The problem with sarcasm, other than making it that much more likely that you'll be mistaken for Matthew Perry at some point in your life, is that you can do it so well (or so poorly) that people don't realize you're joking. Sometimes a sarcastic misfire can make you come across as a cynical asshole or an insensitive prick. Other times it can land your ass in front of a judge.
So please, before you go down this dark road yourself, let the following cautionary tales remind you that a good chunk of the world really doesn't like jokes.
5 Man Jokes About a Bomb in His Luggage, Shuts Down an Airport
On his way home from officiating at a hockey tournament in October 2012, 44-year-old NCAA referee Peter Friesema saw a golden opportunity for comic brilliance when the ticket agent was messing with his bags. You can already guess where this is going: Yes, he made a goddamn bomb joke.
Specifically, after the agent at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport explained that it didn't really matter that she'd put his luggage sticker on his friend's suitcase by mistake because they were going to the same place, Friesema quipped:
"But my friend's bag has a bomb in it!"
"We're still having you detained for being a fucking idiot. Thanks for flying, though."
One Small Problem
Friesema, obviously not a very big Ben Stiller fan, was at an airport ... in America ... in the 21st century. There might be three words in the entire English language that you can't say at an airport, and this grown-ass man just happened to blurt out two of them (he failed to work "jihad" in there).
Besides being (figuratively) shot down by the agent he was apparently trying to hit on and then having to relive the awkward experience during interviews with (we assume) an entire team of disgruntled security officials, Friesema was also taken to jail, charged with disorderly conduct, and ordered to remain in the Klondike for another six weeks until his next hearing.
The judge was out of town for the Iditarod.
That last part was particularly bad news for Friesema, who claimed that his many years of service enforcing whatever "rules" hockey pretends to abide by would be lost if he couldn't return to Colorado sooner, but, as the judge was eager to point out, the order was indeed justified, given just how disorderly Friesema's conduct had been.
Oh, and thanks to Friesema's quip, the airport's main terminal was shut down for three hours in the middle of a cold Alaska night, causing several costly delays and forcing hundreds of pissed-off passengers (including many who were dressed in summer attire en route from warmer destinations) to shuttle to another terminal, hide out in a rental car garage, or simply huddle up in a freezing arctic doorway for a couple of hours while the FBI double-checked to make sure this really was just an extreme case of failed flirtation and not the most poorly planned and executed terror attack in history.
4 Newspaper Tries to Raise Zoo Safety Awareness, Causes Widespread Panic Instead
In case you think 9/11 was the starting point for "subjects you don't joke about unless you want to see the cops lock down everything in sight," let's give you an example from way back. After a leopard nearly escaped from the Central Park Zoo in the early 1870s, New York Herald editor Thomas Connery decided to expose the zoo's dangerous practices. Sure, he could have just written a boring, straightforward editorial on the subject, but that shit doesn't sell newspapers, baby.
So, rather than simply calling out the zookeepers for sucking so bad at their jobs that they couldn't even transfer an animal between cages without making passersby fear for their lives, Connery asked his writers to create a fake front-page story warning New York's 1.4 million citizens that an army of wild animals had escaped from the zoo, had already killed 49 people, and were quickly coming to murder the rest of the city at that very moment. Zing!
Museum of Hoaxes
The picture of a man punching a tiger in the face failed to alert readers to parody because this was 1874.
One Small Problem
Even though the story was outlandish and occasionally nonsensical (besides labeling the incident "A Shocking Sabbath Carnival of Death," it also claimed that one of the escaped rhinos "appeared the picture of stupid amiability" and that a Bengal tiger "seemed as harmless as a prostrate forest tree"), it ran 10,000 words long and occupied six full columns. So you can imagine how a reader would just glance at the headline, see the sheer scale of the article, and assume that no newspaper would take a mere joke that far.
And, save for one tiny paragraph at the bottom of the last page, there was no mention whatsoever that the catastrophe might possibly be made up and that maybe people shouldn't drop everything to prepare for the terrifying animal apocalypse soon to be heading their way.
Carl van Vechten
"I don't see how scaring the shit out of people through mass media could possibly backfire." -Orson Welles, 70 years later
The joke was picked up on by approximately no one, as most readers were far too busy loading their weapons or retrieving their kids from school to bother reading the entire article. As described by the Museum of Hoaxes:
"By all accounts, the article caused widespread panic throughout the city. Armed men rushed into the streets, ready to defend their homes. Reporters were dispatched to cover the story. The police mobilized. Parents rushed to bring their children back from school."
"Remember, honey: You're already dead. Don't give that lion the pleasure of tasting fear."
In a follow-up story, the New York Times printed letters from readers who'd genuinely feared for their safety on account of the hoax (on a related note, Connery later claimed that on the day of publication, the editor of the Times "ran out of his home waving two pistols in the air, ready to shoot the first animal he encountered"), while several of the more bitter victims went a step further, marching to the district attorney's office and demanding that the Herald pay for their deception. They didn't, as far as we know, but we can't say the same for ...