Monday, April 13, 2009

Lesson Eight: Self-Contradiction

This joke construction is popular on sitcoms. The series "Cheers" had many classic examples. In this style joke the speaker's denial proves the accusation.

For example, Frasier protests, "Are you saying I'm redundant? That I repeat myself? That I say the same thing over and over?"

His denial or questioning the fact that he's redundant proves that he is.

One of the first jokes we sold was to a stand up comedian. It was, "My wife told me I hold grudges too long. I never forgave her for saying that."

So in that implied denial (not a grudge holder) the accusation is shown to be true.

Think of a personality flaw and you've got an easy joke structure.

A: Your problem is you're a quitter.
B: No I'm not!
A: You are!
B: Okay, you're probably right. I really don't want to fight about it.


A: You're immature.
B: Am not!
A: You are!
B: Am not! Times infinity!

Not great jokes but they do make the structure clear -- the denial proves the accusation. The self-contradiction (person proving what they are denying through the denial itself) creates the incongruity, which leads to laughter.

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