What do you call a fish with no tail?

fish joke

 

Commence hysterical laughter.
I recently came across a page that featured several jokes like this one. Jokes written by kids that feature some, but not all, of the features of a fully formed joke. Then, last week during community lunch, everyone somehow got started telling jokes to one another. It was really interesting to hear the range of development in joke telling. Some of the kids were still at the “one eyed grape” phase of joke telling, where the joke is more about creating a situation that might be funny if witnessed. Another student had memorized several knock-knock jokes, and had a good handle on what it meant to create a joke. Yet another student was using the structure of the knock-knock joke to create his own.
This started me thinking about kids and development and humour. Paul McGhee proposed a stage model of children’s humour in 1979, going from “Laughing without Humour” to “Riddles and Jokes”. Somewhere along the line, most of us figure out what the formula is for telling a joke. At different developmental stages we find very different things funny. You could tell the developmental stages of the kids in the kitchen not only but the jokes they were telling, but also by the jokes they were laughing at.
I remember my elementary school French teacher. We all thought that Mr. A. was SO mean -he was always poking fun at people and we really didn’t like him. Once I was in grade 7 and 8 we had a different French teacher, but one day we had our old teacher in as a substitute. All of a sudden he was hilarious! Looking back I can see that Mr. A. had a gift for sarcasm, and as a younger child I just couldn’t understand the jokes he was trying to tell. Later on in my development I got the joke, and all of a sudden he was one of our favourite teachers.
Jokes are an important part of group dynamics. Knowing how to effectively use jokes can allow us to find and experiment with social boundaries without creating offense. In-jokes within a group of friends serve to separate them from others and to create a common experience that brings them closer.
Jokes give us an interesting lens into the inner-workings of a child’s mind -and provide us with some clues about how he or she is perceiving the world.