Today I witnessed an unfortunately exchange. In an effort to learn from what an awkward moment I have codified a few rules that I plan to follow so I do not come off like a person who shall remain nameless.
1. If you say something and no one laughs, it wasn’t a joke. Jokes are funny. When something is funny, people laugh. Therefore, if there is no laughter it wasn’t a joke. It was just an obnoxious comment.
2. Explaining a joke has never made it funny. In fact explaining the joke almost always makes it unfunny. (Exception: Louis CK once explained to Jon Stewart why fart jokes are funny. The explanation was hilarious. There’s always an exception. If you think you are the exception, please see rule #1.)
3. When someone is offended by your joke, telling it again and/or explaining why it is funny is probably a bad idea. This is even more true if people like the person who was offended and aren’t that fond of you. When in doubt, assume this is the case. Apologizing may or may not be necessary. Sometimes it’s best to drop it and hope the offended person forgets about it. Retelling the offensive “joke” will probably make things worse.
4. Doing any of this in a situation where you have authority over others makes you a jerk.
5. Doing any of this moments before you are asking people to evaluate your effectiveness as a boss or a teacher is stupid and/or crazy.
I didn’t really need to learn this lesson. I would never stand in front of people and tell a joke involving religion. I am not stupid or crazy. Well not stupid anyway.