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"They must get this question all the time at the National Transportation Safety Board. The guy I talked to didn't miss a beat with the answer: because the interstates aren't wide enough. His point, in case you're new to sarcasm, was that a plane built to black box standards would be so heavy you'd have to drive it rather than fly."
—The Straight Dope on why the black box is indestructible, but the plane isn't.

Alice makes a humorous observation, and waits for Bob to laugh. Instead, Bob offers a simple explanation.

If Alice is present, she immediately realizes that the joke is ruined. She may be crestfallen, or angry, or simply say "Huh, I never thought of that." If not (for example, if Bob is watching Alice on TV) his friends may laugh harder at his response than the initial joke.

If Alice (or Bob's friends) don't agree that the joke is ruined, it's not this trope. Bob may be a Straw Vulcan, have been Sidetracked by the Analogy, think the joke is Dude, Not Funny, or just not get it. If Alice was already well aware of Bob's explanation but was Comically Missing the Point, she may respond with Don't Explain the Joke.

Overlaps with Rhetorical Question Blunder if the joke was phrased as a question. Alice can do this to herself, in a strange form of Oh, Wait!, but the setup for that isn't usually a joke.

When a work causes this reaction from the audience, it's a Shallow Parody.

No Real Life Examples, Please. This trope is about Bob's reaction to the joke, not the audience's. If you want to complain about jokes you don't like, Take It to the Forums or the work's Headscratchers page.

Examples of Outside Joke include:

  • Ben Bailey (host of Cash Cab) recounts anecdotes during his standup routine of the audience doing this to him at previous shows:
    • Slow people get in front of him while exiting the subway

 Ben: OK, they're really slow. But how the fuck do they always get to the stairs before I do? Do they run to the stairs, then collapse, exhausted?

Man in the Audience: They got off of the train before yours!

Ben: Well, fuck you.

    • The dentist tells him "This won't hurt a bit."

 Ben: I always grab him by the balls and say 'then neither will this."

Woman in the audience: What if the dentist is a woman?

Ben (narrating): "She thought she had me, but to me the answer was obvious."

Ben (to woman): Then the joke doesn't work, bitch.

  • Tig Notaro has a bit about "no moleste"[1] signs in hotels, and speculates on the epidemic of Spanish-speakers molesting people that must have caused the monolingual signage - then tells the audience about a guy who felt he had to explain to her after a show what it literally means in Spanish. (Her response: "No moleste.")
  • There's a lengthy piece in The Salmon of Doubt where Douglas Adams analyses the "Black Box" joke (if the black box on an airplane is indestructible, why don't they just make the whole plane out of that material?) to work out why it annoys him so much:

 "I began to pick at the joke. What if Eric Morecambe had said it? Would it be funny then? Well, not quite, because that would have relied on the audience seeing that Eric was being dumb — in other words, having as a matter of common knowledge the relative weights of titanium and aluminium. There was no way of deconstructing the joke (if you think this is obsessive behaviour, you should try living with it) that didn't rely on the teller and the audience complacently conspiring together to jeer at someone who knew more than they did."

  • There was a bit on The Daily Show where Jon Stewart explained "the Deal with Airline Food", citing increasingly narrowed profit margins due to increasing competition post-deregulation (and after 9-11 in particular) resulting in more and more cutbacks in service: meals replaced with snacks, etc.
  • Casey and Andy once did a strip where one of the character's girlfriend took the time to 'defang' some popular stand-up comedy questions. She basically explained why there are instructions in Braille on drive-through ATMs, and then gave a short summation of why airplane food is so terrible.
  • Dinosaur Comics did a take on these called "UNAMBIGUOUS ANSWERS TO OLD RHETORICAL QUESTIONS COMICS".

 What do they use to ship Styrofoam?

Utahraptor: They use boxes!

T-Rex: Yes, boxes.

  • In The Simpsons, when Krusty is trying his new stand-up act:

 Krusty: Have you ever noticed how there are two phone books? A white one and a yellow one? What's the deal with that?

Lisa: One's residential, the other is business.

Krusty: (sad) Well, that...makes sense. (upbeat again) What'll they think of next? Blue pages?

Marge: They have those. They're government listings.

Krusty: I see. (tosses notebook)

    • Another episode featured Bart answering the rhetorical philosophical question, "What's the sound of one hand clapping?" (By hitting his fingers on the palm of that hand.) Lisa was not amused.
      • After that they moved onto "If a tree falls in the woods, and no-one's around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Bart tried to answer by imitating a tree crashing, but Lisa asked "But Bart, how can sound exist if there's no one around to hear it?" Bart couldn't answer.
  • Not quite a joke, but this image answers the infamous "Fucking magnets, how do they work?" line from Insane Clown Posse's Miracles.
  • Stand-up comedian Adam Hills relates a story about flying into Hobart when the pilot aborted the landing at the last minute. This is hardly humorous for any pilot in the audience who has had to deal with low-level wind shear or the dreaded microburst.

  Captain came on and made the single coolest announcement I've ever heard in my life. (Suave voice) 'Ladies and gentlemen, you can probably tell we didn't land then. This is because the wind conditions just changed a little bit and were pushing us slightly off course. We just decided to pull up and do another lap of the airport, we'll have you on the ground in about five minutes time.' I thought that is pretty damn cool - for a man who nearly killed us all. That wasn't wind; he fucked up.


  1. "Don't disturb", apparently