Is A Joke Not A Joke If The Internet Has Already Heard It?
I’m staying at the Amara Hotel in Singapore which has lifts/elevators built by Swiss-based Schindler, and, of course every time I get in I chuckle to myself about the fact that I’m in Schindler’s Lift. But surely, I thought this morning, I’m not the only person to think of this, and to find it tirelessly amusing? So I checked.
Turns out a lot of people have thought the same thing. Google has 237 matches for ‘Schindler’s Lift”, including here, this one (which mentions that the company itself is aware of the pun, although it’s not clear whether they still find it amusing), this one (another one where a picture is available), this one, another one (Australian this time, clearly the joke has no physical border), another one, another one, one more, one more, another one (this time from a lawyer), another one (from a nerd newsgroup; clearly the joke is not confined to bookworms), another moblog one, another one, this one from a trip to Japan, this one, from a French hotel that apparently had gone to the trouble to institutionalise the joke with a plaque, another very recent moblog one, this one from Benidorm (where quite a few such jokes seem to have originated), this from Belgium, another one (not from Belgium), one from Safeways, this one, which narrates a tale that Kurt Cobain was supposed to have cracked the same joke at some point, this one (which illustrates the genre quite well: “We apparently needed an elevator to get into it. We got in, pressed 3, and the doors shut. The brand name read “Schindler”. “Schindler’s lift,” I suggested, and we collapsed laughing against the wall for a while, possibly delirious with hunger by now, before finally realising when the doors opened that the lift hadn’t even moved”), there’s even a website dedicated to expats in Prague called Schindler’s Lift, and on and on they go…. (trust me).
It’s like tracking a disease. I suppose I should be doing them chronologically. What I can say is that the joke is always the same. Sweet, really. All those folk chuckling, like me, at their own joke as they ride up and down, snapping away with their cameraphones as the lift operator rolls his eyes and thinks to himself, This would never happen if Spielberg had stuck with Schindler’s Ark, the title of Thomas Keneally’s book.
More importantly, this has worrying implications for the future of humour. If we realise that our bad jokes have been told at least 237 times before, almost word for word, across the world (excluding, possibly, those parts of the world that call lifts ‘elevators’ and where people might consider the joke in any case tasteless), does it make them any less funny? Should we stop cracking jokes until we’ve checked them first on the Net? And should all the folks who thought up the (now, after all this Googling, very tired) Schindler’s List joke acknowledge their brains work in slightly different (not better, just different) ways, and form a club or something?
Me? I promise not to crack another Schindler’s Lift joke ever again, and to be really careful before cracking other ‘jokes’ unless I can verify it hasn’t already become an Internet dud. And if there’s a club I want to be treasurer.