What’s funny?

Being funny isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be. Really it isn’t. Even people who are particularly funny find it difficult from time to time. Try it, walk up to a comedian and say, “Hey, you’re a comedian, say something funny!” If he is particularly quick witted some amusing quip will no doubt issue forth (or perhaps fifth, if he’s a bit slow). But for your average garden-variety funny bloke it will be a bit of a challenge. Some people get around this by buying joke books and memorising standard jokes. This may seem like a good idea but there are two major problems. Firstly in any given joke book, there will only be a handful of good ones – [e.g. Two aerials got married. The ceremony was ok, but the reception was perfect.] – and the rest will just be pathetic. The second reason: jokes need to be dynamic. A joke made up years ago and put into a book will not always be relevant to the here-and-now. A good funny person will always contemporise his jokes, modify them, ensure that they’re applicable to the here and now (or there and then, depending on your perspective).
I don’t wish to be so presumptuous as to claim that I have any gifting either way in the matter, I’ll leave that up to the tabloids, but I would like to offer my services to anybody, as a casual observer, on matters relating to what’s funny. A real person had the following question:

Dear Tom of the Close (nee of SGR),
I’m a long-time peruser of your fine little corner of the ether and I always have a bit of a chuckle at your site. The other week I thought I’d have a crack at being funny and now I’ve gotten myself into something of a pickle. I was doing a spot of sock shopping and I came across something that I felt had comedic potential. It was a five-pack of day-of-the-week socks. Without giving it much thought, I bought them. When I got home the trouble started, and here is my problem: Would it be funnier to wear a pair of socks on the right days, a matching pair on the wrong days (e.g. both Tuesday socks on Friday) or a mismatching pair (e.g. a Wednesday sock and a Monday sock on Tuesday)?
Please help,
Comedically Challenged.

And I responded thusly:

Dear Comedically Challenged,
Don’t worry; you’re on the right track. The kind of joke you’re trying to make is what I would call a social parody, and provided it’s done subtlely it’s very hard to go wrong. Any of your three situations would be a suitable use of what you have very perceptively identified as a clever comic tool. A word of warning: clothing/fashion based social parody jokes can often be mistaken for fashion faux-pas. How different is each day’s sock? Will you clever jape be mistaken for odd-sock laziness?
Good luck with your trickery, remember: if you ever get into strife, just leave the room shouting “So-long suckers!” It will always raise a smile,
Tom of the Close.

Well I’ve got to go, theses don’t write themselves.

So-long suckers,

Tom.

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