#3. Hare Krishnas in Airports
Hare Krishna is a sect of a movement of a branch of Hinduism. Most notably, it's one of the few branches that encourage preaching and spreading Krishna consciousness, and the Krishnas of the 1960s and 1970s took that to fucking heart. Street corners, bus stations, and airports all had Hare Krishnas in their distinctive robes and shaved heads, chanting and singing and generally just getting up in everyone's grill about Krishna.
This is most famously depicted in the classic comedy Airplane, in which the gag is turned on its head when two Hare Krishnas are approached by Christian missionaries and brush them off with rolled eyes. It's also more hilariously depicted in the same film when the superbly named Rex Kramer is approached by a variety of airport missionaries and politely declines their advances:
We're unlikely to see this joke too much (although here it is mentioned in House M.D.) because Krishnas have been banned from airports for years now. Also, the movement itself has massively toned down its public proselytizing. They sing and chant and quietly do their own thing and there's no point referencing them because no one's seen them in 20 years and holy shit what if they're turning invisible!?
You know something, I've changed my mind. We must keep making Hare Krishna jokes, if only to raise awareness of this terrifying possibility. Carry on, hacks.
#2. Cartoon Characters Committing Suicide
Suicide is one of those things that sound funny on paper, but in ... wait a second. No it doesn't. Suicide never sounds funny. It's an awful, gut-wrenching tragedy, the terrible conclusion to what must have been a series of smaller awful, gut-wrenching tragedies. It's one of the least funny things ever, and you'd have to be a complete maniac to find humor in it.
Maniacs, it turns out, easily found employment in the 1940s as cartoon writers. Warner Bros. cartoons in particular featured tons of characters killing themselves as the punchline to various bits. And not just bit characters. Have you heard of a guy called Daffy Duck? Yeah, he's dead now.
Here's Pepe Le Pew, the famous sexual predator (another hilarious character type that hasn't aged well), threatening suicide to get a girl to love him.
One of the most insane forms of this gag had a character (typically a bystander to the action) see something really zany. A dancing frog or something like that.
Or that specifically.
And then this character turns to the camera and says, "Well, now I've seen everything." And then, having nothing left to live for, he puts a gun to his head and, holy shit, kills himself.
I can't pretend that watching this kind of cartoon violence ruins a person. I watched Warner Bros. cartoons featuring gags like this all the time growing up, and I've managed to survive to this day. (Although I had one close call due to a mix-up between rabbit season and duck season.) But, you know, I think we can live with a lack of suicide jokes in our entertainment options. I think that's something we can safely tuck away in our past.
#1. Flashing "12:00"
For anyone who wasn't alive to know what one is, a VCR was basically a tape-based DVD player. Which was itself a kind of disk-based Netflix device that required you to first drive to a Blockbuster. Which was itself a kind of horse-powered ... you know what, forget it. A VCR was a magic box that granted wishes.
But only if those wishes were for the chance to see grainy recorded episodes of Murphy Brown.
A recurring gag in film and television from this era was how hard VCRs were to program, in particular the clocks on them. A flashing "12:00" became the universal sign that someone found their VCR too difficult to program. There have probably been billions of jokes made about how difficult it was to set the clock on a VCR, with the implication being that the butt of the joke was a helpless simpleton.
"So this VCR box somehow steals the soul of these actors and forces them to react to these scenes for eternity? Super!"
The thing that always pissed me off about this joke, aside from the fact that I heard it a billion times, is how it was utter nonsense. VCRs were not hard to program. They were annoying to program. More importantly, there was no need to program them -- we all had better, more usable clocks everywhere else in the household, and resetting the clock on the VCR every time the power went out was pointless. That's why these clocks stayed blinking. Because people couldn't rightfully be bothered.
The intent of these jokes -- making fun of old people -- is fine and admirable. We, as a society, need to mock the elderly more. But if someone didn't set the time on their VCR, that wasn't a sign of stupidity. It was a sign of someone who had set their priorities perfectly.
Hosseinshamloo via Wikimedia Commons
"Ehhh. I'll just ask my kids to do it. I've been looking for a way to instill in them a false sense of superiority."