I have, “kids are on TikTok, adults are on
blood pressure medication.” This is truly a nightmare. Can we turn these cameras
off, please? Ah, the ancient art of comedy. Hearing people laugh at something you
came up with is one of the most universally beloved and exhilarating
feelings a person can experience, akin to achieving nirvana. So let’s do a little
experiment. A couple of comedy professionals versus a couple of
schoolyard bards. Who can write the funniest jokes? My name is Wilson
McDermut, I am a psychology professor at St. John’s University and I’m also a
stand-up comic. I taught a class on the psychology of humor, published a couple
of things on humor and personality. Knowing the psychology of humor,
unfortunately, doesn’t make me a better stand-up comic. My name is Michael
Salgarolo, I’m a comedian and a Ph.D. candidate in history. The humor of one
generation doesn’t necessarily make sense to the next generation. Comedians
have similar experiences over time: present the world in a new and
interesting light. My name is Harris Mayersohn
and I am a comedy writer. I’ve been writing comedy since elementary school.
Right now I’m unemployed so it’s a lot of just self-doubt, and being sad, and
hopefully writing jokes. The dumbest jokes make me laugh. If
somebody would actually tell a funny joke, I’ll just be like, “okay.” Like, “ha ha ha.”
And then if somebody would just tell like, “what do you call a tree?” A tree.” Something like that, just something dumb. That would make me laugh. I feel like that’s when it’s most funny, when you’re not like trying to be so funny,
it’s just what comes out and it’s natural. I audition for a lot of funny
roles. The comedy business would be like the most like the business that I would
want to really be in. Well I like dark humor. Cannibalism. Today’s experiment will take place at Caveat, a comedy club on the Lower East
Side with an unusual goal: any show you see here will make you think as hard as
it makes you laugh. The founders are a theoretical physicist and a Shakespeare
director. They met doing science talks in the back room of a bar and teamed up to
create a home for nerds who would rather come out for a comedy show than stay in
watching TED Talks all night. Again. Today, they’re gonna help us put on a show of
our own. Each team will have one hour to create a handful of different jokes and
then our neutral stand-up comic will perform both sets for our audience who
won’t know which jokes belong to which team. Most laughs win. Let’s go. So we need: a knock-knock joke, “why did the blank cross the road” joke, a
joke about a historical figure, pun about an animal, joke about science, an anti-joke. Oh hey one about a historical figure, I think we’re gonna lean on you for that one.
-Yeah I’ll get on that. Personal stories are the best comedic approach. Stuff that people can relate to. So like when you’re walking down
the street and you get eaten by a cat! No. You know what’s interesting, is that the first
joke that everyone learns as children is an anti-joke. Why did the chicken cross
the road? To get to the other side. It’s the exact opposite of what a joke should
be. Everybody just write down your jokes and we’ll tell them at the end. We all list, just go through and try to write a couple of each ourselves and
then come back. In about 15 minutes we can.
That’s perfect. Laughter is vocal but it’s not verbal which means in prelingual
times it served a communication function. And that function at that time
was to signal, “hey, we’re not under threat we can actually relax.”
Developmentally, laughter is the second form of social communication that
emerges. So in infants, the first one obviously is crying, which is meant to
communicate distress and hunger. the second one is laughter and it serves a
bonding function. When infants are bonded to their parents obviously that has very
powerful survival value Okay. Let’s see. When Isaac Newton discovered
gravity, did he get a concussion? Something like that.
– Take your time, take your time. Oh, oh! Okay! It must be a pretty light snack. That’s a good one! Yeah that’s so good. I’ve been having dark thoughts recently. My
therapist assures me, though, it’s normal to contemplate grad school. What’s a shoe salesman’s favorite animal? Crocs. Why does why does the cake
have antlers? It’s a chocolate mousse. Strong on puns. Puns are our strong suit. OK, if it was
soda, it would be flat. That joke just fell flat. What’s the difference between a microscope and a telescope? You can only use one to spy on your neighbors. Maybe we need parallel
structure. So it’s, one one you use to ook at bacteria, the other is used
to look at your neighbors. Alright, the math teacher is good with math, gym teacher… Not athletic. The next victim of cancel
culture? My Audible subscription. America’s first stand-up comedian was a
guy that I’ve actually I’ve read a transcript of his whole act. I can’t
understand any of it. But it was in the 1860s a guy named Artemus Ward. He
called it a comedic lecture. And people were very confused at the beginning. It
was theater but with no characters and no costume. But, that guy
inspired Mark Twain, one of America’s first well-known comedians. Before their
time is up, each team will have a few minutes to workshop jokes with our comic
Jessica. Hi guys. How are we working?
– Good. We might need a plumber, because the government has gone down the drain. This is a story from my sister.
… So he puts it in the other person’s milk, Then dumps it in the other person’s milk and then the person just threw it out. I’m confused, the hotdog was a straw? No the hotdog was literally just a hotdog.
– Okay. The term “misdirection.” So you want to say, one thing two things and the
third thing is the punchline. Practice a rule of three. How many middle school
teachers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to screw it in, and the
other to tell you to sit down and be quiet. Maybe it’s something more like, one
to screw it in and the other to tell you to make a diorama of Washington Crossing
the Delaware or something. Right, something more middle school specific. One to screw it in, the other to… To tell you to put some deodorant on. Without further ado,
please give a warm welcome to Jessica Saul. Thank you guys so much for having me.
We’ll start off here, let’s see. What happened when the grape got pinched?
Nothing, he just let out a little wine. What’s the difference between a
microscope and a telescope? A microscope is used to look at bacteria, and a
telescope is used to look at your neighbors. You guys know what a shoe
salesman, what their favorite animal is? Crocs. Isaac Newton discovered gravity.
Did he eat the apple? If he did must have been just a light snack. what’s the difference between a boy and a man? One is a child, one pays child support. How do we fix a broken government? With a plumber. Because our government has gone
down the drain. Why did the chicken cross the road? It was leaving KFC. Owwie! Why did the fart cross the road? To get to the gas station. This one’s a farter. He looked away. This one’s got a lot of gas. How many middle school teachers does
it take to screw in a lightbulb? Two. One to screw in the light bulb, and the other to say, “it’s okay that your
body is experiencing changes right now. Here’s a CVS coupon I have to go buy
some deodorant. Also, tuck it in. OK. A math teacher is good at algebra, a
science teacher is good at atoms, and a gym teacher is good at failing at their
athletic dreams I see we have some retired gym teachers here. Could we actually
have all of our writers on stage? I just want to say, amazing job, both teams. We were using a laugh-o-meter that whole time to see who the true winner is, and I got to
say this was very, very close. It was the adults. The adults were probably more relatable. Because as I can see there’s probably … actually all of these people are adults. So it was a little unfair. We would like to
confirm, we recognize that this was unfair. And we’re fine with it.