Photo by opyh (Flickr CC)
Comedy can be so tricky. Many comedians starting out forget that jokes need to be absolutely clear and unmisunderstandable, otherwise you can easily cause confusion and offence. These rookie jokers only end up letting themselves down otherwise. That's why the Germans have invented a brilliant punctuation rule for puns, which eliminates ambiguities, and ingeniously explains the pun even in its very telling. Through the simple insertion of brackets around individual letters INS(L)IDE a word, you (s)can subtly point out (t)hat (t)he wor(l)d can (s)have different meanings, (n)one of which may be humorous, if spelled with or without that letter. It's so clever and unobtrusive.
There was a lovely example in this week's GEMA protests, where many of Berlin's techno-type clubbers – people you might not have down as punctuation sticklers – refused to let their obsession with "beats" and "drugs" and "nightclub closures", and "injustices in royalty pay-out structures" reduce them to sloppy punning. As you can see from this photo, they really proved a credit to themselves – not only inserting the brackets, but an apostrophe, which indicates that with an "h," "GE(h)' MA" is technically two words, not one.
But unfortunately, Germans are not always so adept at making subtle distinctions. For instance, this blogger at ARD's Tel Aviv studio wrote an extremely ill-advised blog where he attempted to show how jokes could ease tensions in the Middle East. This fellow, a representative of the fucking ARD, no less, offered the following as an example of "a humorous attempt" to show "how absurd this conflict is from a distance:
"An Israeli soldier takes two prisoners – an Iranian soldier and a Palestinian fighter, fighting for the Iranians, of course. The soldier gets the order to execute them both. Who does he shoot first? Answer: the Iranian. First business, then pleasure!"
So, Germany's main state broadcaster, I put it to you that this anecdote is not likely to diffuse tensions in the Gaza Strip. That's because it's not so much a joke as, you know, hate speech. Maybe if you put some brackets in it somewhere. Actually no.