Nautilus

When Does Dark Humor Stop Being Funny?

In either ninth or tenth grade, my friend Dan and I found a book of “Truly Tasteless Jokes” on the cafeteria floor. Our teenage psyches were quickly mesmerized, and we spent the majority of lunch reading it cover to cover. I laughed at one dead baby joke in particular (which I can’t repeat here). It involved a blender.

To see if I was a psychopath for taking delight in dead babies, I asked the cartoons editor for the New Yorker, Bob Mankoff, for his opinion. He’s had plenty of time to ruminate on what makes a good joke, and he assured me that I was

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