Old-School Humor

A long time ago, before the Internet, You Tube, viral videos, and Facebook likes, people had to entertain themselves without streaming video, PhotoShop, or forwarded emails. Those intrepid souls managed to overcome these substantial handicaps and keep themselves entertained against all odds, by developing two forms of amusement: telling jokes, and fuzzy photocopies.

Telling jokes, as it was called, was a primitive ritual wherein two or more people assembled themselves within close physical proximity of each other. This condition was essential, as the individuals acutally needed to see and hear each other without the use of additional technologies! After the group was conveined and pleasantries (see the Wikipedia entry for conversation) were exchanged, one member of the group would begin the ritual, usually by saying "A guy walks into a bar...". The tale would be related and embellished, often requiring the audience to recite ritual incantations like "Who's there?" The exchange would typically end with laughter, or sometimes groans, and another participant would then take the role as the joke teller.

The heyday of fuzzy photocopy humor was between 1982 (when coin slots were generally removed from photocopy machines) and 1998 (when most people found out that it was easier to just hit 'forward' on an email, once someone else had figureed out how to scan the humorous image). Generally, the exchange began when one person (whom we'll call Joker Zero) obtained a copy of one of these images. The source of the original images was never determined, and remains a mystery to this day. Joker Zero would run several copies of the already fuzzy copy on an early generation black-and-white copier, resulting in even fuzzier copies. Joker Zero would then approach other people, normally coworkers, reciting the chant, "Hey! Check this out!" and distributing the copies. The recipients would promptly run additional, even fuzzier, photocopies and repeat the ritual.

It is estimated that such activities resulted in 35% of the gross national photocopier use in 1987, and denuded of 7,427,000 acres of pulp and paper forests.

Here are some classic examples of both of these types of humor:

©Debora B. Thompson, 2015