge plates, apparently with the same thought. “So . . . what are the chances of us being able to recharge our capacitor coils?”

    The strangers eyed the plates. Tucked inside the hull, in the airlock for easy access, they were the ends of high capacity cables that led straight to the coils.

    “Hmm, don’t think 110 volt AC is what you have in mind.” Old Harry reached out and touched the hull. “Strange stuff.”

    “If you are talking electricity, give us the specs.” The young man, Dydit, stepped around the blonde. “Most likely we can arrange it.”

    “And get you out of here quickly,” Never muttered under her breath.

    [[[[[Oops. This was supposed to be just one page. So I’ve cut the parts about Kit being lured off to the hot springs by some hot witches. About Thena going all . . . Thena on them. Dragging the bruised and limping witches back to the ship and setting them to magically charging the coils. And I’m sure no one is interested in Thena returning to the hotsprings to be sure that whenever Kit thinks of hotsprings he thinks of her. Although the scene was awfully fun to write. Especially the part where Thena had to do mouth-to-mouth after she nearly drowned Kit at the height of passion.

    Suffice to say, they returned safely to their home, once they’d tracked down the comet and that magnetic anomaly. Nudging the comet out of a collision course with the planet as they passed, just because they’re the good guys, and do things like that.]]]]]

    1. Pam was only friend who came through. I’ll main post it this evening — right now I’m trying to do article for PJM and wondering if I should nap first. It’s THAT bad. I guess I REALLY got exhausted?

      1. Recuperate. Dodge all Con Crud. And you might as well wait. This group, you just might find some of your other characters in odd places.

    2. “…. So I’ve cut the parts about Kit being lured off to the hot springs by some hot witches. ”

      Sure, leave out the good bits.

  3. Oh my, yes. I can just imagine the earnest face waiting for praise, and the soggy carpet preparing to mold…

  4. I have a mental block where April Fool’s is supposed to be– So I get to be the butt a lot. Don’t care– and I find out who my friends are– really. The real friends are gentler with the jokes then the others. Since my hubby knows about this deficiency, he saves his pranks on those at work. 😉

    1. I have an inability to keep track of the date. This means I *routinely* show up for work on holidays. Fortunately, being a Unix Admin, it means I get quite a bit of work done before I realize that I’m the only one in the office.

      1. I’m fairly poor with dates myself, but realized I am better than some people yesterday. While sitting at the table eating Easter dinner a friend of mine’s sister-in-law asked me if it was Sunday. 😉

    2. Having spent the first almost two decades of my life as the most diminutive person in most groups, I learned quickly to become a “bad sport”. People would pull some BS on me – once. They’d never do it again. I can be the grumpiest grumpy butt you’ve EVER seen ANYWHERE!!!

      1. Ditto.

        Folks who like to make others the butt of a joke constantly complain I have “no sense of humor.”

        (My sense of humor is currently hampered by lack of sleep and lack of adult conversation– husband is away for an extended time and three year olds aren’t known for subtle word play– but it’s notable enough that the folks who recognize my sense of humor are worried!)

  5. Go back to Stranger in a Strange Land and reread the scene where Valentine Michael Smith “groks” humor. I think Heinlein nailed it. Almost all humorous events/stories are humorous at someone’s expense and- often-pain. Been that way since the dawn of time; don’t see it changing anytime soon. But those who are mean or malicious about it don’t seem to understand the poverty of character it reveals about themselves.

    1. See RES’s comment above. The thing you might be laughing at because it hurts so much is funny because we all do it/feel it. The setting up of someone to fall/fail is not a joke as such. It’s a “practical” joke, aka, lowest form of humor, aka, see Mike in TMIAHM.

    2. Recognition of shared pain is inclusionary. EVERY parent has had to deal with a child’s earnest effort to help. The difference is whether the retelling is structured toward joining us in the recognition of that or in punishing the child for trying to make Mommy proud.

      1. It strikes me that a different way of expressing this, one more in keeping with contemporary jargon is in terms of “otherness.” Humour could be measured by the degree to which it increases otherness (exclusionary) or reduces otherness (inclusionary) in its effect. Alienation is probably another name for this metric, allowing humour to be quantified by the degree to which it increases or decreases alienation of the target of the humour from the main group.

        Either way it can be a significant tool for reinforcing social cohesion.

        1. I wonder how many alienated people are out there, who are just one ‘prank’ (as victim) away from causing another school bombing or shooting tragedy.

            1. “One” is too many, but there’s no way a society as large as ours wouldn’t have a few nuts running loose. The problem is finding an outlet for that alienation to be expressed — and relieved — short of a tragedy. THAT”S the part Society hasn’t figured out yet.

          1. IIRC, the folk-knowledge about mass murderers being bullying victims has not been supported by follow-up– they tend to actually be bullies.

            That said, I thank God that my temperament is more in the “maim the guy causing the immediate problem” than “maim/kill myself” direction.

  6. I have long and tediously pondered the idea that most humour can be broadly separated into two categories, inclusionary humour and exclusionary humour. Inclusionary humour is that which makes us see our common humanity (take my wife, please) by relating shared experiences (Bill Cosby, even if a majority of us were not black children growing up in Philadelphia) or mocking shared traits/foibles (know why women are terrible at judging distances? Because they’re constantly told that this — holding up hands to indicate a space — is six inches.)

    Exclusionary humour is typically used as part of a status game, demonstrating that the jokester is hip, cool and in with the “in” crowd. Its humour derives from humiliating or victimizing another, allowing those laughing to assert their membership in a superior group. It is the basis of most ethnic jokes, such as the “polock” jokes that were popular in my youth. For many in the audience it is cringe-inducing, as crowd effects induce joining in with the laughter while finding the actual joke (Gov. Palin, what a dumb c-) unfunny or even offensive. Such jokes are tools of social control, signalling who is to be mocked and why, and often the same jokes (so-and-so politician is sooooo dumb …) on both sides of the fray.

    Some humour, such as Abbot & Costello’s “Who’s On First” routine builds upon our pleasure in witty wordplay and ability to empathize with the frustration of the “victim” of the confusion, just as we delight when a joke or prank backfires on the perpetrator. Some humour derives from a shared delight in a novel way of presentation of information or self-mockery (Flanders & Swann excelled at this; see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vh-wEXvdW8 ) which are generally inclusionary.

    1. Posted below, but more appropriate here – Screwtape and his definition of humor, and how sneering is the type useful for the devils of Hell.

      1. Thanks for the reminder to reread Screwtape. The audiobook versions are great in the car, where the driving bleeds off enough mental activity to allow me to really listen to what is being said, and the Screwtape reminds me of the futility of shouting advice to other drivers.

    2. So. How do you see this as funny:
      Cats singing a song and playing pattycakes.
      Danson la Capucine

      1. I mean, I’m pretty scarred up and mean and it makes me want to squirt rainbows out of my eyes, it is so cute.

      2. It is inherently inclusive, both because — awwwwww; Kewt! — it evokes a common human appreciation of the beauty of cats and by expressing the absurdity of human existence.

        1. So we’ve got “hah, hah, yeah, that’s the truth, been there” humor, nasty bully vicious humor, clever humor, physical humor (should we divide it into Jackie Chan and Three Stooges?), and “oh, my, that is crazy cute!” absurd type humor?

          Maybe absurd is its own type?

          1. That humor that pulls us together. That humor that separates us.

            That humor that requires twists or tweaks with words.

            Abbot and Costello had routines that depended upon words. The nicknames in sports produced the silliness of ‘Who’s on first.’ It was said that the bit about ‘The Susquehanna Hat Factory’ used Susquehanna because that word, in and of itself, was funny. There were the puns in the job at the bread factory, see:

            But, with words, the spoken delivery also matters. I recall a marvelous episode of The Jack Benny Show guest starring George Burns. The plot had the two recalling their failed attempt to make it in vaudeville together. The routine they did was dry as the Sahara, in all the wrong ways, truly awful. In a moment of pique Burns tells Benny he could do the skit better with the landlady’s daughter; Benny tells him to do it. We then watch as Benny listens in the wings to Burns and his most gifted wife, Gracie Allen; suddenly the same dialogue becomes hilarious. (Burns says that he originally wrote the routines for Burns and Allen with Gracie as the straight man. Even when delivering what was supposed to be the straight line she got the laughs.)

            Physical humor?

            I have to admit that I never found the Three Stooges funny. There is a bit too much of the interplay that seems cruel and it that makes me uncomfortable.

            Jackie Chan is working on several levels. He is plays with tropes. He does not mind looking absurd or being the brunt of the joke when it is appropriate to the story. He displays a great physical grace, and there is an usually an undercurrent of joy to his work. Still, Chan is no Buster Keaton…

            Absurd probably is its own type, but I think that it is usually part of a mix, and not the sole meme. For example Monty Python uses absurdity, but combines it with word play and physical comedy.

            1. Gracie Allen-
              I admit, at first I was blanking, then something about mentioning her getting laughs on the straight lines triggered her voice. Gotta love the Oldtime Radio station on Sirius– my folks listen to it frequently!

              I don’t “get” the Three Stooges, but I know a lot of folks do find them funny; I see them as the physical version of the “exclusion” humor, while Jackie Chan can have me laughing with one wide-eyed “oh, crud!” expression. (Hm… so can my husband, actually. And it works on my daughters, too.)


              A theory for SOME people:
              inclusionary humor involves making fun of one’s self, or at least enough confidence to ALLOW the possibility.
              It’s the humor version of the “why do women date jerks” question.

              There’s a big gray area in the middle– in possibilities, not so much practice– but right now there’s a big, huge, pulsing monstrosity of the worst of the worst that are somehow popular. Such as making sex jokes about under-aged girls because their mother is a politician with whom you do not agree, even though the justification you give is that they behaved as you claim elsewhere is right.

              1. Ah the joke had been made about the younger sister, it was the older sister who had behaved as we are told all young people do, and instead of conveniently disposing of the evidence had the guts to take responsibility for her action, even when she found out that the father was a cad in the extreme.

                1. I choose to believe he was really dumb enough to not bother to find out she had the 14 year old with her, rather than the 17 year old. There’s a reason I’m the token optimist in my geek group….

                  That said, she even waited until she was in a “committed relationship” where they “really loved each other”– I must say, being willing to get a ring tattoo is a LOT more pain than I’d accept to get laid, which just goes to show I’m not a teenage male…..

                  1. The story that eventually came out about that “committed relationship” was far more sordid (were she a liberal she would be lauded as a victim of “date rape”) and says depressing things about the talent young women can have for self-delusion.

                    1. It’s almost like requiring actual public commitment is a protection for the vulnerable.

                      Not that she deserves protection, having clearly chosen poorly in the parents she took.

                      (Does this fall into the absurd, or is it another category of pointed but not vicious? I’d draw a difference between the divisive and the “making a point with humor” type, but that may be me.)

                    2. Most humour is a herd control mechanism (I found where my 30-year old social anthropology hat had fallen to) and serves to distinguish between Us and Them. Sometimes it is used to draw people into the Us by reflecting commonality. Sometimes it is used to define unacceptable behaviours, viewpoints and ideologies by ridiculing the Them (and in the process binding more tightly those of Us eager to avoid becoming targets.) A supreme example of this was demonstrated by the musical Cabaret with the number “If You Could See Her Through My Eyes.”

                      N.B. – this number was cut from the original Broadway production as too much, and added back for the movie.

                    3. I disagree– I think that most humor where there is a motive that people can pin to it is herd-control.

                      Evidence? My daughters make jokes. They’re pretty basic examples of absurdities: “I a kitty! Mew, mew!” or the conversations where they claim more and more absurd things until we fall down giggling.

                      If humor has a “purpose,” it is group-forming– but, again, there are two broad groups, the group-building and the they-are-bad type.

                    4. Group-forming is a component of herd control. The social anthropologist analyses the function of humour in terms of group dynamics. Then again, the social anthropologist analyses the function of everything in terms of group dynamics.

                      OTOH, sometimes a joke is just a joke.

                    5. (It’s not that I think anthropology is always wrong, it’s that I think it can suffer from grand-theory-of-everything disease.)

                    6. There is humor that allows us to get away with take a poking the establishment. There is humor that comes from the place of if we do not laugh, then we will cry.

                      Then there is what Mel Brooks manages to do here — turn things on their head:

                  2. Well, I AM a male, and one who was going stir-crazy before ever losing my virginity, and I STILL would not have done that.

                    1. Power of civilization.

                      (lest folks think I’m ragging on guys, civilization among gals is likewise breaking down– it just tends towards power tripping and less physical using)

                    2. Oh, I knew guys who would probably do it when I was high school, 30+ years ago, but I was never that crazy.

              2. When I was quite young I recall enjoying the Stooges, although for the life of me I cannot recall why. I can only surmise that their anarchic expression of the Id finds echoes in the young heart. Nowadays the only thing I find amusing about them is the claim that Curly was quite the ladies man, a veritable rake — an image I find ripe for parody. (Rich Little once did a routine of celebrities sneezing; imagine what he would do with their climaxes.)

                As for attacking politicians, the argument with which they defend their scurrilous attacks is they are targeting the politicians’ “hypocrisy” — a word they keep using even though I do not think it means what they think it does. I find their protestations remarkably unpersuasive.

                1. I suddenly had a vague memory of being hit in the back of the head and being shocked that it HURT… this may be related to the popularity of the stooges with the young….

                  1. Yes – it is cartoon humour, done live action. Much of the humour of classic cartoons derives from such physical schtick, so to see it done by live actors is startling. Because children are not generally born empathetic, the broad slapstick is funny because it has no apparent effect (IIRC, the reaction of the Stooge victimized is more generally one of ire than of pain.)

                    I guess.

                    1. So, Sarah’s idea about empathy is probably right.

                      (I KNOW my empathy is over-done– I even shudder when the bad guy gets it.)

                    2. Not sure you can say it is an excess of empathy, being this particular season let me cite: John 3:17 and 2 Peter 3:9. While He is holy, and we, decidedly are not — He made a way where there was no way.

  7. Humiliation entertainment is one of the reasons that I dislike most reality TV programming. Well, that and that I can’t see myself putting up with any of it. I’m not a nice guy myself but I’m not entertained by abusing people. And if Gordon Ramsey talked that way to me, he’d spend the rest of his season in traction. Simon Cowell? Ha. Pansy brit would get his butt bounced back over the Atlantic.

    1. Gordon Ramsay gets a pass from me. The UK Kitchen Nightmares shows he actually cares about food; he just has communication skills “polished” by soccer, Scotland, and Marco Pierre White. So, of course Fox plays up those bits for ratings instead of the passion for food.

      But I do worry that we’re essentially condoning bad behavior in reality TV and the internet.

      1. Well, I still think it would be funny, and REALLY wanted to post about becoming a communist, and my stuffed Marx doll and hammer and scickle undies, but I’m SURE I’d never hear the end of it. No matter how ridiculous I made it, some people would believe it.

        1. Yes, it would have been funny – knowing you, you’d manage a pretty good send-up of communists at the same time. Maybe you could create an alternate character to attribute it to?

              1. I’ll ask Robert what sister Agnes’ analog is… You know, the one from the communist world.

                The question is, does Red Sarah have a beard? (No, Sarah, she’s not a lesbian, either. — Runs.)

                1. Of course Red Sarah wouldn’t have a beard. She’s not male. (runs in opposite direction)

                    1. (Bouncing around) Nyah-nyah! Can’t hit – Bbbrrrraaapppp!!! Thud.

                      Hey, you’re not supposed to throw half the bucket at once!

        2. Years ago, a guy in Columbus, OH had a humor website (site is now defunct). Leading up to one April Fool’s, he and one of this blogger friends posted a series of hateful emails that they had supposedly sent each other. Years later he would get people calling him names for what he said to her.

        3. Speaking of dolls and inclusionary humor – did you know you can buy a “doctor” doll that talks? It’s a pull the string thing. My favorite comment from the Doctor is “Bend over and relax!”

          1. And here I thought you meant Doctor Who, and that it would say either, “Don’t Blink”, or “Timey Wimey”.

  8. Agree with all. And that’s not just with April Fools, but with all humor (I am reminded of Screwtape’s three kinds of humor, and the one the demons could use was the sneer, which is about lifting the joker up by smashing others down).

    My father used to play the same April Fool’s prank on my mother every year – she went to the kitchen in the morning before he did, and he would tie the the sink sprayer handle down with a rubber band so she’d get squirted when she turned the water on. And she’d forget, every year (Mom’s kind of a zombie first thing in the morning). I even called her one morning to remind her, and she still got hit. Dad said he’d thought about stopping, but he realized he couldn’t, or she’d think he didn’t love her any more. (He finally stopped when he retired, and was the one who got up first in the morning.)

  9. I saw a couple good April Fools articles in magazines I got. One was the American Orchid Society that ran an article in the April issue about an extinct north american orchid that required pollination by buffalo (and distribution from seeds being stuck in buffalo snot), and a Reptile magazine article/letter about someone who’d found unidentified snake eggs in the yard and brought them indoors and they’d hatched but all but one baby rattlesnake had escaped and was now loose in the house.

    Both played straight and nearly convincing because… buffalo snot… and if you knew your snakes you knew that rattlesnakes don’t lay eggs.

  10. I am inclined to assert, “Joke ’em if they can’t take a [FITB].” But then I realize just how humorless some of our gauche bretheren and sisteren can be. ::sigh:: This is why we can’t have nice things.


      1. You like being referred to as a (generally underground) water reservoir?

          1. You know, at the local community center they were having an all-night techno dance/pool party, so I told some of the neighborhood kids about it.

            Yes, I sent them down to a watery rave.

            1. Oh, that’s terrible. You nearly cost me some of my coffee and made me wipe my monitor. 🙂

            2. Is that like the time we got the robot hooked on DC current? He found his death from a battery crave.

              (Don’t look at me like that, I could have talked about the wave of kittens from the cattery, instead)

  11. St. George and the Allergy: A Shifter Story (with profound apologies to our hostess)

    Dr. Leigh Kendall and her two grad students slid into a booth at The George. She’d insisted they leave Denver early enough to avoid both morning rush and the storms forecast to reach Trinidad around noon, no matter how long the post-conference grad-student pub-crawl lasted. She hated driving through construction zones in the rain.

    As bait, she’d agreed to buy Mitch and Kiko “a real breakfast” en route. They’d stopped at Goldport, and found the George. The Geology Department would cover the meal, since she could argue she was supporting a local small business, Leigh grinned.

    “Good morning!” A chipper young lady in a Colorado University — Goldport tee-shirt beamed at the frazzled trio. “Coffee?”

    “Oh yeah,” Mitch pleaded, and three mugs of hot coffee appeared as if out of nowhere. “Mmmmm,” the petroleum geology student sighed after the first sip.

    “I’ll be back to get your order,” and the waitress spun around, rushing off to refill the coffee pot and take care of some tourists in another booth.

    In the process she gave them a view of the back of her shirt. “Just another CUG in the wheel,” Kiko read. “That’s almost worse than ours.”

    Mitch shook his head and combed a flop of hair out of his eyes. “Not worse than the one from the Psychology Department.”

    Leigh frowned and shook her head, stopping his recitation. “Please don’t scare people or embarrass me,” she warned. Normal people did not need to know about the infamous “S&NM State U” debacle.

    Kiko set down her menu. “I want the three-egg omelet, veggie, please. “Scuze me,” and the petite geochemistry PhD student eased out of the booth and went back to the bathrooms. As she did, they heard a loud sneeze, followed by a quieter sniff. Another sneeze, and then another resounded from under a large picture of St. George slaying a dragon. Kiko returned a few minutes later, eyes wide. “You won’t believe this, Doc. The guy with the sneezes? He’s a squirrel.”

    “Drink your coffee,” Leigh ordered. She was not up to it, not this early, even on April First. The waitress returned took their orders, and then stopped by the booth under the painting as more sneezes rang out. She rushed over to the kitchen and had what looked to Leigh like a frantic conversation with the chef. The young, dark-haired man shook his head and looked angry. Or resigned, Leigh thought.

    Tom scattered chopped vegetables onto the omelet and wished Kyrie would get back from taking Notty to the vet. He couldn’t ask Terri to deal with the Poet and his shift-inducing allergies. She was a great waitress, and a shifter, but some things he refused to delegate. At least, as huddled under his coat and a blanket as he was, no one would notice the squirrel.

        1. Yeah, but how many people outside of Colorado would get it? At least the George is in Goldport. Could you imagine the talk it would generate in Trinidad? Of course, it would probably not phase the locals at all… I know a few.

  12. David Carrico wrote “I think Heinlein nailed it. Almost all humorous events/stories are humorous at someone’s expense and- often-pain.”

    I am unconvinced that Heinlein’s characters got that right. It think humor is more fundamentally about misunderstandings and the absurd. Consider Rube Goldberg machines: the humor is not in feeling superior to the inventor, merely in grokking the weirdness and absurdity. Or consider the old skit about cutting shoe soles out of the pressure pad material in front of the old-style automatic supermarket doors, so that thereafter things automatically open as you walk up to them.

    Driven by a fundamental requirement for absurdity and misunderstanding, it turns out that situations with people being confused can be far more absurd than you can easily manage without people involved. This is true even if you don’t focus on violations of social rules. E.g., you can generate quite a lot of farcical absurdity based on disguise and mistaken identity even if you don’t focus on violations of social rules. People looking for each other in closets, walking past each other without noticing, hearing something intended for someone else and misunderstanding because they lack the right background…

    And beyond that, a really rich vein of absurdity is social rules, partly because audiences are likely to know more shared rich detail about social rules than they know about practical rules. As above, you can make farcical absurdity by having someone look in the closet right before the imposter enters, and again right after the imposter leaves, or by having someone earnestly boil a steak. However, it’s easier to mass-produce farcical absurdity by having someone mistake a chef for an undercover policeman, so that you can start hammering on the theme of violations of social expectations and rules that follow naturally in that situation.

    And beyond *that*, it’s easier to manufacture absurdity with social rules because most people seem to be better at thinking about social situations than they are at thinking about comparably complicated physical situations. (See, e.g., the famous Cosmides and Tooby spin on the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wason_selection_task) This ability makes it easier to create in the audience a shared understanding of a complicated situation from which absurdity can be mined. (It was not for nothing that I chose a social situation in my example of students’ powers of listening comprehension here.)

    All that said, I do agree that people pay more attention to humor at someone’s expense. Even so, I’m not convinced that this effect is primarily related to cruelty. See the snake example in the same link, just above, which contained the listening example. I claimed there that people naturally tend to pay more attention to an event that pushes yikes-a-snake and yikes-something-lethal buttons in their brains. I still think that, and I think the yikes-a-snake button in particular is clearly separate from cruelty. And even the yikes-something-lethal response might not be cruelty: did the students hate the poor sheep? I think a dynamite safety lesson featuring a couch or bed being blown to smithereens would trigger a similar yikes-lethal response even in students who didn’t hate furniture. So in the same vein, I think a story which pushes a yikes-a-faux-pas button naturally tends to hold people’s attention better. Therefore I think the dispassionate attention-holding function of something attention-gettingly bad happening could be more important than any cruel lip-smacking satisfaction in humiliation or other suffering.

    So successful humor can be cruel, but so can successful fairy tales, and I think it’s largely for similar reasons which are not central to what humor is.

  13. I can’t resist a little street theater now and then. I get bored, you see. So…

    Main Lady is a license clinical psychologist. One fine we went up to the hospital to visit some friend of hers who was having more than her share of misfortune lately. We found the correct room, but shortly after we entered an officious nurse waltzed in and demanded to know who we were – due to the new HIPAA regulations, which are Federal law.

    “Your papers, please.”

    “I’m Main Lady. The patient and I are friends. I’m a licensed clinical psychologist, and I am quite familiar with HIPAA and privacy law.”

    “I see. And just who is this?”

    “Me? I’m Mad Jack. I’m with Main Lady.”

    “I see. And, uh… just why are you here?”

    This is none of Herrin Sicherheit’s business. She’s being nosy and I don’t care for the tone of her voice. So off we go.

    “Oh, I’m Main Lady’s patient. She let me come along today if I promised to behave myself and not make a fuss.”

    The woman looks alarmed. Main Lady tries to think of a believable way to dismiss this as an outrageous fabrication, but she’s a bit slow.

    “Where do you live? I mean, do you have an apartment or are you at the, ah, hospital, or what?”

    “Oh,here and there. Wherever THEY aren’t looking for me, that’s where I’ll be. Say, you know, I don’t think I took my meds this morning.”

    The woman looks alarmed.

    “Did you bring my meds with you? I keep thinking that THEY are around here, watching. Are they?”

    The woman heads for the door, eyes wide.

    Main Lady broke the whole thing up before the nurse could get away, and we all had a good laugh over it. All but the nurse, anyway.

  14. Our English Lit class was canceled today, and the prof added “Don’t forget the test on Wednesday!” (when the test is scheduled for next week).

    The look of panic on the students’ faces was priceless. I didn’t say anything to disabuse them.

    1. You have classes on how to set English on fire???? Is that English books or actual English people?

      1. “What don’t we like in the Legion?”
        “A wise-ass.”

        [The Last Remake of Beau Geste]

  15. My personal favorite prank was the gentleman who, one day, turned all of the notices posted on all of the bulletin boards upside down.

    I grew up on a strange combination of British and old vaudeville comedy. I’m afraid my sense of humor has been irreparably warped.

    “Ven come the revolution, we will all eat strawberries!”
    “But I don’t like strawberries.”
    “Ven come the revolution, you vill like strawberries!”

    “Ceaser, why do you not shut him up?”
    “How can I when I’m playing Britanius?”

  16. For one of the best NOT April Fool’s jokes: A friend and I had joined a gym many years ago. One day, which just happened to be April 1, we were heading over to a piece of equipment when a leak in the plumbing overhead caused the ceiling to collapse on the machine. We went around the corner and reported it to the attendant, but because of what day it was, it took us nearly 10 minutes to convince him to come see it.

  17. I like the April Fool’s jokes where someone comes up with something _just_ too good to be true… and then elaborates on it… turns it gradually into something tall enough that the person gets suspicious… and then hits you with the really funny bit, right before saying April Fools.

    The problem is that a lot of people only read the first line of such a joke and want to believe it.

  18. Oh… and there was the time at Bible College when half the school was gone for Choir tour (super small school, big deal choral department) on Apr. 1st and my guy friends called me and asked me to put signs up in the girl’s dorm saying that Chapel was cancelled. I wrote “April Fools” on the back of the sheets of paper and put the notices up… and then the next morning *I* went to Chapel. Alone. The ladies dean saw the sign, turned around and went back to bed, apparently without wondering who put the signs up since it wasn’t her.

    I didn’t get in any formal trouble because I didn’t skip Chapel, but boy oh boy did she read me the riot act.

  19. Like Satire: The problem with a well-done practical joke is it is almost indistinguishable from the Real Thing. (For ex., the RFC mentioned upthread.)

  20. My mother has one of the worst “ears” for this sort of thing. April Fools pranks, I mean. It gave me a real distaste for it.

    Today, my mom came to me and said something along the lines of, “So I was thinking that today when [my s-i-l] calls to check on [my niece] I could say -” And I interrupt her all, “No. No, you’re not going to say Aubrey is missing or hurt or -” And she’s like, “No no no… I’m just going to tell her she got on the table and knocked off most of the eggs [that my s-i-l’s class is going to hatch]. :D” I still said ‘no’ because it ‘wasn’t funny’ but my mom, of course, went off and did it anyway. Later I hear her end of the conversation where she says it and laughs and says, “Chella said not to, haha ha! I said that it doesn’t HAVE to be funny!” So my s-i-l probably said something along the lines of, “You shouldn’t scare me like that! That’s not funny!”

    Still, it’s one of her milder pranks she’s tried, at least in the sense of, “Least likely to upset.”

    I’m pretty sure that the only April Fools prank I ever really pulled was turning as much of the hotel furniture upside down as I could (including a bowl of fruit) during the night.

    The tech pranks like “Google Nose” and so forth I can usually get behind. Reddit pulled a sort of prank that was irritating (redirecting some subreddits to another could be worked around – but their “VS” game that came about a few hours later made the site actually unusable to me when the javascript kept locking up my browser). I read that the mobile version of the prank made it look like their smart phone was crashing. But Reddit’s pranks were still better than others. Like those threads you see about “Best April Fools pranks you ever saw/made.” and most of them are things that could cause long-lasting irritation (glitter on a ceiling fan), make people sick (adding things to their food), damage them (dye in shampoo), harm them (all manner of things-hitting-in-face); etc. Bleh.

    I think that’s why I really hate the My Little Pony episodes with Pinkie Pie pulling practical jokes. I was positively enraged at one episode where she giggled and snorted and dealt with one friend’s jealousy by allowing the other jealous friend to pull harmful pranks on her.

  21. Does anyone else here subscribe to the Baen Books Newsletter? The version I received in my Inbox on Monday is not quite the same as the version online right now. 😉

  22. Not a comment on this post specifically. Just wanted to say thanks for a great blog, and for filling in over at Instapundit. You are my first stop every morning, and I just bought Darkship Thieves in Kindle…

  23. You nailed one of my biggest complaints about TV and Movies on the head. I hate, hate, HATE humiliation humor (although the best I’d been able to describe it was by saying it was ‘awkward’ and made me uncomfortable and upset), and I’ll walk out of the room or turn the TV off if I encounter it. Over the last few years I’ve stopped watching TV or going to movies entirely, partially because I always feel like I’m wasting my time, and partially because of the humor. I just don’t get an pleasure out of them anymore. Thank you for this post!

    1. Yes, that is the reason I watch very few romantic comedies, which I should love. I can’t STAND humiliation humor. And there’s no need for it. You can have “main character is goofy” humor (The McPherson’s series by Sharyn McCrumb comes to mind. Or even — though her last few have been blah — Janet Evanovich.) I think Hollywood has forgotten how to laugh. They’ve become “mean girls” — particularly the guys.

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