What Is the Secret of a Joke?
The sudden unexpected turn, that is the secret of a joke - the revelation. You are expecting something and it doesn't happen; what happens is so totally absurd and yet has a logic of its own... it is ridiculous and yet not illogical. That's what suddenly becomes a laughter in you. You see the ridiculousness of it, and also the logic of it. It is unexpected
- if it is expected, then it doesn't bring laughter to you. If you know the joke then it doesn't bring laughter to you, because now you know, everything is expected.
An Englishman on his first trip to America went to one of those stand-up comic nightclubs for the first time. After he had had a couple of drinks, the lights dimmed and Henny Youngman stepped into the spotlight and greeted the crowd with his famous trademark gag: "Take my wife... please."
The crowd belly-laughed. The Englishman was impressed. "By Jove," he said to himself, "I must remember that and try it on the chaps back home."
Now, when somebody says, "Take my wife," you are expecting he will say, "for example." "Take my wife, for example." But he is saying "Take my wife," and then the silence, the little pause..."please." That is unexpected.
Some weeks later, back in London, he stepped to the microphone at a meeting of his club and, with great confidence, snapped out: "Consider my wife. Please."
Now the whole thing is lost. Just a single word makes it a beauty.
The secret of the joke is that it brings you to a point where you are expecting, expecting, expecting that this is going to happen; then it never happens. And what happens is so sudden... and because you were expecting something you were coming to a tension, and then suddenly something else happens, and the tension has come to such a climax that it explodes. You are all laughter. It is a tremendous release, it is great meditation. If you can laugh totally, it will give you a moment of no-time, no-mind. Mind lives logically with expectations, laughter is something that comes from the beyond. Mind is always guessing what is going to happen, groping. And something happens which is absolutely contrary to its expectations: it simply stops for a moment.
And that is the moment when the mind stops, when laughter comes from your belly, a belly laugh. Your whole body goes into a spasm, it is orgasmic.
A good laugh is tremendously meditative.
excerpt from: Osho, The Book of Wisdom, Chapter #28, Chapter title: Be a Joke unto Yourself -
copyright © Osho Foundation International