Paleohumorists have uncovered what is, possibly, the very first joke ever made. To their surprise, there is no reference walking into a bar in the Sanskrit text. Also missing — bodily functions, and the word "Nantucket." (Extra credit — what is the Sanskrit word for Nantucket?)
The joke is inscribed on a weather-beaten stone tablet, chipped in place, but otherwise in fair condition.
Loosely transliterated, it goes something like this —
Unfortunately, that's where the etched characters start to fade. Puzzled paleohumorists turned to humorologists, satiric reconstructionists, and finally, in desperation, to the comedic engineers in TV land. To date, there is no consensus on how the joke might have ended. The only thing everyone seems to agree on is (and this is a loose translation), "When do we get paid?"
(Extra credit answer — the Sanskrit word for Nantucket is Hoboken.)
All of which just points up the inherent difficulty in explaining a joke. Hard as it may be to explain a joke when parts of it are missing, it is even more nerve-wracking to explain a joke in its entirety. This is especially true when the joke fails. According to paleohumorists, failed jokes are not at all uncommon.
(Extra credit — Who said "When I make a joke, nobody gets injured … when Congress makes a joke, it's the law." )
Which brings us to the mission of the Select Committee on Unamerican Media Banality And Grossness, whose mission is to discover whether a joke is, scientifically speaking, "funny," "offensive," or "incomprehensible." The FCC has stepped in to advise on what should be censored. Whatever remains on TV or radio would be, by definition, either funny or incomprehensible. That's good enough for me.
(Extra credit answer — Will Rogers.)
Is America really ready to deregulate humor?
Sen. Combover: Come to order! We are here to determine what, if anything, is legally funny. Call the first witness ... Come on, who's on first?
Mr. Powell: What? I don't know. Yesterday, my staff observed this obscenity on TV. "A doctor, a lawyer and a priest walk into a bar … "
Sen. Combover: Is this some kind of joke?
Mr. Powell: That's the bartender's line!
Dr. Greenbaum: I object!
Sen. Combover: Are you a bartender?
Dr. Greenbaum: No sir, I am a doctor. It is medically incorrect to imply that everyone can walk. If you were a REAL lawyer, you would know that accessibility lawsuits are choking our legal system!.
Sen. Combover: Are you a REAL doctor?
Dr. Greenbaum: No, but I play one on TV. Mostly — sometimes I play a lawyer.
Father O'Reilly: I object! TV is not the issue. It is irresponsible, perhaps religiously incorrect, to suggest that a priest would associate with a lawyer!
Sen. Combover: Are you also an actor?
Father O'Reilly: No, but I play one on TV. When do we get paid?
Sen. Combover: In the interest of humor correctness, can we agree on a compromise? "Three professionals of indeterminate gender enter a public establishment, in which alcoholic beverages may or may not be served. A host/server/waitperson who may or may not be associated with the preparation of beverages, alcoholic or otherwise, and who is not necessarily assumed to be an avid listener of patrons' problems, inquires of the parties, collectively and separately, whether there is any humorous intent, express or implied, in the fact of their simultaneous arrival at the aforementioned establishment."
And when Congress keeps this up long enough, it eventually turns into a joke.