I Should Have Known Better

Remember “Things I Can’t Teach,” where I shared the general lack of a sense of humor shared by many of my students?  The poor things just couldn’t tell a good joke if they tried.  And, oh boy, do they try. 

One joke I get told over and over is this:

Q: What do you get when you cross beef and jerky?

A: Beef Jerky!!

So not funny.  Except that it is terribly unfunny, which is funny in itself.  Until you’ve heard it six times.  Then it isn’t. 

However, it just so happens that I stumbled across a joke that actually makes sense of the “beef jerky” punchline.  It was on a Laffy Taffy wrapper, of all places.  This is it:

Q: What do you call a cow with a twitch?

A: Beef Jerky!

Still not a side-splitter, but if you heard that from the mouth of a nine-year-old, you’d chuckle.  Trust me, you would.  Otherwise you have a black, black heart.

I made sure to write it on a post-it as soon as I found it so that I’d remember to share it with beef jerky kid.  I told him that if he got to work and did a good job, when he was done I’d share an awesome joke with him.  He finished his work in record time and our conversation went like this:

Me: What do you call a cow with a twitch?

Him: (confused, squinty face) Eeeh…uh…a cow twitch?  No…a twitch cow?

Me: No…not a cow twitch or a twitch cow…

Him: Um….um…um…a horse twitch? A cow….cow…a cow with a twitch!

Me: No, that’s what I said.

We went on like this and he said some wacky things.  I can’t even remember them because they made so little sense my brain refused to hang onto them.  I tried to help him as much as I could, even twitching around like a seizure victim to help him visualize the vocabulary.

Finally I told him the punch line.  Beef Jerky!

He was honestly disappointed.  “What?” he said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”  His speech was calm and level, like he was breaking bad news to a very unstable person.

“Yes,” I said.  “It’s funny because beef comes from cows and ‘jerky’ is another word for ‘twitchy.’  So, see? Beef jerky.” 

“Wait, what?! Beef is cows?!”  Oh, seriously? We’ve got bigger fish to fry, apparently. 

“Yep,” I said, “beef is the meat we get from cows.  So hamburger, steak, all of that is from a cow.”

By this time he’d moved on to playing with some legos.  He said, “Oh, huh,” like he was going to let it drop.  Then he said, “Wait! Do they make eggs, too?!”

Friend, has anyone ever taken you to the grocery store?  “No, cows don’t make eggs. Chickens lay eggs, ” I said.  I’m pretty sure this gets covered in some kind of kindergarten “On the Farm” unit. 

So, forget the joke-telling IEP goals.  Let’s go with something like, “Kid X will correctly match food products to animals of origin on at least 4/5 opportunities on 4 consecutive occasions, increasing from 0/2 opportunities by 02/–/2012. 

I’m seeing a giant chart with yarn connecting cows to steaks, milk, and cheese and chickens to eggs, hot wings, and the KFC logo.

Having just recently posted about the gingerbread man debacle, I might have known not to be so confident in my ability to convince a kid that something is actually funny (or safe, or imaginary, etc., etc. and so on, and so forth).  Clearly if beef+jerky= beef jerky, which so extremely literal, I might have seen that the significantly more abstract cow+twitch=beef jerky would be a little tougher to swallow.  Meh.  So is actual beef jerky, so maybe we’ve come full circle?

Things I Can’t Teach

Well, I could try but I’m pretty sure nobody would pay me for it.

According to some research I’ve been doing on developmental psychology (thanks, Google), children start to develop the ability to tell actual jokes–with a set-up and a punchline–at about age six.  It’s when they have the language skills to comprehend absurdities, apparently.  At least that’s what a website named something like “www.wepromisewererealpsychologists.com” told me. 

If that’s the case, then I can assume some of my students have missed a developmental milestone or two.  Here’s the exchange I heard yesterday:

Kid 1: Why did the mayonnaise cross the road?

Kid 2: To get squeezed into mayonnaise juice!

Mayonnaise juice?  What is that even? You know what, if that exists, don’t tell me about it.  I don’t want to know.

Kid 1: No!  To get to the mayonnaise!

Me:  The mayonnaise crossed the road to get to the mayonnaise?

Kid 1: No.  I said mustard.

Um, no.  You certainly did not.  And even if you had, what? “Why did the mayonnaise cross the road?  To get to the mustard!”  I guess my life has been lacking in deli humor lately.  It’s been especially lacking in non-funny deli humor. Thanks for broadening my horizons.

Here’s the one I got later, it also contains things you can buy at 7-11. 

Kid: Teacher, I got a joke. What do you get when you cross beef and jerky?

I was thinking, for this joke to be legit, the answer can’t possibly the obvious one.  This could be hysterical…the best punchlines often come out of left-field.  I figured I’d go with the punchline that was so obvious it couldn’t possibly be the actual end of the joke.

Me: Um…beef jerky?

Kid: Aw, man!  Everybody knows that one! 

We might all know that beef + jerky = beef jerky, but only one of us thinks that’s a joke.  I’m confused.  When you said “joke” did you mean “compound word?”  Either way, it’s neither of those things.

If I could write an IEP for joke-telling, the goal would be something like this:

When asked to verbally tell a joke, Kid X will increase from successfully telling no jokes containing an appropriate set-up and punchline to telling one joke with an appropriate set-up and punchline on four of five consecutive opportunities by –/–/2012. 

That’s for mayonnaise joke kid. Decent intent, botched delivery. Not funny.

There is way more work to be done on beef jerky kid. I might have to team up with our Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP).   I’m thinking of something more long-range, though.  Something like this:

When asked to verbally tell a joke, Kid Y will increase the frequency with which he elicits laughter from the teacher or other staff member from 0/5 consecutive opportunities to 4/5 consecutive opportunities by –/–/2012.

You can’t actually qualify for special education services in the area of “sense of humor.”  We’re a reading, writing, math, and appropriate school behaviors-focused bunch.  It’s a pity. Well, no, it’s great to teach kids how to read and how to not get punched at recess.  But it’d be even more great if we could do comedy workshops.  Being a generally amiable kid with some serious comedy chops could go a long way towards improving their quality of life.  I’m sure of it. 

Or maybe I’m just sure it would go a long way towards improving mine.  No more beef jerky jokes.  Heaven, I’m sure of it, is free of beef jerky jokes.

Can you relate? Got any amazing (or horrendous) kid jokes?