These words ˆ strung together in that particular order ˆ have the potential to change my life. Or at least my reaction does.
You see, whatever happens in the ensuing few moments will affect how the joke teller views me, my level of intelligence and my sense of humor. Automatically, my social survival skills kick in.
First rule: Prepare to laugh.
Chances are pretty good that this joke will suck. Why? Because most jokes do.
Life is funny. Stories are funny. Jokes, frequently, are not. But if you don‚t laugh, awkwardness takes over. And you lose a point.
Pray to whatever deity you claim that they tell this joke right.
We‚ve all been there: They‚re super excited about this joke, they jump into the delivery, move too quickly and trip over themselves. Either they forget the punchline or say it right after the guy enters the bar and before we learn that the dog can talk.
Sadly, there isn‚t a lot you can do to assist with this other than prayer.
Gather all the wit of Oscar Wilde and get the joke.
If you don‚t get it, they will know. There is a smell to someone who doesn‚t get a joke. Not to mention the puzzled look you try to conceal like a pimple on the forehead. But your puzzlement is also bright red and obvious ˆ and leads to explanations of the joke.
The explanation is perhaps the worst outcome because the teller thinks you‚re an unfunny dunce and worries maybe he didn‚t tell it right. And again, you‚re left in an awkward spot.
Gauge your laugh.
Laugh too hard and it‚s obvious you‚re faking it; don‚t laugh enough and it‚s unconvincing. At all costs, avoid the „hrrumph ... that‚s a good one‰ and I‚d advise against repeating the punch line or getting misty-eyed; the teller isn‚t George Carlin and this isn‚t comedy gold.
Finally, if the teller is a boss or supervisor, all bets are off. You have to get it. Your very future is on the line. Laughter is required, and more laughter than you dish out for regular co-worker jokes.
Because if a guy walks into a bar and you don‚t laugh, you‚re screwed.