What is this sort of joke called?
April 19, 2008 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Is there a name for this style of joking? Set-up: Person A asks a question. Punchline: Person B -- by pretending to misunderstand the question -- gives an unexpected response. The Marx Bros used this style a lot, and I see it over and over on "Flight of the Conchords. " ALSO: Can anyone offer further examples of this? Thank you so much! :-)
posted by coizero to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
non sequitur?
posted by gcat at 4:10 PM on April 19, 2008

Comic misprision? I couldn't find a good link to a definition.

In Animal Crackers
-- Spaulding: ' Well, what do you say, girls? Are we all going to get married? '
-- Rittenhouse: ' All of us? '
-- Spaulding: ' All of us! '
-- Rittenhouse: ' Yes, but that's bigamy! '
-- Spaulding: ' Yes, and it's big-of-me too. It's big of all of us. Let's be big for a change. I'm sick of these conventional marriages. One woman and one man was good enough for your grandmother, but who wants to marry your grandmother? '
posted by txsebastien at 4:12 PM on April 19, 2008

Response by poster: ^^^ Yes! This is exactly the sort of joke I meant! :-D
posted by coizero at 4:20 PM on April 19, 2008

Ok, it's apparently not a common usage but: definition 1 and definition 2. I heard the term first used by a professor who was teaching Shakespearean comedies (think Twelth Night, Much Ado).

But maybe you are just looking for double entendre.
posted by txsebastien at 4:34 PM on April 19, 2008

I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:46 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

A similar device can also be used when one person is speaking- I walked into a bar... needed six stitches. If anyone can provide the terms for both types of verbal misunderstanding for humour's sake then much obliged!
posted by Gratishades at 5:29 PM on April 19, 2008

God, Hot Shots 1&2 are full of them if I understand you correctly...

Topper Harley: I could never find time for love. It's too heavy. It's an anchor that drowns a man. Besides, I got the sky, the smell of jet exhaust, my bike.
Pete 'Dead Meat' Thompson: Ahh, a loner...
Topper Harley: No. I own it.

Sheesh. Check out the quotes page.
posted by puddpunk at 6:13 PM on April 19, 2008

And call me simplistic, but I would call just call it a pun...
posted by puddpunk at 6:17 PM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: I seem to recall a spate in the New York Times where people got excited about these sort of jokes - people were writing quite a few letters to the editor about it, perhaps in response to a William Safire column or something. I think they called them "frame of reference" jokes, but that's probably not quite right. I do recall, however, that one of the examples came from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

[the King gestures to the window]
King of Swamp Castle: One day, lad, all this will be yours.
Prince Herbert: What, the curtains?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:17 PM on April 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

In Japan it's known as manzai.
Manzai (漫才) is a style of stand-up comedy in Japan, which usually involves two performers—a straight man (tsukkomi) and a funny man (boke)—trading jokes at great speed. Most of the jokes revolve around mutual misunderstandings, double-talk, puns and other verbal gags.
posted by Class Goat at 8:13 PM on April 19, 2008

>> I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

Seconded. Airplane and its sequel are chock full of this kind of thing, often accompanied by a cheap visual gag.

Maybe it's not exactly the kind of joke you were looking for, but I can't hear the words "Comb the desert!" without falling off my seat laughing.
posted by theyexpectresults at 11:39 PM on April 19, 2008

Here's a classic Two Ronnies sketch which uses this.
posted by MrMustard at 3:06 AM on April 20, 2008

Probably my favorite example of this kind of joke comes from Some Like It Hot:

Sugar: I come from this musical family. My mother is a piano teacher and my father was a conductor.

Josephine: Where did he conduct?

Sugar: On the Baltimore & Ohio.
posted by j-dawg at 7:17 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Any excuse for this.
posted by greytape at 9:16 AM on April 26, 2008

Best answer: I finally found the answer to this question, by the way. The rhetorical term for the sort of joke I was referring to is "asteismus." :-)
posted by coizero at 4:40 PM on July 27, 2008 [6 favorites]

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