Continuing my earlier post regarding the Five Degrees of Jokes, here now is a brief discussion of second degree jokes.
Second degree jokes juxtapose the sacred with the profane. This is fairly easy to explain because it can be shocking, and the shock to the system is what raises tension and elicits laughter. If the profanity is adequately profane, it will bring forth a cringe or a complaint, but even that will set up the audience for laughter to provide relief. What comes to mind quickly are the many, many jokes about priests having sex, or, my preference, nuns having sex. The four nuns waiting to get into heaven may be my favorite “joke” of all time. However, it is too profane to tell except to my closest friends or immediate family, if that makes any sense at all.
A really good limerick will transcend the pun and word play and will also achieve second degree humour. I will leave it as an exercise for the readers at home to find some and send them to me (I really enjoy limericks).
But religion and sex are not the only forms of sacred and profane. Any respected, cultural institution can provide the sacred. Family, public education, medical professions, and marriage can all be considered sacred, and would be prime targets for a shock to that system with a profane reference.
If sex is not an appropriate contrast for the particular sacred setting, then bathroom or other bodily functions can make a fine substitute. In a pinch, however, base or crass actions, such as stealing, taking drugs, lying, and cheating may also provide enough of a shock.
There is fun to be had in any joke telling, and, as a jokester, your job is to detect the mention of any sacred position and find the best profanity to generate laughter. I have done this most of my life, but never realized what I was doing. I know I have offended more innocent folks than I should have, and that is where the importance of practicing your craft is useful because you don’t always have to go to a gross sexual act in order to get a laugh when some simple “pooh-gas” will do.