While I dig (see above) play on words, sometimes the best jokes are the most obvious ones.
When I saw this I realized that had just lost an argument (3 years after the fact) about whether or not rape could ever be funny. Greg, you win. But in my defense, all the jokes I’d heard on the topic to that point had made light of rape and suggested that it’s OK. When looking at this clip, the Benign Violation Theory would say we can laugh because we know he’s not advocating rape, but people say a lot of things that are both not offensive and not funny. Like, “I need to get my tires changed.” So why is this funny? So many reasons.
One quick answer is the absurdity of raping Hitler–something a lot of us could probably get on board with, but could never happen. If we take a broader look, though, I think it’s the obviousness of his comments that make them so funny. He’s not dancing around double meanings or making subtle references to pop culture. He’s hiding under nothing. That said, we’ve also got sarcasm and reversal working here. Looking specifically at these lines:
“I’m not condoning rape. You should never rape anyone … unless you have a reason; like you want to have sex with someone and they wont let you.”
In short, what Louis CK is saying is: “You shouldn’t rape anyone, unless you want to rape someone.” This sets up a pretty obvious contradiction, and we can see that he’s speaking in hyperbole. Because CK’s exception “unless you have a reason, like you want to have sex with someone and they wont let you.” is what rape is, there’s a distinct reversal (for reversal think of one-liners like: Work is the curse of the drinking classes. – Oscar Wilde), and it’s these incongruities that signal to us that a joke is afoot. (a joke = a foot).
On a significantly less rapey note: I found this tip for using literal humor on an advice blog (which I intend to peruse further for tips on getting a real job).
Adults can brush up on how to think literally by paying attention to what young children say. In an effort to make sense of an adult world, children innocently misinterpret the meaning of things said and naturally entertain using literal humor. I recall someone telling my friend, “Your son is adorable.” He howled, “I am not a door-bell!”
(Provided by Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois, www.lessonsfromlois.com)
Now, I’m pretty sure we can do better than that, at least, I aspire to, but we’ve all got to start somewhere.