03 February 2011

Post 313: First Contact

First Contact, or, It's Later than You Think by Evan Mandery. ISBN: 9780061966187 (eBook).

What would you do if you were the president and the Ambassador of an alien alliance came to earth and said, 'We have come to enslave your planet and turn it into a dry cleaners. Please have our pants done by Friday'? I don't know about you, but once I knew for sure it was a joke I would probably laugh my ass off, if only in relief. And really, it's a pretty funny joke. Maybe not the kind of joke you would usually tell when meeting a species for the first time, but it's no worse of a snafu than throwing up in a tuba during a state dinner.

In First Contact, the president didn't handle the joke as well as he could have. Mostly, he took offense to it. Perhaps humor is the wrong way to approach any alien species (regardless of who is on the receiving end). Humor is one of those things that requires a great deal of knowledge about a particular culture in order for it to be really successful. One needs to know several things, such as recent and not so recent politics, popular culture, awareness of any sort of political correctness issues, and the intricacies of the native language, for a joke to go off well.

For instance, I personally find dead baby jokes hilarious, but they make some people extremely nervous. You may still get a laugh out of someone with the dead baby joke, but it may not be the good kind of laughter. This is probably why dead baby jokes are not so popular anymore; there are an awful lot of people who get offended about theoretical babies being theoretically put in a blender and then theoretically eaten as chips and dip. The reason I find it hilarious is because it is such a cultural taboo to do such a thing to a baby that the absurdity of imaging someone do this makes me laugh at the very wickedness of it. Other people do not have my sense of humor, which is why I don't tell that kind of joke in certain crowds.

But can you imagine an alien species coming to Earth and telling a dead baby joke? That would likely offend even me, mostly because I wouldn't be sure if that was actually acceptable behavior on their planet or not. This makes me appreciate native humor all the more. While people native to the culture may have an advantage, they still have to balance all the levels of acceptability with what is funny and what isn't. It might be why I find the Daily Show funnier than something like South Park, although they are similar in the sense that the both present social commentary on current politics and pop culture through humor. I personally find the Daily Show funnier because I think they actually try to preserve a balance between offensiveness and good natured ribbing, whereas I don't see that kind of care with the South Park humor. They're both good shows in their own way, it's just that one does a better job of knowing who to tell dead baby jokes to.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: eBook downloaded from my local public library.

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