Dad’s Uncle Jokes

Uncle Joke (Noun):
A Joke which has zero wits or intelligence behind them and is often told by uncles at family events. Most uncle jokes draw laughs from the family, but if you respect things that are actually funny you keep quiet. (Credit: Sky Homes, Urban Dictionary)

During my thread ceremony, an uncle came to my dad and proclaimed, “I saw him the day he was born and his penis was this small”, joining his index finger and thumb together. At first, only he laughed at that joke, then the other elders in the family started laughing as well. I never understood why that was funny. My dad used to say, “You’ll understand when you grow up” I’m now almost thirty, an uncle myself and I still don’t understand what my elders find funny in their jokes.

I woke up to this issue quite literally when my dad sent me a Good Morning forward along with these jokes:

EXHIBIT 1: 
“A girl was with her dad when she saw her boyfriend coming:
 GIRL: Have you come to collect the book titled, “DADDY IS AT HOME” by O Pamuk.
 BOY: No, I want that book of hymns, “WHERE SHOULD I WAIT FOR YOU?”
 GIRL: I don’t have that one but maybe you should take the other one titled, “UNDER THE MANGO TREE” by Girish K.
 BOY: Fine, but don’t forget the Retail Management Guide in “CALL ME IN FIVE MINUTES” while coming to school.
 GIRL: I will also bring “I WON’T LET YOU DOWN” by C.Bhagat
 DAD: Those are too many books, will he be able to read them all.
 GIRL: Yes dad, he is very smart and intelligent.
 DAD: Then also give him “OLD MEN ARE NOT STUPID” by Robin Sharma”

EXHIBIT 2:
“प्राचीन काळी जे लोकं आपले जेवण खाण, आई, वडील, बायको, पोरं, अशा सर्वांचा त्याग करून एकटे जगायचे त्यांना संन्यासी म्हणत… कलियुगात याला Online म्हणतात….”
(Translation: In older times, the people who gave up food, mother, father, wife, children and everything else were said to be Saints. In modern era, they’re said to be online.)

I tried to be diplomatic about these jokes by asking dad if we can have a conversation instead, you know, quality time. My dad got it because he said, “I get it. Why don’t you send us your jokes instead.” So I sent him my most retweeted joke.

“Q. Why did Salman Khan marry a wrestler in Sultan? 
Ans. Coz she’s already used to getting beaten up.”

At this point, dad said, “Jokes should have recreational value.” I don’t know what he meant by that, so I asked further, “Why do you think it doesn’t have any recreational value?”. “Because it is mockery, and that is hurtful.”, he said. And just like that, the conversation turned from silly Whatsapp jokes to a conversation on Joke Ethics.

It didn’t make any sense. Among the jokes dad had sent, one was mocking the youth and the another one was mocking people who are online, which were again the youth!

Now most of the jokes are meant to mock some person, convention or idea. To be ethical, a joke should be either belittling someone equal to them or above the person cracking it. When I put forth this observation in front of dad, he said, “My jokes weren’t belittling anyone”, and then said something that everyone without researching says, “It’s a fact.” I tried to explain how those jokes were not facts because there was exaggeration involved, but elders are like the women in their sexist jokes, they don’t want to listen. He just said, “The younger generation have become introverted, what do we do about that?” and left. And look at my brain’s acute sense of timing, the penny finally dropped, he started making sense. He might not be completely right but his one joke might be completely ethical.

I remember dad was angry at Tanmay Bhat during Lata Mangeshkar controversy because he called her old. He was belittling
 her because she was old. For him Old age is a scary place to be, you’re getting increasingly lonelier, you’re losing one sense a day, every song either reminds you how young you were or how close the death is or both together (Lagjaa gale fir yeh hasi raat ho naa ho.) My dad wasn’t developing an ethical blind spot, not completely, he was also getting old. This was his way of tackling aging or his loss of youth- to belittle it. He was, in theory, belittling something more powerful. Hence, old people cracking jokes on young people is alright ethically.

He still cracks wife and Santa-Banta jokes and I’ve barely stopped cracking jokes he thinks should be funny. You might think neither of us has learned any lessons and you’d be right. People learning lessons are a revenge fantasy that films perpetuate. Yes, Baghban and Taare Zameen Par were revenge fantasies of parents and children respectively. Yes, you’re welcome. In real life people just get tired and leave the conversation, nobody ever learns any lesson, trying to teach people is an exercise in futility.

So what did we learn from this?
The amount of uncle jokes your elders crack is inversely proportional to a number of meaningful conversations you have with them. For non-mathematical folks, if your parents crack uncle jokes, distract them with meaningful conversations.