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This is funny…NOT.

October 17, 2011

There is something that has been bothering me for the last 20 years or so.

Twenty years. Think about that. 1991 doesn’t seem that far away, does it? But doesn’t 2031 seem like it’s a really long way off? In 1991, I was 13 years old, had braces on my teeth, Coke bottle glasses, and had my first period. In 2031, I will be 53 years old, will likely be completely gray and wearing bifocals, and will probably be going through the beginning stages of menopause. Fuck. Time sure flies.

Anyway, that is all beside the Very Important Point I am about to make. I’m arbitrarily picking 1991, because this was 3 years after the first “Wayne’s World” sketch aired on Saturday Night Live and a year before it was spun off into a feature film of the same name. Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar were a comedy fixture at this point, and many of their catchphrases had made it into the popular lexicon. Who wasn’t saying “Party on, [insert name of friend here]” or “Schwing!” or doing that dream sequence thing with their hands?

There is one saying in particular that caught on. The “Not!” joke. You know the one. “Yeah, Wayne, I’d go out with her…I totally would…NOT!” That one was a real kneeslapper the first time you heard it, right? And then you used it in every situation you could.

“Do I look fat in this?”

“Yeah, you do…NOT!”

Har har har.

Somewhere along the way, this joke lost the necessary sentence structure to make it work. Originally, you had to phrase things in such a way that the “not” negated the verb before, which was usually a conjugation of “to be”, “to do”, or “to have”. As shorthand, anything that could be shortened into a form such as “isn’t”, “won’t”, “couldn’t”, or the like worked. “I can…NOT!” “It is…NOT!” “I have…NOT!”

But then people started just plopping a “Not!” onto any old sentence. Even the joke “expert” in the movie “Borat” gets it wrong when he explains the structure of the “Not!” joke. He uses the example of, “Your pants are black…NOT!” Wait, what? No! That doesn’t work! That doesn’t make any sense! There is no verb that the “NOT!” is busy negating.

This misuse of “Not!” is rampant when people attempt to throwback to this joke. Nine times out of 10, when I see/hear someone make a “Not!” joke, they failed at it. And it’s a reminder that we lost the wordplay that made this joke funny to begin with. That verbal cliffhanger that brought the laughs is gone and replaced with a cheap, meaningless interjection. We have managed to dumb down an already dumb joke, people. This is fucking pathetic. You idiots will laugh at anything nowadays, won’t you?

I know you’re thinking, Jesus, Mandy, grow a fucking sense of humor already, will you? LET IT GO. And OK, sure, you have a point, there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to the downfall of American culture. I promise you, I will let it go, someday, I truly will.


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