Surprise humor

A notable form of humor turns on surprise: background expectations are set up as to how some situation is going to develop, but it then develops in an entirely unexpected way. As in this Harry Bliss New Yorker cartoon from the 1/4&11/21 issue:


There they all are, with their books in a living room, with the set-up “The first rule of book club is”, alluding to “The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.”; somehow the fight club context is going to be adapted to the book club context.

But these expectations are thoroughly dashed by the surprise shift to selling cocaine — and then we notice the package of cocaine at the corner of the coffee table.

A package of cocaine such as these featured in a WRCBtv story: “Knoxville [TN] police find more than $4 million worth of cocaine inside suspicious packages” on 6/11/19:


3 Responses to “Surprise humor”

  1. J B Levin Says:

    It took me a minute to figure out that “1/4&11/21” didn’t somehow mean a cartoon that appeared in issues for both January 4 and November 21. After that minute I was ok.

  2. thnidu Says:

    What DOES it mean?

    • J B Levin Says:

      If you are referring to the “1/4&11/21”, it means an issue covering the two weeks “January 4 and 11, 2021”.

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