12:31 a.m. August 1, 2012

It's Not Just Tragedy + Time = Comedy

Last week Dane Cook joked (so far as he is capable) about the recent Aurora, Colorado shootings. “Too soon,” everyone chimed, shaking their collective heads at Cook’s toolery. Nonetheless, someone has to make that first joke — it’s not like there’s a guide that lets you know when it’s ok to joke about a tragedy.

Until now.

Mass Murder

Example: Aurora shooting, Columbine

K: Number Victims M: Number Murderers A: Average age of victims (yrs) Ay: Youngest victim (yrs) R: Race (1 if the race of K & M the same, 10 if different) S: Media saturation, on a scale of 1-10 L: Length of media attention in days

Result in Days Unfunny

Conclusion: the more that die, the quicker you can joke about it. A lone gunman killing a small number of people with slight media coverage will be hard to joke about for years, while a group of four commandos killing 45 people in a month-long media extravaganza is instantly funny. One very young victim in the crowd will extend the waiting period, as will a difference in the race of the murderers and that of the victims.

Applied to that Aurora shooting (assuming media saturation at 9 for 4 days), we find a 20-day waiting period where all jokes would be “too soon.” Joking begins on August 9.


Example: The whole of human history

K: Number Victims P: Politics Involved (always 0)

Result in Days Unfunny

Conclusion: No matter the number of people killed or the atrocities committed, war is politics and politics are funny. Fun Fact: If you enter the numbers for any war into the equation for Mass Murder, you’ll find that they are often funny several hundred years before they began. For example, this August 25 is the first acceptable time to joke about WW XXIII’s Alpha Centauri atrocities.

Natural Disaster (Humans Suffer)

Example: Katrina, Titanic

K: Number Victims FP: Failure to prepare (1-100 scale) FR: Failure to respond (1-100 scale) I: Irony of disaster (1-100 scale)

Result in Days Unfunny

Conclusion: These events are traumatic, but the government's response to them can make them funny very quickly. Take Hurricane Katrina, a disaster where 1,836 people died. New Orleans' failure to prepare (est. 75) is easily cancelled out by the federal government's failure to effectively respond to the flooding (est. 95). Even with a relatively little irony (est. 20), it only had 72.5 days before it was ripe for comedy.

Human Disaster (Nature Suffered)

K: People Killed FDT: Fake PR Retweets NT: News Tweets

Result in Days Unfunny

Conclusion: Environmental disasters are very serious until someone gets a few retweets from a satirical Twitter account started seconds after the event. While a few incidental deaths might slow the funny, as soon as retweets on a fake PR account outnumber actual news tweets, your standup special can bash on oil-slicked baby seals for big laughs. This happened less than three days after the BP oil spill.


Examples: Holocaust, Rwanda

G: Number of times you’ve committed genocide.

Result in Days Unfunny

Conclusion: Instantly funny to the perpetrators of the Genocide.

Death of the soul

Example: Your hollow existence

A: Age (years) M: Percent of life occupied with mechanized repetition I: Number of broken items that you see as metaphors for your own life (weekly) P: Perceived success of everyone else (1-100) S: Likelihood that your fears are echoed in others but forever unspoken (1-100) E: Probability of you existing at all (%) D: Certainty of death (1)

Conclusion: Funny as soon as weighed against the improbability of ever existing and the complete certainty of death.