Okay, Improv is not about the jokes. We work to avoid "going for the joke" in a scene. The humor comes from the situation, interaction, and relationship. We all get that, right? Good, because now I want to talk about an interesting article that won't really help your improv skills, but instead discusses jokes ... communist jokes. As in jokes told IN communist countries. Wow, did they have some dark sense of humor. This is the lead joke from the article:
A man dies and goes to hell. There he discovers that he has a choice: he can go to capitalist hell or to communist hell. Naturally, he wants to compare the two, so he goes over to capitalist hell. There outside the door is the devil, who looks a bit like Ronald Reagan. "What's it like in there?" asks the visitor. "Well," the devil replies, "in capitalist hell, they flay you alive, then they boil you in oil and then they cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives."
"That's terrible!" he gasps. "I'm going to check out communist hell!" He goes over to communist hell, where he discovers a huge queue of people waiting to get in. He waits in line. Eventually he gets to the front and there at the door to communist hell is a little old man who looks a bit like Karl Marx. "I'm still in the free world, Karl," he says, "and before I come in, I want to know what it's like in there."
"In communist hell," says Marx impatiently, "they flay you alive, then they boil you in oil, and then they cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives."
"But?ï¿½ but that's the same as capitalist hell!" protests the visitor, "Why such a long queue?"
"Well," sighs Marx, "Sometimes we're out of oil, sometimes we don't have knives, sometimes no hot water?ï¿½"
The article is somewhat academic, discussing the history and reasons for the jokes. But it is peppered with examples of the jokes being discussed, and most are of the type that cause you to cover your mouth as you chuckle. A bit surprising, a bit tragic, self deprecating, and definitely funny.
I guess it appeals to me because the humor lies in THEIR experience, although it is recognizable to me. And that it is humor coming out of the difficulties that they face. There's some parallel with the humor that comes out of really good improv: a reflection of the difficulties in life that are absurd, but recognizable. At least, that's what I find most memorable in really good improv.
So maybe this was more about improv than I realized.