3rd degree joke

Third degree jokes deal with reversal of scale–something little made big, or something of great value trivialized.

The most persistent example I have in my head is from when David Letterman first had a night time talk show, he had a running bit one week with a really large doorknob. It was about three feet tall, which is not a huge thing but was pretty big for a doorknob.

I don’t know if it got the laughs he hoped from it, but he kept going back to it, showing the doorknob and saying, “You see, it’s just really big.” He made callbacks the rest of the week, repeating the unnecessary punchline like a mantra. I laughed every time. That may be more to his showmanship than the joke, but what is one without the other anyway?

Taking the same principle from the opposite end, in the movie “Spinal Tap”, the band ordered a prop that was supposed to be an eighteen foot tall obelisk like Stonehenge for their stage show. But the craftsman delivered, instead, an eighteen inch tall obelisk. The band was forced to use it in their show, and it was a very funny. They got about five minutes of funny screentime out of it. That is a lot of funny for one joke.