We’ve all experienced it. That feeling you get when a mediocre joke is performed live, creating that awkward moment where you, the audience member, is expected to laugh, because you know that whatever’s going on onstage is “supposed to be” funny. Maybe we do it out of politeness, an attempt to honor the unwritten social agreement that it is better to fake laughter than to do nothing at all. Others might call it mob mentality.
This experience can also happens in the movies, when you get to the funny part that everyone’s already seen dozens of times in the trailer and on TV commercials. It may genuinely be a funny scene. Or at least it was the first four times you saw it—but by now, the joke’s about as fresh as a week-old bagel. And yet, everybody laughs, because we know that this is the part the filmmakers want us to think is funny.
Which is the problem right there: thinking. Any time you find yourself rationalizing the reason why a joke is “funny,” it’s not. It’s like going to a movie with your mom and having her whisper the major plot points in your ear so you can be “in on it” too. But if someone needs to elbow you in the gut to explain the joke—especially if that person is the one onstage—the ability to find a genuine laugh is lost.
I call this phenomenon the Corporate Ha Ha.
I didn’t actually see the live bit in the photo above (assuming it was different than when they did it on SNL) but it just reeks of Corporate Ha Ha. Only, in this example, if I had seen it live while sitting next my mother, I’d be the one whispering in her ear, doing the translation. “That guy who’s dressed Mark Zuckerberg is actually Andy Samberg. Which is funny because…”