In English II a few weeks ago, we worked on research papers. With my topic being on humor, I naturally become interested in how humor has evolved through the last few billion years.

So I did a little research (rim shot) and found some interesting information about the evolution of comedy. Let’s see them argue over whether THIS should be taught in public schools!

Humor has been traced back millions and millions of years. In fact, funny irony began taking place during the creation of the world. Although not realized at the time, eventually humans would come up with the Big Bang theory, and some of them would actually believe it!

Recently, archeologists recovered some cave drawings-carbon dating back to millions of years ago-which had a very primitive joke written on it. It said, “Did you hear the one about the mastodon? They’re stupid!”

Naturally, this was a real knee-slapper-supposing knees had evolved by then-around the bonfire, when all the cave men got together to exchange their hunting adventures of the day.

“Ha ha,” they probably said, “mastodons ARE stupid! Good one, Oog.”

It wasn’t until a couple thousand years later until the jokes became a little closer to what we see today: “Why did the mastodon cross the road? Because they’re stupid!” and “How many mastodons does it take the change a light bulb? None, because Thomas Edison hasn’t been born yet…and mastodons are stupid!”

Thankfully, after a few hundred years passed, and-while we still find ourselves talking about cave men-the jokes were getting better in the form of cartoons. One of which, BC, is still being run in newspapers today.

But later, the Ancient Greeks and Romans starting coming up with some even better jokes. This was a time of great scientific growth, and was also a great time for humor, because they were inventing comical names like Plato and Socrates.

Once again, the humor was becoming closer to present day jokes, some of them opening with “A god, a goddess and a mortal walk into a bar….”

But the best comic of that era was Aristotle, who came up with some great one-liners. A few of them are:

“A flatterer is a friend who is your inferior, or pretends to be so.”

“It is unbecoming for young men to utter maxims.”

“Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication, because youth is sweet and they are growing.”

Ha ha, that Aristotle!

Props were also becoming a hit in those times, one of the most memorable being the Trojan horse. The idea was to make a giant wooden horse, and present it to the Trojans, leading them to believe that it was a gift or something from the Greeks. But then, a bunch of men would spring out of it like a Jack-in-the-box and yell, “Surprise!”

The coordinator of this prank was Odysseus, who then said, “Hey! This would be a lot funnier if we kill everyone now!” Odysseus was a true comedian to the core.

Humor continued to grow in this manner, but it was about to take a turn for the better when a man named William Shakespeare was born in 1564.

Shakespeare-or, how I like to call him, The Bard-was definitely the Ray Romano of the 1500s. In fact, his humor is so hilarious that all over the world, high school students are practically forced to read his plays. The only problem is, The Barb was way ahead of his time…way ahead of OUR time for that matter.

This is a problem, because the average high school student can’t understand a single thing that goes on in his plays.

Sure, the teachers claim that there are definitely some real laughers in there (Example: “Hark, what light through yonder window breaks” is actually a metaphor for “What idiot just threw a football through my window?”), but everyone else just has to go along with it and hope they pass the final exam.

After a couple hundred more years, a new form of humor-slapstick-was introduced when a comedian named Sir Isaac “Fig” Newton was sitting under a tree, when-of all things-an apple fell on his head! The townsfolk just went wild at the site of this very dignified and respected comic lying on the ground, dazed, with an apple-sized dent in his head.

But over here in the Americas, humor was definitely thriving, what with all of the independencing and constitutionalization going on.

In fact, even George Washington was even in on the fun. One winter day when he and his troops were crossing the Delaware River, he decided to break the ice (ha ha) by standing up and rocking the boat back and forth, saying, “Hey look, guys, no hands!”

Everyone thought this was just about the most hilarious stunt any future president had ever pulled, and had a picture painted of it and everything.

And I’m not even going to talk about some of the real zingers that they snuck into the Declaration of Independence before they sent it off to George!

That pretty well sums up the advancement of humor over the ages. As Aristotle said, “The gods too are fond of a joke; so don’t run around naked in a thunderstorm.”

* * *

UFO: In the document annexing Texas to the United States, a clause allows Texas to be divided into five different states.

Don’t ask why.

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