Tongue and Cheek
The formal definition of “Tongue and Cheek” is literature characterized by unnecessary irony or whimsical exaggeration. Yet, I have my definition, “improperly injected humor.” This is when writers intentionally make something funny that does not require humor.
As you may have guessed, I dislike injected humor and the term Tongue and Cheek. I consider this kind of writing to be the boxing equivalent of hitting below the belt. Such applications make me want to yell out, “This is not supposed to be funny.”
Writers might apply Tongue and Cheek to a financial report. “Our profit is down 95%. But, hey, remember Dolly Parton in that Nine to Five movie? Get it 95%, Nine to Five. Ha! Dolly was a riot!” Financial reports are supposed to be serious, but this does not mean the author cannot liven things up. “Look. Profits are down by 95%, but this next quarter is shaping up. It’s going to be a good year, folks.”
Another example might occur at a funeral. “Hey, sorry your son died. But that is one less mouth to feed. Am I right?” People would consider this kind of injected humor tasteless, and that is my point. Tongue and Cheek humor is often tasteless.
Yet, there is a fine line between Tongue and Cheek and a joke that does not work. In the Simpsons Season 6, Episode 22 titled, "'Round Springfield" Homer is giving a life lesson, and he tells Lisa, “When the sign says, 'Don`t Feed The Bears', man, you'd better not feed the bears.” Then, Homer lifts his arm up and a bear cub is biting him:
This is a typical funny scene from the Simpsons, and many people, including myself, enjoyed it. Yet many nature/animal lovers were offended, and they felt this joke did not work. “Bears are dangerous and should be respected.” Yet, this is not Tongue and Cheek humor. The distinction is that writers intended the Simpsons show to be funny, which means they did not make serious situations funny. However, not all jokes work for all people.
What is the difference between Tongue and Cheek and straight humor? Most Monty Python clips are perfect examples of straight humor. A typical scene would be an upstanding individual doing a regular activity while something funny occurs. A good example is the famous “here for an argument” clip.
Yet, people often say, “John Cleese is being Cheeky.” True, but Cheeky and Tongue and Cheeky are different terms. I suppose we could consider connecting several Tongue and Cheek scenes together cheeky.
All writers should consider their audience and know when to be serious and when to be funny. My blog concentrates on writing, but I liven things up with puns or mild humor. Here is a recent example:
“I suppose this is a bland ending to a bland topic. But it could have been worse. Imagine how my four readers would feel if I spent this blog trying to convince you that horses would rule the world. Want something worse? Imagine if horses ruled the world? Streets would stink from all the horse poop. How would they vote in elections?”
If I wrote this blog in a Tongue and Cheek style it probably would have ended with, “Well, that does it for this blog. I’m glad I did not get horse poop all over you.” Fortunately, I know my four blog readers, and seeing as they have stuck around for the last few years, this proves they can handle a “appropriate” humor. Thanks for sticking around.
You’re the best -Bill
May 25, 2022
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