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Thursday, July 7, 2016


I once gave a talk in Spain on Ullán's visual poetry. I had the audience laughing uproariously at several junctures in my brief talk, and the talk went over extremely well. I was told that Ullán (who had died a year before) would have liked it.

I am now writing another article about Ullán's visual poetry. I went back and read my talk, and there is nothing at all funny about it. It doesn't even attempt to be humorous. Some of the laughter was evoked by my spontaneous witticisms, which didn't make it into the talk, but some remarks were just taken as humorous by the audience, a small group of people who were friends of the poet and/or specialists in his work. Once I realized I was having this effect, of course, I played into it and became even more witty. I think the main reason was that my style of presentation is different from what is expected in that context. I made jokes that I didn't even know were jokes, or that were slightly above my own actual linguistic competence in Spanish. I didn't plan any of my wit, that's why it is wit. I am not good at telling jokes and in fact abhor them.* True wit is contextual, the response that is relevant to that particular moment.

I can only remember one of my jokes that day, in which I dedicated my talk "y la afición..." This quotes a poem by Jaime Gil de Biedma, which in turn cites a phrase used in bull-fighting, I think. It is funny contextually, because we aren't in a bull ring, I guess.


*There are some jokes I do like, individually. Yet I don't like the joke as a genre, or else I don't like people sitting me down and telling me a joke.

One joke I like is that there are two idiots on opposite sides of the river. One yells to the other: "how do I get to the other side?" and the other yells back "You're already on the other side!" I like jokes that are metaphysical.

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