Posts tagged ‘joke’
My friend Adam has this awful habit of explaining jokes that need no explanation. For instance, a conversation might go like this:
Adam: What do you think of that candidate?
Somebody: He’s an asshole. If he wins, I’ll be playing hockey and ice fishing by Thursday.
Adam: Yeah, or you could move to Canada to get away from him!
As a result, my friend Paul has given Adam the nickname Tabasco; to Paul, Tabasco sauce and Adam’s explanations are both unnecessary extras.
But I can forgive Adam. He doesn’t add this unnecessary extra in an attempt to explain the joke to others. I simply think the subtlety is lost on him, and he’s trying to make a joke that he supposes original.
I cannot, however, forgive people who provide explanations to jokes because they think you should find it as funny as they do.
I have a belief about jokes: If you need to explain it, then you shouldn’t tell it. Technically speaking, explaining a joke won’t kill it. It doesn’t need to; the joke is already dead. Explaining a joke because no one laughs is like giving mouth-to-mouth to a skeleton.
Recently, though, a rash of mathematicians has taken to explaining math jokes. Walter Hickey recently wrote 13 Jokes That Every Math Geek Will Find Hilarious, in which he provides an explanation for the math behind each joke. (If you’ve read this blog for a while, don’t visit that link. The only one you haven’t heard before is, “Two random variables were talking in a bar. They thought they were being discrete, but I heard their chatter continuously.”) And in the video Math Jokes Explained by Comedian Matt Parker, a rather funny mathematician does his best to remove everything funny from a number of classic jokes.
What’s the point?
Are they hoping that the explanations will suddenly make the non-mathy population find us undeniably witty? Or perhaps math-phobes will instantly find math less intolerable? (“Oh, my goodness, you’re right… that was a funny joke! I think I’ll go register for Diff Eq now!”)
That must be what they’re thinking, because the explanations aren’t for the mathy crowd. We already get the jokes.
So I offer the following letter to all those who feel the need to offer explanations.
Dear Mathy Folks on the Internet,
Please stop wasting bandwidth by explaining jokes.
If your jokes are funny, I’ll laugh. If I don’t get them, I’ll leave your site and search for one with jokes that I understand. And if I can’t find any, then I’ll search for sites with cool math problems or hysterical cat videos or, God willing, both.
If you want me to understand the math behind the jokes, then write a textbook, or post a video, or teach a class, or start a blog. After I know a little, then tell me your joke. And we can laugh together as equals who both understand why it’s funny.
I. Don Gettit
The end of the school year is nigh. No more teachers, no more books. No more phrases like, “The solution is left as an exercise for the reader.” If you need some light reading for your summer vacation, I highly recommend Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. Until you get your hands on a copy, though, here are a few jokes about books to make you smile.
Why was the math book sad?
Because it had so many problems.
Why did the math book become a recluse?
Because no one understood him.
How many math books have you read in your lifetime?
I don’t know. I’m not dead yet.
What book are you reading?
What is it about?
About 120 pages.
Seriously, here are some good math books to read on summer vacation:
- Calculus for Cats by Kenn Amdahl and Jim Loats
- The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Ouelette
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
- Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott
- Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
- The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures by Malba Tahan
- Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers by Jan Gullberg
- Prisoner’s Dilemma by William Poundstone
- Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception by Charles Seife
And if none of those float your boat, try this one from Spiked Math.
The median age of the Reader’s Digest audience is 53.5, and 60% of their audience is female. So if I admitted to you that I’m a regular reader of the magazine, it’d be reasonable for you to assume that I’m an elderly woman.
In the “Laughter, the Best Medicine” column in the April issue of Reader’s Digest, two jokes were mathy. In case you missed them…
People with math anxiety actually feel pain when doing arithmetic, according to a study. The Week asked its readers to name this condition:
- Percentile Dysfunction
- Add Nauseum
According to a global study, American kids are way behind Asian kids in math and science. But American kids are ahead in buying stuff made by Asian kids. – Conan O’Brien
And in the “Quotable Quotes” column was a relevant quote worth sharing…
The moment you think of a joke is the best moment. – Judd Apatow
So, I understand what Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh meant when he said:
I never thought you could feel 100% elation and 100% devastation at the same time. But I learned tonight you can.
But it sure sounds to me like he has twice as much capacity for emotion as the rest of us. It reminds me of Yogi Berra’s famous quote:
Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.
Or the anonymous quote about our favorite subject:
Mathematics is 50% formulas, 50% proofs, and 50% imagination.
Dare to guess what percent of Americans wouldn’t be able to identify the math errors in those statements?
Here’s a good old-fashioned math joke involving percents:
What’s a proof?
One-half percent of alcohol.
And a slightly longer one:
“Statistics is wonderful!” said a statistician.
“How so?” asked his friend.
“Well, according to statistics, there are 42 million alligator eggs laid every year. Of those, only about 50% hatch. Of those that hatch, 75% are eaten by predators in the first 36 days. And of the rest, only 5% get to be one year old for one reason or another.”
“What’s so wonderful about that?”
“If it weren’t for statistics, we’d be up to our asses in alligators!”
Although my favorite Tom Swifty isn’t mathematical…
“I dropped my toothpaste,” Tom said crestfallen.
…there are plenty of Tom Swifties that are:
“Simple… closed Curves,” Tom replied when asked about the small loops with no endpoints that he had drawn around each of the health clubs on the map.
That one is an MJ4MF original. The rest of these were gathered from the farthest recesses of the Web, though you might think it would have been better for me to leave them there…
“From time to time, I like to draw a sine curve,” Tom said periodically.
“That’s a terrible drawing of a cardioid,” Tom said heartlessly.
“Your performance was average,” Tom said meanly.
“It’s six of one, a half dozen of the other,” Tom said symmetrically.
“Those numbers have no factors in common,” Tom said distinctly.
“Take the set of all positive integers,” Tom whispered discretely.
“Less than zero,” Tom said negatively.
“The cube measures 12’ along each edge,” Tom said with a lot of volume.
“The sum will increase,” Tom added.
“I like numbers of the form 2k + 1,” Tom said oddly.
“Stand in line from shortest to tallest,” Tom ordered.
“It’s the product of rate and time,” Tom said distantly.
“One is a mirror image of the other,” Tom reflected.
“1.11111…,” Tom said repeatedly.
“I love three-dimensional shapes,” Tom said solidly.
“The factors of 6 have a sum of 6,” Tom said perfectly.
“The primes continue without end,” Tom stated with infinite wisdom.
“Three-halves,” Tom said improperly.
“I can’t believe I lost the election,” Tom recounted.
“Two and two do not make five,” Tom said nonplussed.
“Thirty degrees,” Tom said acutely.
“That’s a large angle,” Tom said obtusely.
“There is only one,” Tom said uniquely.
“It’s the quotient of two integers,” Tom said rationally.
“I now understand Newton’s Second Law,” Tom said forcefully.
“Approximately 2.71828182,” Tom said naturally.
“I don’t like groups, rings, or fields,” Tom said abstractly.
“I have to check the score on this exam again,” Tom remarked.
“The concavity changes here,” Tom said with inflection.
In a very old Second City skit, a man on hold complained (to no one in particular) about the hold music. After his complaint, a voice on the other end of the line said, “I’m sorry. Don’t you like my singing?”
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I’m your hold operator. If you don’t like music, I’d be happy to entertain you in some other way. Would you like to hear a joke?” she asked.
“Um… sure, why not?”
“It’s a knock-knock joke,” she said. “Are you familiar with the format?”
Now, that’s just funny!
My favorite joke to tell in the classroom is a knock‑knock joke, so I hope that you are familiar with the format.
Interrup — ?
My sons are now of an age where they can understand jokes, and those of the knock‑knock variety are told daily in our house. (The knock-knock jokes at GRiN are a source of endless amusement.) Sadly, I didn’t know any knock‑knock jokes that are mathy… so I made some up. Here they are, 12 totally original (sort of) but not terribly funny math knock-knock jokes. Aren’t you glad you stopped by today?
Lemma in, it’s raining!
Mode the lawn. What should I do next?
Slope ups should stay on the porch.
Convex go to prison!
Prism is where convex go!
(Weren’t you paying attention to the previous joke?)
Vodka martini origin fizz?
Zeroes as fast as she can, but the boat doesn’t move.
Unit socks; I knit sweaters.
Outlier! We only let honest people in this house!
Möbius a big whale!
Tangents spend a lot of time at the beach.
Axis for chopping, saw is for cutting.
My sons recently received green, flexible toys from their aunt. When I turned on my calculator today, it read:
I’m not sure why it’s an ordered pair, but seeing that on my calculator screen cracked me up.
Then tonight at dinner, they made up their own knock-knock joke:
Gumby more fun to chew than anything else!
While I’m happy that my four-year-old sons have a sense of humor, it’s their love of math that I most appreciate. Yesterday in the car, Eli noted that the time was 6:16 p.m. “Palindrome!” he shouted.
“Actually,” Alex said, “any time that it’s six, colon, number, six, it’s a palindrome.”
“That’s right,” I said. “How many times a day do you think the time is a palindrome?”
Eli guessed 50. Alex guessed 70. But those were clearly random guesses. I asked if they could figure it out.
“We could count them,” Eli suggested.
“No,” Alex said. “An easier way is, ‘What is 24 × 6?'”
“Why would 24 × 6 give you the answer?” I asked, mainly because I was sure he didn’t know.
“Because there are 24 hours in a day,” he said, “and there are 6 times each hour — when the middle number is 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.” He then used the distributive property to calculate 24 × 6 = (20 + 4) × 6 = 120 + 24 = 144.
“No,” Eli said. “There aren’t 6 palindromes at 10 o’clock.”
They discussed it for a while, and they agreed that there was only one palindrome of the form 10:_1, 11:_1, and 12:_1. And using that piece of info, they jointly concluded that there are 18 hours in a day with 6 palindromes and 6 hours in a day with just 1 palindrome, giving a total of 114 palindromes per day.
Though none of them are as good as these:
Nine men in. (A palindrome about nine, with nine letters, and an allusion to baseball, which has nine players per team. Sweet!)
Some people love the smell of napalm in the morning, but I love listening to two kids solve a math problem. I may even love it more than I love a good Gumby joke!