Friday, May 21, 2010

On Old Memories; Or, Unnoticed and Underappreciated Humor

One of my favorite sources of underappreciated and unnoticed humor was the police blotter section of The Stanford Daily. Where else could you learn about crimes like: the theft and subsequent downhill rolling of a turkey from the dining room? or the breaking of windows with arrows (later found out to be the owner of the room in question.) (I remember the latter, for some reason, though it seems unlikely, and the Daily’s archives are meh, so take or don’t take this literally).

Sadly it seems that other people, specifically the writers of the police blotter, have noticed. Here’s a selection from the selection in the most recent edition:
“Between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., an unknown suspect stole the front unlocked wheel of a victim’s bike outside of Bldg. 200, increasing the use of unicycles on campus.”

And:
“At 8:25 a.m. outside of 680 Lomita Drive, someone’s vehicle was impounded for having eight outstanding citations. The owner’s PWR professor, on the other hand, was quite impressed.”

The joke of the police blotter was always that the police blotter writer seemed not to know that the listing of crimes was a joke. The idea you always got was that some serious, overearnest student was trying to set the world straight by listing the very minor crimes of Stanford University. Or, at least, someone was trying to satirize that do-gooder by being extremely deadpan. The point was always the maintenance of a serious tone. Certain kinds of humor only work if the teller seems to believe it’s not a joke. The writer of these examples knows it’s a joke and is letting us in on it so it’s not funny anymore. Sadly. Is this a little bit of a get-off-my-lawn complaint? Possibly. Maybe all the kids are doing it differently these days. But they’re wrong.

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