Infinite Jest: Jests and Jokes
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Apropos of the day...
Along with many of the other themes in Infinite Jest (Masks! Maps! Cleaning supplies! Teeth!), jokes seem to be a reoccurring them in Infinite Jest, starting with the title.
For example, we have:
-- Don Gately's joke on the ADA
-- The jokes that Bruce Green's father played
-- Marlon Bain owns a practical joke company
-- As do the Antitoi Brothers
-- James Orin Incandenza's film "The Joke"
-- Michael Pemulis' pranks and revenge
There are probably more that aren't springing to mind right now. One thing ties all of the jokes that are used or mentioned together: most of them aren't funny, are somewhat cruel, and some of them are disastrous.
Although, as most of you probably know, "jest" in the sense that it is used in the original quote from Hamlet means "story", which is the original meaning of jest. Hamlet was saying that Yorick was a man with endless stories.
most of them aren't funny, are somewhat cruel, and some of them are disastrous.
Reminds me of Mel Brooks' old line - "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."
1,3> and your response to his humour depends largely on how crass (or not crass) you like your humour. I found very little of the jokes unfunny or disastrous, but indicative of a depressed person's (in hindsight, I didn't know he suffered so at the time I first read IJ) darkly wonderful repertoire of gallow's humour. I do recognize and accept that perhaps much of the humour is sophomoric, but I thought it apropos of a largely pre-teen and adolescent environment at ETA. I personally enjoy sophomoric shit anyway, but yeah, I can see, for someone who doesn't, finding the gags unfunny and/or disastrous, which might also raise the question: Did DFW do that on purpose -- what some may perceive as cruel, disastrous humour -- knowingly, for a reason?
I say yes, he did.
When I mention the jokes being cruel, unfunny and disastrous, I don't mean that Wallace's using them is such, but rather that the characters who use them (such as Pemulis, who gets expelled for spiking Wayne's drink (although it might not have been Pemulis who did so)) have to face disastrous consequences.
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