“Every joke,” according to my wife, “has an element of joke in it.” The first time I heard it, I figured she’d confused the idea. Her take on English can be quite original sometimes. “You mean, an element of truth,” I said, correcting her gently.
“No, an element of joke,” she replied, enduring me patiently.
I’ve long since come over to her side. At the base of every joke is a spring-loaded truth, a hidden reality that gives them their punch. When a truth suddenly bursts up, we laugh at the unexpected BOING it makes. After the glow of humor fades, the unmasked truth grows familiar, and the joy is now in the telling – in offering the surprise to others.