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196 words about Arlo Guthrie
Actually, just about hippies.
I don’t have a general theory of comedy, but I believe I know the worst joke format. It is a hippie thing. Hippies as a group were so unfunny that no one today remembers one joke from a hippie touchstone like Easy Rider but everyone can tell you two jokes from Dirty Harry, a movie explicitly about the extrajudicial killing of hippies. Anyway, the worst joke is in the 1967 folk song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” Midway through the 20-minute song, Arlo Guthrie sings that he is taken to a military doctor and “injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected, and selected” for the draft. Somehow this is a big laugh line for the live crowd. There’s no surprise or development of the joke in the list; it’s just mindlessly rhyming words, only some of which make sense. Guthrie soon repeats the list and the audience again brays with laughter. This tedious joke format can be seen in other ‘60s artifacts. But modern humans have evolved to the point where we no longer laugh at such a joke. Nobody does the “long list of semi-related words” gag on Twitter. The writers of Young Sheldon wouldn't stoop to this shit.