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04/09/2007: Speaking Irrelevance to Power
Here's a joke from an episode of Andy Barker, PI. Andy is pointing at a series of stickers.
Inspected by number seventy-eight, seventy-eight, seventy-eight. Notice a pattern?
You keep saying "seventy-eight" the same way.
I love this joke, and it occurred to me that it was probably a recognizable joke type. "True but irrelevant" has to be type. I tried to think of another example, and I instantly remembered this exchange that I saw years ago on an episode of "Perfect Strangers." Balki is testifying about a piece of evidence in court. This is from memory, but it's very close:
Do you notice anything odd about this photograph?
It is borderless.
Oh, here's a similar one. Do you remember this (approximate) exchange from the episode of The West Wing in which the president was rushed to the hospital after he was shot?
Are you in good health?
Well, I've been shot.
These are almost always good jokes because they play off character. If the character is being disingenuous, as in the last example, the joke makes him smart and snarky, which can be useful to illustrate. If the character is answering genuinely, as I would claim is the case in the first two examples, it tells us about his unique world-view. This is even more useful. A character who sees the world a bit differently is the kind of character who breaks out, who is instantly memorable. If I were still writing for Buffy, this is the kind of joke I would give to Anya. It's possible, in fact, that I did write jokes of this type for Anya. If you're writing for a character like that, you should probably play around with this joke type. I think you'll find it very useful.
Lunch: salad bar and a creamy mushroom-artichoke soup that caused great distress later.