The Great Muffin Joke Debate

By Sean Carroll | March 13, 2007 8:23 pm

Muffins Our current task, as Serious Bloggers, is to pass judgment upon whether the Muffin Joke is funny. Here is the joke itself:

So there are these two muffins baking in an oven. One of them yells, “Wow, it’s hot in here!”

And the other muffin replies: “Holy cow! A talking muffin!”

John Tierney (New York Times) thinks the Muffin Joke is not funny. Brad DeLong (Berkeley) disagrees, claiming that the Muffin Joke is, in fact, funny, although he offers no argument to support his conclusion. Jack Balkin (Yale) also finds the Muffin Joke funny, and does offer a rationale:

The muffin joke is funny because it is self-undermining. The punch line undermines the suspension of disbelief that the joke’s narrative presumes. It is kind of like breaching the fourth wall in drama. It’s like the line in Dr.Strangelove “You can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!” or the Atheist Hymn we came up with in high school: “There is no God, there is no God, He told me so himself.”

He admits, however, that by offering this explanation, he has thereby wrung all of the funniness out of the Muffin Joke. That’s as may be.

I come down on the pro-Muffin-Joke side of the debate. To me, it’s quite funny. Is this some sort of Ivory-Tower Academics vs. Hard-Nosed Journalists thing?


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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