If you have to explain a joke…

If you have to explain a joke – it’s not a joke right? You know what I mean – in fact it’s almost painful – someone tells what they think is a side-splitter; a real knee-slapping, guffaw-inducing, funniest-ever joke and everyone sort of stands around, nervously looking at their shoes as the teller begins to explain why it’s really, really funny…pathetic.

This got me thinking about other interpretive situations as well. Books, stories, art – somehow the best require no real explanations, no deep dialogue (don’t tell the critics). The best – in my opinion – talk to you, let you in, don’t make it so obvious that they are trying to be a joke; same thing with a story or a painting – somehow you get the point, you get the message, you get the full impact.

Now, that’s not to say that you can’t go deeper – but as I said – if I have to explain the joke – how funny is it really? If I laugh because you are telling me I should, it just can’t have the same effect – so it seems to me.

Which leads me to the thought that inspired my ramble:

The perfection of art is to conceal art.
— Quintilian

And there you have it. It’s perfect when it’s not screaming “I’m art,” “I’m a joke,” “I’m a piece of literature.” When it “sings,” you just get it.

All of which leads me to how we speak to each other, to clients, to business associates and to our friends.

When the “Power Points” (as a metaphor for any discussion) get too long and complicated and we have to explain too much, we have gone off track. Way off track. If they don’t get it without the “sell,” it’s time to rethink.

So, no matter if it’s to a significant other, a new acquaintance or a client – if you have to work too hard at explaining yourself – you’ve already missed the point.

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