History Alive

Season 3 Episode 2

History of the Joke

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Aired Unknown Feb 18, 2008 on The History Channel
9.2
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History of the Joke
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Join comedian Lewis Black in his provocative quest for the secret ingredients of a great joke and he looks to the future of joke-telling, with jokes and interviews from over 50 standup comedians working today.

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    • QUOTES (4)

      • Lewis Black: What is a joke? All it is is a funny story. Simple, right? No it's not simple, it's incredible difficult and I should know because it's my job. A joke is a delivery system for information about ourselves and the world we live in. Often stuff we don't want to hear: Knock knock, who's there, death. And jokes evoke laughter, comedians thrive on laughter, we're addicted, and we'd sell our souls, those of us who have one, to find a magic formula that creates the greatest joke ever told.

      • Lewis Black: Physical comedy may be the earliest form of joke telling. Perhaps the greatest joke ever told was performed by a caveman and only witnessed by a woolly mammoth, who then ate him. Some comics enhance their verbal comedy with physical schtick, or props. It's not my cup of tea, but many careers have been launched with a good kick to the groin.

      • Lewis Black: Can a woman tell the greatest joke ever told? In the 3rd century BC the comedies of Roman jokemeister Plautus featured four types of female role: the helpful nurse, the devoted mother, the innocent young maiden and the beautiful, wise, loving hooker. All of these roles were played by men, but later the Romans did allow women to tell jokes. Women slaves.

      • Lewis Black: Remember 1066? At the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror's jester named Tyafare supposedly got killed first. He was sent out in front of the troops to act funny and provoke the English into attacking. Today it's no different. Learning to kill, and die, are crucial to telling the greatest joke ever told. Failure is great instruction. People fear public speaking more than they fear death. Comedian can experience both at the same time. We call it bombing or dying or eating it or even taking a steamer. There are many nights where even the greatest joke can't dig you out of the hole.

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