Chapter 2: Who Is Watching the Mind?
If a joke is a simple syllogism, an Aristotelian syllogism, that you can simply go on and you can feel what conclusion is coming, and you can conclude because the premises are given already; if you can conclude logically, as if two plus two is four, this cannot be a joke - because two plus two is four. When somebody is saying “two plus two” you have already known the conclusion: it is going to be four. If a joke is absolutely logical and the conclusion is not absurd, then it is not a joke, it will not shock you into awareness.
The joke takes a very unexpected turn. And yet, when you have listened to the punch line, you suddenly realize that there is a logic in it - not Aristotelian, nonAristotelian. When you have heard the punch line, then you suddenly recognize, yes, everything becomes clear. If a joke is absolutely absurd, then too it will be meaningless, because then the conclusion will not be in continuity with the whole story; then there will be discontinuity and you will not be able to know how to connect them.
The joke has not to be absolutely logical, the joke has not to be absolutely illogical, it has to be somewhere in the middle - very ambiguous, vague, surrounded by mist. You cannot figure out where it is going, and that’s why it becomes intriguing. And it takes the turn so suddenly that in a single line it is there in its totality.
Let me tell you one joke:
A Jewish synagogue was collecting money for a new building for the synagogue - the old one was rotten and was falling apart. They were doing everything that can be done to collect more money.
They had sold lottery tickets, and then the lottery was opened and the president of the community declared the third prize: it was a beautiful TV set, and the man who got it was very happy.
Then he declared the second prize - of course, the man whose name was declared was hoping for something like a Cadillac, Impala, Mercedes, something like that. But when he came the president gave him a small box. He immediately opened it - mm? - he was puzzled as to what was there in the box. And there was nothing much: chocolates, cookies. He said, “What is this? You must have forgotten, you must have misplaced something. For the third prize you have given a TV set - and second prize, just cookies? This is nonsense!”
The president said, “You don’t understand it: the rabbi’s wife herself has prepared it for you.”
The man was annoyed. He said, “Screw the rabbi’s wife!”
The president said, “That’s the first prize.”
Now this is a joke. You cannot expect, it is impossible, but once it is there then everything becomes clear. The conclusion makes the whole story clear. But if the conclusion has not been given to you, you will not be able to come to it logically.