Friday, March 24, 2006

Perry Bible Fellowship and the Nature of Dead Baby Jokes

(All pictures from Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch. Click on the images to go to nowhere, really, since I can't figure out how to direct link to comics.)

This is probably a good comic to talk about right after my humor article. Perry Bible Fellowship is a three-panel gag strip. Many of the comics are completely without dialogue. Nearly every comic is some form of dark humor. It's a good comic, but before we get into, let's talk a bit about dead baby jokes.

Dead baby jokes are like the bottom of the humor barrel really. They're all simple one-liners. Most don't even have any form of wordplay. They get their humor mostly from being disgusting as possible.

In my experience it is never the first dead baby joke you laugh at. Dead baby jokes work and groups and they never come alone.

Picture this. You're with a bunch of friends goofing around, and decide to start telling jokes. It starts out innocently enough, but quickly moves to sex jokes or racist humor. Finally someone tells this gem:

"Hey, how do you make a baby crawl in circles."

Then a few people who have heard the joke many times before answer in unison:

"Nail his hand to the floor."

"How do you make him stop."

"Nail his other hand to the floor."

Usually there is a long silence after this, until one of the more sheltered members of your group decides to speak up.

"That's awful."

This, of course encourages someone else to tell another joke.

"What's the difference between a Porche and a pile of dead babies?

"I don't have a Porche in my garage."

This will start getting a few chuckles from the more jaded individuals of the group, then someone else will chime in.

"How do you get a baby in a fish bowl?"


"How do you get him out?"

"Nacho chips."

By then everyone who's heard a dead baby joke before will be in the spirit, and even the one person who spoke against the first joke will be grinning. Finally somebody gets really brave.

"Hey, how do you make a five-year-old cry twice?"

But I digress.

The point is dead baby jokes are jokes that work by building on top of each other until you basically have to laugh. Their brand of humor comes more from the delivery than the actual humor, which brings me to Perry Bible Fellowship.

Basically (and I mean at its simplest) Perry Bible Fellowship works as a much more sophisticated dead baby joke. It is a brand of dark humor, using the darkness of the subject matter to sell the joke more than such things as word-play. Almost every joke in the archive is really obvious. Most involve either sex or death.

The main difference between Perry Bible Fellowship and dead baby jokes is that there are quite a few Perry Bible Fellowship comics that are funny on their own. Still the entire site is a lot funnier if you just read straight through the archive.

An amazing aspect of the comic is how the author is able to convey the ideas he's representing with very few words. In fact, quite a few comics in the archives have no text of any kind. These visual comics usually have a more surreal feel. It's a mood in which Gurewitch excels.

Perry Bible Fellowship may not be for everyone, especially some of the more sensitive people out there. However, if you can deal with a little bit of depravity, or if you enjoy any of the picutres that accompany this review, it's worth a read. Like I say on my reading list, after a while you will reach a sort of zen state where every comic is just as funny as the last. Do check it out.

By the way, I want to keep this site PG rated for now, so any comments explaining how to make a five-year-old cry twice will be promptly deleted.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whats the difference between a dead baby and a bowling ball?

You can only fit 3 fingers in a bowling ball

10:26 AM  

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