The Rant 

Well, I thought it was funny.

You know how sometimes you'll be talking to someone and surprise yourself by saying something funny that you didn't realize you were going to say, and then you think that maybe the person might be offended by what you said, so you immediately say, "I'm just kidding"? Yeah? Stop doing that. Not the funny-saying thing. The saying you're just kidding part. Seriously, stop doing that.

Let's say you're talking to a guy who just started dating a super-hot girl who is way out of his league, and you say, "What, did she lose some kind of bet?" Or "She's so pretty for someone who hates herself enough to date you." Sure, those remarks are a little on the mean side, but they're funny. If you follow that by instantly saying you're just messing with the guy, then you're not even giving him a chance to decide if what you said was funny. You have just kneed your own joke in the groin. Knock it off.

Let's go back in time a little. I first met my wife in the glorious mid-'80s, when shoulder pads and thin ties ruled the fashion universe. Being a professional comedian, I tended to make a lot of cracks. I was a regular cut-up. My new girlfriend — way out of my league by the way — would always follow my little witticisms by saying, "He's just kidding." Oh, it drove me bananas. As a comedian, I am bound to say just about anything funny that comes into my head. If I don't do that, then I'm not really good for anything. A doctor should volunteer medical advice; an electrician should tell you why your breaker keeps tripping when you turn on that one floor lamp; and a comedian is expected to make fun of people. It may even be a federal law. These people knew I was kidding, but before they could appreciate how funny I was being, my girlfriend would try to protect their feelings. It wasn't that she didn't have faith in my humor that bothered me, it was that she was robbing me of my laughs. Depriving a comedian of laughs is like denying a celebritard camera flashes. Lindsay Lohan needs people to take pictures of her underpants. I need laughs.

My point — and believe me, I have one — is that if you negate your own joke by telling everyone it was a joke, then you're not going to get the laugh. We know you're joking when you say that our hair looks like it was cut by a guy wearing a blindfold, using a hedge trimmer. We don't need you to tell us that it was just you joshing around. If we have to listen to you saying that you're just making fun, we're not getting the chance to decide if what you said was funny or if you're just being an asshat.

Not all of this is apologizing for being insulting. Many, many people say "just kidding" no matter what the funny thing they just said was about. If you make a joke about how jockeys must have a little something extra to offer, if you know what I'm saying, because they're always dating supermodels, don't immediately start worrying that you may have offended someone nearby who might be related to a jockey and start telling everyone it was a joke. We knew that. The line is almost always accompanied by a touch on the shoulder or forearm that, I guess, is supposed to reinforce how you were just kidding. Stop that, too. I don't like strangers touching my forearms.

God knows, the world is already operating at a laughter deficit, what with the wars, and the economy, and the constant fear that someone will feel compelled to give Rosie O'Donnell another television show. So the last thing we need is people kicking their own jokes in the cranberries to avoid offending people who might, as hard as it is to imagine, like Rosie.

Maybe you're not funny, but let us be the judge of that. Seriously.

I'm just kidding.

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