The Power Of A Joke

Leading an exercise during Spiritual Life
What’s red and bad for your teeth? A brick.

Yup… terrible right? That’s one of my go to lines with youth when they’re in a bad mood, the conversation has died or we are veering into inappropriate topics. I usually follow it up with this one; What do you call a dog with no legs? It doesn’t matter what you call him he’s not coming. That one usually gets me a groan or an eye roll but I never stop there… Why did Sarah fall off her bike? Because she had no arms. By the third or fourth anti-joke I have them right where I want them and usually the next 20 minutes are filled with equal amounts of laughter and groaning. You might as well admit it now; you’ve been chuckling while reading this.

An anti-joke’s punchline is something that is not supposed to be funny. The irony of this is typically what leads to the humor. I’ve seen these ridiculous jokes change the atmosphere of a hallway from cold and uninviting to one where everybody’s gathering around. I’ve seen them move a youth from angry silence to bubbly chatter, thanking me for making them laugh and then telling me why they were in such a bad mood.

Jeff was one of these. Since September I had seen him around the school. We had said hello a few times but our conversations didn’t go much beyond jokes. He showed up at our drop-in for the first time a few weeks ago. A friend had invited him but he kept to himself. We started chatting and soon I had heard more of his story than probably I wanted. I’m still haunted by the scars he matter-of-factly showed me.

I see him at school all the time now and I still tell him anti-jokes. And he groans and rolls his eyes and then laughs. I text him anti-jokes too when I don’t see him, then ask how his weekend was. I think I understand dad jokes better now—we groan at our dad’s humor but eventually it becomes so much more than a joke. For Jeff and I, anti-jokes have become more than an ice-breaker, it has become a shared experience. It has become a way to show him I care.

- Derian Julihn

P.S. What’s green, fuzzy, and if it falls out of a tree it could kill you? A pool table.

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