Why you should never explain your jokes

When I was twenty something I always had a joke to crack. I though it was cool to be the funny guy so I always had something funny to say, especially during conversations I was not a part of (kind of a way to join in you see). It took me some time to realize I was obnoxious and that when people did not get my jokes, trying to explain them what just making things worse.

There’s a point where you have to understand that if you need to explain your jokes it might not be because you are too subtle. In my case, my problem is that I have a nerdy and twisted sense of humor that requires references and a special mindset. And it’s a lot to ask.

But I am funny, the problem really is that my potential audience is small and this is worse now that I live in a foreign country with a lot of cultural differences and a language barrier (two actually, I make my best jokes in French). So, if I crack a joke that no one understand there’s no point explaining it and here’s why:

  • The moment has passed. Sometime 1 second later is 1 second too late and what I just said doesn’t make sense anymore.
  • It was not the right time and people were not ready, or in the mood, to hear a joke. And they are not ready to hear my explanations either. This problem is accentuated by my difficulty to read social cues.
  • People don’t always have the same references than me. If I make a reference to Doctor Who and nobody knows who’s Doctor Who then to explain the joke I would have to explain Doctor Who and, really, nobody have time for that.
  • I am not funny. Or let’s say, others don’t have the same sense of humor. In that case, even with context it still won’t make sense for them.

Now, most of the time, I will keep my jokes for myself and sometimes you will see me smiling (even laugh) for an unknown reason. It’s most probably because I just thought about something really funny and chances are you won’t think it’s funny.

Unfortunately, sometimes, I think the audience is right but I am wrong. It happened to me again, last thursday, during Thai class, when I made a joke about Doctor Who and the Daleks and no one got it. And then I started to explain who are Doctor Who and the Daleks.

Luckily for everyone I stopped after 30 seconds when I realized what I was doing. In some circles, I am still known as “the guy who take 30mn to explain a 5mn story” so go figure how long it would take me to explain Doctor Who…

2 thoughts on “Why you should never explain your jokes

  1. Christophe Lestrade

    While working in London I told a joke about Santa Claus to a Spanish guy. He found it so funny that he old it to the whole audience (Mainly from Great Britain or from New Zealand). Nobody found what was funny about it, the only remark he had was “That must be a continental Joke !”. I was happy not to have told it myself to everybody.

  2. Thomas

    Thank you. THIS IS HOW I FEEL. I live in a foreign country to and i make a lot of references to american and british stuff, people most of the time dont get. I got funny bones aswell, so I try to hold the reference jokes for myself ;)


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