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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mormon Jokes (?)

by Bradly Baird (bio)

Missionary Basketball by Arie Van De Graaff

I do not possess a sharp filter when it comes to most jokes that I tell and I often wind up apologizing for "humorous" remarks that come out of my mouth. I find that I am particularly deficient when attempting to make a joke about Mormon mores and Mormon culture, and whenever I attempt any observation in this genre, my audience always squirms and becomes distinctly uncomfortable. I do not say anything off-color, vulgar, insulting, blasphemous, or critical, and I feel that the jokes I tell only gently poke at Mormonism's idiosyncratic culture. But, I've been told on more than one occasion that I am going to hell for my sense of humor.

For example, I love to tell the following joke:

Q: Why do you always take two Mormons fishing with you?
A: If you only take one, he will drink all of your beer."

To me, this is a gentle wink at how many are more concerned with the appearance of righteousness than actually being righteous. It is a fairly typical human failing, one that most of us have tripped over before to one degree or another. Yet, why a joke about that failing should make many people uncomfortable completely eludes me.

Perhaps, though, this joke is somehow offensive and rude and my joke filter is keeping me from seeing it. Why should it make us uncomfortable to admit that not a single one of us is not perfect? I mean, the Kingdom of God is not a haven for the perfect. It is a school for sinners, made better by an extraordinarily infinite endowment known as the Atonement.

I asked a friend of mine who has lived in the heart of Mormon culture much longer than myself why this joke makes people uncomfortable, and he suggested that from his perspective he believes that they get uncomfortable when something "hits a little close to home." Perhaps that is case, perhaps not. So, I wanted to put it out there to our readers and ask the following:

1) Is this joke really offensive or inappropriate?
2) Is this joke somehow critical and I am not seeing it?
3) What is that about this joke that makes people uncomfortable?

I would give a prize to anyone that can give me an explanation, but we all know that humor is subjective, and, consequently, one man's inappropriate is another man's pedestrian saying. So, I would just ask for some advice on why I am complete failure in the art of Mormon humor (most especially when I was a student at Brigham Young University).

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