Lunchtime O’Jokes

Decca Aitkenhead’s article on Hitchens is very snide, but one suspects there is a good deal of truth in it. In particular I can’t help being amused by her portrayal of his sense of humor.

The march of time certainly hasn’t altered one thing about Hitchens, which is, alas, his unaccountable pleasure in word games of the most puerile variety. Page after page is devoted to the infinite hilarity derived by Amis, Rushdie, McEwan and Hitchens from substituting in the titles of well-known books, films and songs the word “dick” for “heart”, or “fuck” for “love”, or “cunt” for “man”.

“Oh, I know,” he chortles, when I bring this up. “Shameful.” He surely can’t still find these jokes funny, can he? “Oh yeah, I do. I sometimes wake up laughing at them. Yup. Never get bored of it.” And this from a man who once wrote that women weren’t funny.

Now, I can imagine a few of those being funny (except for the cunt part, but we’ve already found out that the word has a somewhat modified meaning in British English), but an infinite stream of them? Not so much. Endless repetition really isn’t all that funny, yet I do know some people who really think it is, and tirelessly engage in it. They’re all men. And they are all peculiarly (indeed, conceitedly) blind to humor in women. One shouldn’t generalize from one’s own narrow experience, but all the same, I find Aikenhead’s weary incredulity quite funny. I too have spotted what looks like a correlation between unfunny jokes in the self and inability to recognize funny jokes in the other – something that is more than just ‘I am funny and you are not’; it’s a peculiar kind of humor coupled with a peculiar kind of tin ear.

Still. To be fair, it’s hard to believe that that really applies to any of the males Aikenhead mentions, since they can be genuinely funny as well as boringly pseudofunny.

Still again…there is that pub joke of Hitchens’s…

Why does he say to the barmaid, “Put a Xerox in that” when he wants another drink? He’s meant to be an international sophisticate, not a home counties golf club bore.

“I think it’s rather ingenious.” He beams. “You don’t want to say, ‘Same again’, like everyone else. It works like a sonnet. It gets them every time.”


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