What are you laughing at, Eagle County? | VailDaily.com
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What are you laughing at, Eagle County?

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Hippieman, a standup comedian from Boulder, goes to work delivering jokes to his audience. Finding jokes that work on any crowd is one of the hardest jobs of the comedian.
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Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Rabbit.

Rabbit who?

Rabbit up carefully, it’s a present.

As children, most of us would have laughed hysterically at that joke. Why? Because for some reason we could relate to its simplicity while still grasping it’s the twist at the end that makes it funny.

Jim Gaffigan, tonight’s featured comedian at Beaver Creek’s Humor on the Slopes, has Hot Pockets to thank for most of his comedic success. Much of his material is based on making fun of himself for eating the food-stuff filled pastries and the unhealthy side effects they cause.

“There is the vegetarian Hot Pocket for those of us that don’t want to eat meat but still want diarrhea,” Gaffigan jokes during one of his stand-up routines.

So what’s so funny about that?

Well, if you get it, you get it; if not, maybe the knock-knock joke is more your speed.

What makes a joke funny? Or, perhaps an even better question is: what makes a joke a joke? When broken down, the answer is more philosophical than scientific. The anatomy of a joke is not unlike the anatomy of the human body ” it must have certain elements to live and function properly. Our bodies are made of skin, bone, muscles etc. while a good joke is usually made up of a beginning, middle and a punchline ” the part of the joke that’s supposed to make us laugh.

“I had a friend describe a joke to me as a straight line with a left turn,” said John Novosad, a Boulder-based stand-up comic who goes by the stage name Hippieman.

With his long gray hair and mustache, he looks every bit the part. Hippieman has been doing stand-up for 25 years and has made a living off of society’s desire to laugh.

“It’s (bringing) the audience along on something that’s familiar to them and then surprise them with something they don’t expect,” Hippieman said.

Deborah Zwick, a psychologist in Avon, said that humor is often-times very important to people because of the paradox it provides.

“Humor is the flip-side of the tragic seriousness with which most people approach life. I think to poke fun of reality frees people up to consider things from a different perspective, that’s why it works in therapy,” Zwick said.

Most of us take jokes for granted. We hear them uttered at the water cooler or shouted in bars, but somebody, somewhere made them up. Hippieman said that most comedians write a mountain of material and then slowly whittle away at it until they find that one golden nugget of humor they hope audiences will laugh at.

“I was raised by hippies. My mom sent me to school everyday with a Jimmi Hendrix lunch box and all the kids made fun of me until they tried one of my brownies. Let’s just say I could pretty much trade my lunch for anything after that,” Hippieman said during an appearance on the Late Late Show.

Find that funny? If you get that joke, just admit you inhaled when running for office.

The joke has been around in one form or another at least since ancient Greece, when fertility festivals featured sexually-charged humor known as ribaldry. But it’s hard to imagine a world in which humor wasn’t constantly evolving into what it is today. Without those evolutions we wouldn’t have “Animal House,” “South Park” or Lisa Lampanelli.

Lampanelli, a comedian known for her, ahem, shall we say sailor’s mouth, said that jokes are a great way to get attention, and has much to do with their popularity throughout history.

To Lampanelli, humor can be found in anything, including what other’s might consider obscene or humorless. She also said that jokes don’t have to follow a certain format or pattern.

“It can be long, short, one liner, three words, it can be a look, it doesn’t even matter because people can read out of the phone book if they’re truly funny and make it hilarious,” Lampanelli said.

And no subject should be off limits, she said. Whether it’s 9/11, race or sexuality, Lampanelli doesn’t see any reason not to have a staring contest with the issues that matter most.

“No joke can ever go too far if it’s funny,” Lampanelli said.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com. Sarah Mausolf contributed to this story.


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