Double-Inverted Humor
from Fancyclopedia 2 ca. 1959 and Fancyclopedia 1 ca. 1944
Ordinary humor consists of upsetting the usual connection of things and using a new one, as in puns. A joke of this type is the story told by Doc Lowndes, of a girl whom a giant was trying to catch and eat. After eluding him a number of times, she somehow caused him to fall unconscious, and sat down and gobbled him up. The essence of humor is probably incongruity, but a necessary element of a joke is surprise. After one has heard or read several thousand jokes in which the normal order of things is upset, he comes to expect and anticipate it, so the only way to surprise him is by resorting to the obvious. ("Simplicity is the last resort of the complex", as Walt Willis says.) Such humor may fail if the reader does not realize that it pretends to be a single-inverted story to start with, or if he is not yet advanced enough on the naive type to appreciate a re-inversion. An extension of double-inverted humor takes place when the naive type has been left so far behind that nobody expects it to be used; then a bald pun or other simple witticism is the thing that will surprise and delight the reader at the same time that he pretends to groan. The Lowndes story, indeed, may belong to this secondary stage.