At a dinner party, I see my father-in-law Raul walking in my direction with a glib smirk on his face. I smile back at him, since I’ve got a pretty good idea of what his contained laughter usually signifies. He sits on the bar stool next to me. The smirk manages to conquer his face, blossoming into a full-blown smile as he lets out giddy high-pitched laughter. Between his chuckles, he manages to ask me, “Have I ever told you the joke about Tequila Horse?”
People own the jokes they tell. I’m not a joke anthropologist; so I couldn’t tell you when the oral tradition of joke-telling became a popular part of human expression, but my guess would be we’ve been telling jokes as long as we’ve been telling stories. If you think about it, that’s precisely what a joke is- an abbreviated story with a quantifiable payoff at the end. And this is why I think people like Raul take such ownership in the jokes that they tell. Even if he didn’t make up the joke that he’s telling, if you (the audience) laugh at the joke he tells, then he made you laugh. And who doesn’t enjoy taking the credit for a good laugh?
This is why I created Paper People Jokes, my interactive animated series where viewers send in their favorite jokes, and I animate the best (and sometimes worst) ones. My hopes are to not only breathe a new life into the time-honored oral tradition of joke-telling, but to maintain what’s essential- the joke-teller’s ownership of the joke. That’s why I encourage viewers to record themselves telling the jokes (so I can use their voice-over, with their own style of delivery). I also need a photo of the joke-teller, so that I can animate a caricature of him or her at the end of each joke.
Thanks to the global reach of the Internet, Paper People Jokes has become an international production. I now know Jay Mayo’s favorite joke about a loud-mouthed parrot… and he’s a youth from the Philippines! From Berlin, Gian Luca Di Carlo told me his favorite joke about a shepherd’s dirty limerick at a poetry slam competition. I knew people told jokes beyond the borders of Texas, but it never occurred to me others would grasp onto my concept from different walks of life so far away. To me, this reaffirms that the satisfaction we derive from joke-telling tells us more about who we are as humans as opposed to being some sort of cultural fad or gimmick. At the risk of sounding too grandiose, I’d even venture to say that joke-telling is a universal method of human communication.
Having a global audience did present some unique challenges. For starters, as easy as it has become transferring digital media over the internet, finding a convenient way for people to record their own voices telling their favorite jokes and then snapping a picture of themselves became a laborious request for my joke-tellers. I knew I needed to streamline the experience. A few months ago I developed an app for iPhone and iPad that gave my audience the tools they needed to participate in the process. The app features a built-in voice recorder and camera, so joke-tellers can be seen and heard, all in one easy step. It’s proven to be a successful move, as I have now officially collected and animated over 110 jokes from around the world! I’ve come to realize there isn’t a target audience or demographic with this concept- I get just as many jokes from pre-teens as I do from senior citizens!
Other artists might ask me, “Where’s the artistry in this process for you?” Even though I give all the credit for each animation to the joke-tellers themselves, I’m inevitably sharing some of myself in the way I animate each joke. I’ve added four of my signature styles of animation to the Paper People Joke experience. The original PPJ style mimics stop-motion animation done with construction-paper cutouts. It’s a sweet, innocent style that often contrasts heavily with some of the more adult-themed jokes. Next I have the Paper Cuts (aka the “Rejected Jokes”). These are a collection of the worst jokes sent in by viewers. They range from not funny to downright weird! To accentuate these eerie oddities, I animate them with hand-drawn doodles on notebook paper. I film them moving about as if they were puppets, with high-contrast lighting for a shadowy film-noir ambience.
The two newest styles to the PPJ family are Giggle Bytes and Super Anime Jokes. In the spirit of retro-style 8-bit video games, Giggle Bytes turns jokes into video games from the 1980’s. With all the exaggerated conventions of Manga and Japanese animation, Super Anime Jokes turns an everyday joke into an absurd abstraction of pop-culture mayhem.
The melding of my animation styles with the audience’s jokes is the heart of the true collaborative effort that defines Paper People Jokes as an interactive show. By downloading the PPJ app, it’s as if you’re commissioning your own private animator to bring your favorite jokes to life with one of four unique animation styles. And this defining factor is what distinguishes Paper People Jokes from other animated joke shows such as Eli’s Dirty Jokes- on PPJ, the joke-teller is the star of the show. Simply put, each joke-teller is the writer/producer, and I’m their director/animator.
In the near future, Paper People Jokes hopes to expand to more mobile platforms and to increase the stakes of its competitive joke contests with bigger prizes and greater exposure for the winners. I hope we can break new boundaries in interactive entertainment, while promoting new ways to enrich the time-honored tradition of joke-telling for the generations to come.
About the series:
Over the course of its year and a half run, Paper People Jokes was selected as an official Shortlist Selection for the 2010 Vimeo Festival + Awards in the Original Series category (top 20 out of 6500). It’s been covered on Houston’s FOX 26 evening news, and has received over 100,000 views online. In 2011, it’s launched a series of “Best Joke in a Category” contests with prizes ranging from $25 iTunes gift cards to $110 software bundles. The Paper People Jokes app can be downloaded for iPhone http://www.ppjapp.com or for iPad http://www.ppjpad.com . You can follow news in the world of Paper People Jokes on its Facebook page ( http://www.facebook.com/paperpeople ) or by visiting http://www.paperpeoplejokes.com . For more information, you can contact Brandon Ray at email@example.com . Paper People Jokes, Paper Cut, Giggle Bytes, and Super Anime Jokes are all registered copyrights of Paper Brain Productions.