Americans and Irony

I'm at the American Meteorological Society annual meeting in Phoenix this week and was attending a talk.  A professor from Imperial College, London remarked, after one of this jokes fell flat, "I was told that irony doesn't work in America, but I thought you'd appreciate it."

His problem was not that the audience didn't get the irony but that he misjudged his audience.  These, as far as I can tell, were his two jokes:
1. Sometime in the middle of this talk, he said "this material was distributed to scientists, academics and even politicians like me".
2. He remarked "my friend, Dr. Fernando who is a well-known Greek scholar, calls this somethingmetrics".
I was just puzzled by the first reference, as I'm sure the rest of the audience was.  Apparently the fellow has been knighted for his work on urban air quality and so, he's technically a member of the House of Lords.  That was his "politicians like me" reference.  As for the second, it turns out Dr. Fernando is one of the fellows in his lab,  and so presumably just another meteorologist.  But for all we knew, he might have been a Greek scholar.

Humor is not that different.  You need to figure out what your audience knows before you start cracking jokes and condescending to their sense of humor.

No comments:

Post a Comment