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.
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. In fact, some researchers see the "shaggy dog story" as a type of anti-joke.
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 (e.g.'Better Nate than lever!'), or abruptly stopping with no punchline at all. Versions of these jokes may take up to several minutes or even hours to tell.
In stand-up comedy
Anti-humor jokes are often associated with exaggeratedly 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".
Alternative comedy, among its other aspects, parodies the traditional idea of the joke as a form of humor. Andy Kaufman saw himself as a practitioner of anti-humor. Other comedians known for their anti-humor are Ted Chippington, Andy Milonakis, Neil Hamburger, Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Norm Macdonald, Bill Bailey, Steven Wright, and Paul Putner.
- Nonsense verse
- The Aristocrats
- Shaggy dog story
- No soap, radio
- Non sequitur
- Warren A. Shibles, Humor Reference Guide: A Comprehensive Classification and Analysis (Hardcover) 1998 ISBN 0-8093-2097-5
- John Henderson, "Writing Down Rome: Satire, Comedy, and Other Offences in Latin Poetry" (1999) ISBN 0-19-815077-6, p. 218
- Andrew Stott (2005) "Comedy", ISBN 0-415-29933-0, p. 119