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Anti-humor is a type of indirect humor that involves the joke-teller delivering something which is deliberately not funny, or lacking in intrinsic meaning. The practice relies on the expectation on the part of the audience of something humorous, and when this does not happen, the irony itself is of comedic value. Anti-humor is also the basis of various types of pranks and hoaxes.[citation needed]

The humor of such jokes is based on the surprise factor of absence of an expected joke or of a punch line in a narration which is set up as a joke. This kind of anticlimax is similar to that of the shaggy dog story.[1] In fact, some researchers see the "shaggy dog story" as a type of anti-joke.[2]


A common example of anti-joke is "Why did the chicken cross the road?" with the answer, "To get to the other side." The punchline is intentionally mundane.

The shaggy dog story involves telling an extremely long joke with an intricate (and sometimes horribly grisly) back story and surreal or incredibly repetitive plotline, but ending the story with either a weak spoonerism, or abruptly stopping with no real punchline at all. Versions of these jokes may take up to several minutes or even hours to tell.

One of the most famous of these is the 'Purple Love' or 'Purple Passion' Joke. It begins with a boy passing a wall on the way to school and seeing the words 'purple love.' At school, the teacher is instructing the class about the birds and the bees. When it comes time for kids to ask questions, the boy asks, "What is Purple Love?" The teacher says, "You disgusting little pervert!" and kicks him out of her class, dragging him by the ear to the principal's office. The principal asks what he did; he reluctantly repeats the story to a supposedly understanding principal, but the result is the same. He is kicked out of school. His mother asks why he is home, only with the same ending and the boy is asked to leave home. His father gets home as he is leaving, police stop to question him, even bums ask him why he is homeless. They all call him a disgusting little pervert. Finally, he runs into a prostitute who gets the story out of him. Instead of saying "You disgusting little pervert," she says she will tell him at the corner of fifth and Main at six o'clock in the morning with no one around. The boy sleeps in the central park in the town square. He awakes early. As it nears six o'clock, he walks toward the planned meeting place. The prostitute steps off the curb to walk across the street and gets run over by a bus.

Another classic example of this is the so-called "conductor joke." In this joke, there is a conductor of a poor orchestra. When someone drops a cymbal, the conductor asks "Who did that?"

Some anti-jokes can take a darker tone of humor. One such joke that has become popular on the Internet involves one asking "Why did Sally fall off the swing?" with the answer, "Because Sally has no arms."

Here's a case of a joke where the anticipated punchline is funny, while the actual punchline is not: "Did you hear about the honeymooners who confused the tube of K-Y Jelly with window putty? Quite the tragedy, all the windows fell out of their new home."

In stand-up comedy[edit]

Alternative comedy, among its other aspects, parodies the traditional idea of the joke as a form of humor.[3] Anti-humor jokes are also often associated with deliberately bad stand-up comedians. One legitimately successful stand-up comedian, Andy Kaufman, had his own unique brand of anti-humor, quasi-surrealist acts coupled with performance art; one of his best-known manifestations of this was his act as Tony Clifton, a painfully untalented lounge lizard entertainer.

Ted Chippington's act contained non-jokes delivered in a Midlands monotone. Jimmy Carr is noted for his anti-humor style, anti-jokes being told with a straight face and very precise delivery. Bill Bailey is also noted for his particular brand of anti/meta-humor. John Thomson's stand-up character, Bernard Righton, would deliver set-ups to un-PC jokes (in the style of Bernard Manning), but confound the audience with tolerant, deliberately unamusing punchlines, e.g. "A white man, a black man and an Indian walk into a bar. What a wonderful example of an integrated society." Although, this can be seen as a form of irony, other comedians known for their anti-humor include Andy Milonakis, Neil Hamburger, Tim Heidecker, Bo Burnham, Eric Wareheim, Eric Andre, and Paul Putner.

Norm Macdonald is a comedian largely associated with performing anti-humor,[4][5] although he has objected to this characterization of his humor.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Warren A. Shibles, Humor Reference Guide: A Comprehensive Classification and Analysis (Hardcover) 1998 ISBN 0-8093-2097-5
  2. ^ John Henderson, "Writing Down Rome: Satire, Comedy, and Other Offences in Latin Poetry" (1999) ISBN 0-19-815077-6, p. 218
  3. ^ Andrew Stott (2005) "Comedy", ISBN 0-415-29933-0, p. 119
  4. ^ "Norm MacDonald trolls the Bob Saget roast". Funny or Die. 11 March 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Moth Joke". Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "Norm Macdonald: ‘Worthless’ anti-comedy ‘is for the weak and cowardly’". Twitchy Entertainment. May 12, 2014. Retrieved January 20, 2015. 

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