Quite an interesting article here on how to write short jokes, which should also be of use to writers, especially advertising copywriters.
It begins by suggesting that one of the funniest and shortest jokes is Jimmy Carr’s ‘venison’s dear, isn’t it?’.
Micro-gags like Carr’s also illustrate a central tenet of classical joke craft: for some jokes to work, the teller must remove certain details from the transmission. In the joke above, the spoken information is just four words: (1) venison’s (2) dear (3) isn’t (4) it. Everything else, everything that makes the joke a joke – “venison meat comes from deer, and is also quite expensive, so you could say that deer is dear” – is carefully omitted. This extra information is called the exformation – deliberately discarded, but semantically essential detail. Carr’s joke simply wouldn’t work if all the exformation was included with the transmitted information. But why?
By whittling away the joke to its leanest form and leaving the rest implied through exformation, Carr invites the audience to connect up the dots. Our servile brains jump at the chance to fill in the blanks – automatically and with synaptic haste – and it’s this that makes us laugh. I’m not sure that we have the philosophical or scientific tools to understand exactly why this is, but it probably comes down to an atavistic pleasure mechanism where our neural circuitry is rewarded for empathic behaviour. In other words, the laughter is your brain patting itself on the back for catching Carr’s drift. What could be more social, more communal and more team-building than reading another’s thoughts and understanding more or less what they mean? Certainly, pseudo-mindreading like this would have been evolutionarily advantageous for our ancestors waging war with elemental beasts out there on the pre-metropolitan plains.