Anti-humor is a type of indirect humor that involves the joke-teller delivering something which is intentionally not funny, or lacking in intrinsic meaning. The practice relies on the expectation on the part of the audience of something humorous, and when this does not happen, the irony itself is of comedic value. Anti-humor is also the basis of various types of pranks and hoaxes.

The humor of such jokes is based on the surprise factor of absence of an expected joke or of a punch line in a narration which is set up as a joke. This kind of anticlimax is similar to that of the shaggy dog story.[1] In fact, some researchers see the "shaggy dog story" as a type of anti-joke.[2]


The shaggy dog story involves telling an extremely long joke with an intricate (and sometimes horribly grisly) back story and surreal or repetitive plotline, before ending the story with either a weak spoonerism, or abruptly stopping with no real punchline at all.

Another type of anti-joke gives a suggestion of building to a (typically risqué) punchline, but breaks the audience's anticipation by swerving to a non-risqué punchline or no punchline at all: "Did you hear about the honeymooners who confused the tube of K-Y Jelly with window putty? Quite the tragedy, all the windows fell out of their new home."[citation needed]

One more type of anti-humor is found in the joke "No soap radio". The joke is meant to have no punch line. When someone tells the joke, it is most likely with their friends, and it is meant to confuse others who don't know that there isn't supposed to be a joke.

One other type of anti-humor is a joke where the punch line is a pun on the phrase "no punchline". For example: "A boy wants to go to his high school dance. First he needs to rent a tuxedo, so he waits in a long tuxedo-rental line. Then he goes to the school and waits in a long ticket line to buy a ticket. Finally the night of the dance arrives. The boy goes to the dance and when he enters, he decides to drink some punch. The boy looks around but there's no punchline."

In stand-up comedy

Alternative comedy, among its other aspects, parodies the traditional idea of the joke as a form of humor.[3] Anti-humor jokes are also often associated with deliberately bad stand-up comedians. One very successful stand-up comedian, Andy Kaufman, had his own unique brand of anti-humor, quasi-surrealist acts coupled with performance art; one of his best-known manifestations of this was his act as Tony Clifton, a painfully untalented lounge lizard entertainer.

Ted Chippington's act contained non-jokes delivered in a Midlands monotone. Jimmy Carr is noted for his anti-humor style, anti-jokes being told with a straight face and very precise delivery. Bill Bailey is also noted for his particular brand of anti/meta-humor. John Thomson's stand-up character, Bernard Righton, would deliver set-ups to un-PC jokes (in the style of Bernard Manning), but confound the audience with tolerant, deliberately unamusing punchlines, e.g. "Justin Bieber's monkey has been quarantined, which reminds us about how far we've come since headlines about Pearl Harbor and D-Day." Such jokes can be seen as a form of irony. Other comedians known for their anti-humor include Andy Milonakis, Neil Hamburger, Tim Heidecker, Bo Burnham, Eric Wareheim, Eric Andre, Anthony Jeselnik, Edward Aczel, and Paul Putner.

Norm Macdonald is a comedian sometimes associated with performing anti-humor, although he has objected to this characterization of his humor.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Warren A. Shibles, Humor Reference Guide: A Comprehensive Classification and Analysis Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. (Hardcover) 1998 ISBN 0-8093-2097-5
  2. ^ John Henderson, "Writing Down Rome: Satire, Comedy, and Other Offences in Latin Poetry" (1999) ISBN 0-19-815077-6, p. 218
  3. ^ Andrew Stott (2005) "Comedy", ISBN 0-415-29933-0, p. 119
  4. ^ "Norm Macdonald: 'Worthless' anti-comedy 'is for the weak and cowardly'". Twitchy Entertainment. May 12, 2014. Retrieved January 20, 2015.