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Outside Joke

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"They must get this question all the time at the National Transportation Safety Board. The guy I talked to didn't miss a beat with the answer: because the interstates aren't wide enough. His point, in case you're new to sarcasm, was that a plane built to black box standards would be so heavy you'd have to drive it rather than fly."
— The Straight Dope on why the black box is indestructible, but the plane isn't

Alice makes a humorous observation, and waits for Bob to laugh. Instead, Bob offers a simple explanation.

If Alice is present, she immediately realizes that the joke is ruined. She may be crestfallen, or angry, or simply say "Huh, I never thought of that." If not (for example, if Bob is watching Alice on TV) his friends may laugh harder at his response than the initial joke.

If Alice (or Bob's friends) don't agree that the joke is ruined, it's not this trope. Bob may be a Straw Vulcan, have been Sidetracked by the Analogy, think the joke is Dude, Not Funny! (possibly because they've heard it way too often), or just not get it. If Alice was already well aware of Bob's explanation but was Comically Missing the Point, she may respond with "Don't Explain the Joke".

This is the opposite of an inside joke, where all participants have knowledge that the general public doesn't. In an outside joke (to be funny), none of the participants have knowledge that the general public does.

Overlaps with Rhetorical Question Blunder if the joke was phrased as a question. Alice can do this to herself, in a strange form of Oh, Wait! — this is often an example of Anti-Humor. Compare Measuring the Marigolds, which is the belief that examining some aspect of nature closely takes away its wonder.

When a work causes this reaction from the audience, it's a Shallow Parody or Redundant Parody.

Compare So Was X. Contrast In-Joke.

No Real Life Examples, Please!. This trope is about Bob's reaction to the joke, not the audience's. If you want to complain about jokes you don't like, Take It to the Forums or a review.


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  • There's a lengthy piece in The Salmon of Doubt where Douglas Adams analyses the "Black Box" joke (if the black box on an airplane is indestructible, why don't they just make the whole plane out of that material?) to work out why it annoys him so much:
    Adams: I began to pick at the joke. What if Eric Morecambe had said it? Would it be funny then? Well, not quite, because that would have relied on the audience seeing that Eric was being dumb — in other words, having as a matter of common knowledge the relative weights of titanium and aluminium. There was no way of deconstructing the joke (if you think this is obsessive behaviour, you should try living with it) that didn't rely on the teller and the audience complacently conspiring together to jeer at someone who knew more than they did.

    Live-Action TV 
  • There was a bit on The Daily Show where Jon Stewart explained in-depth "the Deal with Airline Food", citing increasingly narrowed profit margins due to increasing competition post-deregulation (and after 9-11 in particular) resulting in more and more cutbacks in service: meals replaced with snacks, etc.
  • Not quite a joke, but this fake album featured on an episode of The Colbert Report answers the infamous "Fucking magnets, how do they work?" line from the Insane Clown Posse's Miracles.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon regularly deconstructs not only jokes, but all manner of conversation in a literal, matter-of-fact way, particularly in relation to Penny.
  • In an episode of Designing Women, the subject of "plumber's crack" is brought up, and Anthony's girlfriend Vanessa explains that it's because tool belts with heavy tools on them pull down a lot more.
  • In an episode of Friends, Rachel buys an apothecary table. While talking about it, she jokingly says "Who even knows what an apothecary is?" She is not amused when Chandler explains that an apothecary is a pharmacist.note 

    Stand-up Comedy 
  • Ben Bailey (host of Cash Cab) recounts anecdotes during his standup routine of the audience doing this to him at previous shows:
    • Slow people get in front of him while exiting the subway
      Ben: OK, they're really slow. But how the fuck do they always get to the stairs before I do? Do they run to the stairs, then collapse, exhausted?
      Man in the Audience: They got off of the train before yours!
      Ben: Well, fuck you.
    • The dentist tells him "This won't hurt a bit."
      Ben: I always grab him by the balls and say "then neither will this."
      Woman in the audience: What if the dentist is a woman?
      Ben: [narrating] "She thought she had me, but to me the answer was obvious."
      Ben: [to woman] Then the joke doesn't work, bitch.
  • Tig Notaro has a bit about "no moleste"note  signs in hotels, and speculates on the epidemic of Spanish-speakers molesting people that must have caused the monolingual signage - then tells the audience about a guy who felt he had to explain to her after a show what it literally means in Spanish. (Her response: "No moleste.")

  • Casey and Andy once did a strip where Mary took the time to 'defang' some popular stand-up comedy questions. She basically explained why there are instructions in Braille on drive-through ATMs, and then gave a short summation of why airplane food is so terrible.
    • Also on the issue of Braille on drive-through ATMs, Simon Whistler of Today I Found Out pointed out that while blind people may not drive, they do take taxis, which means they also use drive-through ATMs.
  • Dinosaur Comics did a take on these called "UNAMBIGUOUS ANSWERS TO OLD RHETORICAL QUESTIONS COMICS."
    What do they use to ship Styrofoam?
    Utahraptor: They use boxes!
    T-Rex: Yes, boxes.
  • A character in Daisy Owl experiences himself telling one of these ("What is the deal with sporks? Are they both a spoon and a fork? Oh. That's a sensible way to save on plastic") as a Catapult Nightmare.
  • In one Arthur, King of Time and Space strip, Dagonet (Arthur's jester) does the "why do people wash towels?" bit, and Arthur starts explaining about dampness and mildew, before Guenevere stops him with "Hush. He's just carlinning."

    Web Original 
  • In one of his Counter Monkey videos, The Spoony One explains in great detail why in The Lord of the Rings the Fellowship can't just ride to Mordor on eagles,note  and then says that, if he were ever to run another campaign of The Lord Of The Rings tabletop game, he would love to spring this trope on a party who thought they were clever.
  • In one episode of Game Grumps, JonTron jokingly questions why Love was an element in Captain Planet when love isn't an element. Egoraptor explains that "Love" wasn't meant to be an element, but that Heart was simply one of the main components of Captain Planet.
  • In this video from the Brian and Maria YouTube channel, a girl asks the perennial question "Why doesn't MTV play music videos anymore?" and receives a particularly blunt, distressing and almost certainly accurate answer.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Krusty is trying his new stand-up act in "The Last Temptation of Krust":
      Krusty: Have you ever noticed how there are two phone books? A white one and a yellow one? What's the deal with that?
      Lisa: One's residential, the other is business.
      Krusty: [sad] Well, that... makes sense. [upbeat again] What'll they think of next? Blue pages?
      Marge: invoked They have those. They're government listings.
      Krusty: I see. [tosses notebook]
    • "Dead Putting Society" featured Bart answering the rhetorical philosophical question, "What's the sound of one hand clapping?" (By hitting his fingers on the palm of that hand.)note Lisa was not amused. After that they moved onto "If a tree falls in the woods, and no-one's around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Bart tried to answer by imitating a tree crashing, but Lisa asked "But Bart, how can sound exist if there's no one around to hear it?" Bart couldn't answer, and thus was enlightened.
  • Family Guy:
    Reiser: And what's with those Starbucks, huh? They're everywhere.
    Peter: Uhh... a lotta people want coffee; that's supply and demand, it's the foundation of our entire economy Paul...
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Timmy wishes that he doesn't have any emotions. Afterwards, he realizes that, without his emotions, he only thinks logically and lacks a sense of humor, so jokes like this are just logic puzzles; i.e. planes would be too heavy to fly if they were made like black boxes, they can't Just Eat Gilligan because the series would end, and the chicken obviously came before the egg.