Anti-humor is a type of indirect humour that involves the joke-teller delivering something which is deliberately not funny, or lacking in intrinsic meaning. The audience is expecting something humorous, and when this does not happen, the irony itself is of comedic value. Anti-humor is also the basis of various types of pranks and hoaxes.
The most common example of anti-joke is "Why did the chicken cross the road?". This joke is so common that it has passed into regular humour, but it illustrates that punchlines in anti-jokes can achieve their effect by being mundane. Another example is "What do you get when you cross a muffin with chocolate chips?".
In writing, it is common to put a period after the punchline of the anti-joke rather than an exclamation mark to reflect its dry and superficially non-humorous tone. Anti-jokes may rely on deconstruction of the joke, deriving comedy from the unexpected or innapropriate use of technical or circumlocutional language (crossing into meta-joke).
The no soap radio joke, often used as a prank, is a common example of anti-humour.
Another form of anti-joke is commonly called a shaggy dog story after the joke which exemplifies it. It involves telling an extremely long joke with an intricate (and sometimes horribly grisly) back story and surreal or incredibly repetitive plotline, but ending the story with either a weak pun, or abruptly stopping with no punchline at all. Versions of these jokes may take up to several days to tell. The Aristocrats is a particularly gruesome and adult version of this formula.
'Dead body'/'Dead Baby' Jokes
Some anti-jokes are humorous because they involve unexpectedly blunt and graphic punchlines which often referencing death, infacticide and terminal illness. Some examples of these types of jokes are:
- "How many babies does it take to paint a barn?"
- "What did the little boy with no arms or legs get for Christmas?"
- "What's worse than seeing nine dead babies in a trashcan?"
Anti-Humour in Stand up Comedy
Anti-humor jokes are often associated with exaggeratedly bad stand-up comedians. One legitimately successful stand-up comedian, Andy Kaufman, had his own unique brand of anti-humor, quasi-surrealist acts coupled with performance art.
Jimmy Carr is a British comedian noted for his anti-humour style. He typically tells jokes with a straight face and very precise delivery, and the type of humour appeals mainly to the Jimmy Carr audience.
Subversions of traditional jokes
These anti-jokes relies on using widely known jokes which the audience is likely to have heard before. Instead of ending the joke in the usual humorous way, a mundane substitute is used, resulting in an anticlimax. Some endings that are often used to replace traditional ends of jokes are:
- "Oh, I'm terribly sorry sir, I’ll replace this with a fresh bowl of soup and I’ll have a word with the manager to see if we can deduct a sum from your bills for the inconvenience we have caused you."
- "One is a domestic fowl; the other is an international convention on climate change."
- "Being raped."
Some jokes derive humour from wordplay and puns. They are subverted through substituting the pun with an equivalent phrase with no such linguistic device, creating a cognitive dissonance with the superficial resemblance to the original.
- "When it is half-open."
- "He's a really charismatic person."
Other jokes rely on parts of a joke told in the wrong order or parts of different jokes told together, creating an effect similar to non-sequitur.