Cultured Laughter 
by Paul Niquette
Copyright 1996 Sophisticated:The Magazine. All rights reserved.

 
You will not laugh at what you do not understand. You will not laugh at what you do not agree with either -- or if you find the material to be offensive. Finally, the stuff has to be funny.

In Cultural Literacy, Random House, 1988, E. D. Hirsch frames a compelling picture of the knowledge-bound character of all cognitive activities. The book is dominated by an inventory of topics that every literate American should know something about.

    A given subject does not count as knowledge, if you have to look it up or have it explained to you. Same for jokes, get it?
There can be no doubt: Both literacy and laughter start with knowing about the subject -- at least knowing something about the subject..

The list set forth below is not prescriptive. These subjects were not judged for taste or comedic quality. {HyperNote 1}

Here is merely a collection of topical elements observed to be immediately accessible by individuals in TV audiences, as evidenced by their laughter.


accent, Brooklyn | accents, foreign | advertising, billboard | airline public address | America's Most Wanted | Attila the Hun | auto mechanic | automobile features (commercials) | baby behavior | Barnie (cartoon character) | baseball mit (sight gag) | Batman | birth control (various) | birthday | black (dialect) | blacks (stereotypes) | blowtorch | blue collar | bashing, gay | Bobbitt, Lorena | Bolton, Mike | bondage | born-again Christians (anti-abortion) | boxing | Boy George | Brady Bunch | Brando, Marlon (impression) | Bryant, Anita | bridal shower | British courtroom | Bundy, Ted | Burger King | Buttafuoco, Joey | Carter, Billy | cash register (buttons) | Catholic (birth control) | channel selector (old type) | cheating in sex | child molester | child support | Christen, Carol | circumcision | climate, California | climate, Canada | clothes iron | commitment (relationship) | condoms | contact lenses (cosmetic) | cops | creamed corn | crime, urban | Cro Magnon Man | crystal ball | Dahmer, Jeoffrey | Dallas (city) | Dallas (TV series) | Davis, Ben | deafness | defecate | Denney, Reginald | department stores | derangement (clock tower with rifle) | Disneyland | dog poop | drooling, children | drooling, old people | earthquake | Einstein, Albert | emergency room | Energizer Bunny | engagement rings | eye crust | Fabio | facial analysis | fast food | fat people | FBI | female condom | football fans | foreigners (behavior) | full-length mirror (cheap) | gay bar | gays in the military | girl friends | GMC truck | golf clubs | grandmother behavior | green card | Grim Reaper | gun bill | gym shoes | hair styling | hand-me-down clothes | Harding, Tonya | Hashly, Rick | Hathaway, Jane | Hepburn, Katherine (impression) | Hitchcock (Birds, Psycho) | Hitler (Adolph) | homeless woman | homophobic | hooters | Hubble telescope | infommercial (impression) | invisible airplane (comic books) | Jackson, Latoya | Jackson, Michael | Jehovah's Witnesses | Jordan, Michael | K-mart | King, Rodney | KKK | Kwasimoto | lesbian | Limbaugh, Rush (obesity) | low self-esteem | macho (impression) | magnum pistol | make-up | mammogram | marriage | marriage problems | marshmallow | masturbation | Mafia | McDonalds | medical textbooks | Menendez brothers | menstruation | Mexican (macho) | Mineo, Sal (impression) | Montezuma's Revenge | moon-walk | mother | Mr. Potato Head | mugging | multiple orgasms | murder | NAACP | New York | news programs | obesity | old age forgetfulness | Oliver North | orgasm | Packwood, (Robert) Senator | paper-or-plastic (at grocery) | paranormal | Payless Drugs | peaking of sex drive (tumescence in men) | penis size | perfume | Perot, Ross | personal ad | Pinto automobile | pirate eye patch | police cars | Police Academy (movie) | potato (pronunciation) | Presley, Elvis (ignorance, obesity) | psychic counselling (late night TV) | rats (in NYC) | referee's wireless microphone | Reilly, Charles Nelson | rejection (coping) | relationships | Retin, Mary Lou | Roadrunner (cartoon character) | Schwinn (old fashioned bicycle) | screen door | Sears | secretaries (phone manners) | segue (on TV talk shows) | senility (behavior) | Seven-Eleven (foreign clerks) | sex | shoulder pads | shower rod | Silverheel, Jay (trivia question) | sick leave | Siskell & Ebert | skeet range | smoke alarm | smoking pot | snoring | spit | sports on TV | Sports Illustrated (swimsuit edition) | Stewart, Rod | stress | stucco ceiling (texture) | T-shirt (slogans) | tank-top | taxes | teddy (garment) | terrorists | Thanksgiv- ing | theft | therapy | Three Little Pigs | tin-can phone | Tourette's syndrome | tour guide | transexuality | truth serum (at dentist) | turbo option (in cars) | Turner, Tina | Tyson, Mike | Underdog (cartoon) | underwear, men's | underwear, women's | vacuum cleaner | vagina | vampire | vulnerability (male) | weathermen | weight gain | welcome mat | Western Union | Westside Story | Whopper with Cheese | wife swapping | Wimbeldon | Wonder Woman | World Trade Center (bombing) | yuppie.
{HyperNote 2}


Laughter is being used here as a gauge of cultural literacy. Not funny, I know.
 

HyperNotes

{HyperNote 1} When this article was first published (in a local Mensa newsletter under the title "Laughter as a Gauge of Cultural Literacy"), readers eagerly nominated the most egregious entries they have found for inclusion in my list -- appointing me, as it were, to complete some grand and comprehensive research project. Others expressed revulsion for the listed topics, decrying them as vulgar or banal -- a stark revelation of the ignorance and tastelessness of American society in the final decade of the 20th Century.

Though not made explicit in the article, my objective was sophisticated indeed: I was conducting research in preparation for my first shot at SUC (stand up comedy). And I wanted -- what? You got it, laughs.{Return}


{HyperNote 2}Topics scientifically collected from VH1's Sunday Comics, against the null hypothesis -- an objective experiment, characterized by lengthy observations at non-random intervals (bounded by bladder breaks) in 1994 by Paul Niquette. There were a total of 22 comics: 16 male, 6 female.

For sophisticated investigators interested in carrying this important work forward, I strongly recommend the inclusion of topical tallies for depiction of frequency distributions in histograms (Brady Bunch, for example, would have formed a prominent statistical 'mode,' with a half-dozen references). {Return}



 
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