While many in the world of humor and comedy agree that the joke is dead, there is little consensus on who or what killed it or exactly when it croaked. Theories abound: the atomic bomb, A.D.D., the Internet, even the feminization of American culture, have all been cited as possible causes. In the academic world scholars have been engaged in a lengthy postmortem of the joke for some time, but still no grand unifying theory has emerged.
The feminization of America? We're blaming women? Supposedly, women were bad at telling jokes, but only because men are/were interested in using jokes to communicate without revealing anything about themeselves. (I note: That's kind of like talking about sports -- or blogging.)
Anyway, people love humor, and humor lives on. It's just the full-scale joke that's dead, and, I think that's good:
[S]cholars say, in a social situation wit plays better than old-style joke telling. Witty remarks push the conversation along and enliven it, encouraging others to contribute.So, then, is recounting anecdotes dead too? It seems to me this is a modern preference for a conversation that rotates fairly quickly. No one wants any one person to talk too long. I don't think this is just a cultural "A.D.D.," but a positive understanding that people in a conversation are developing a social relationship that needs to work well. So no one should dominate.
Jokes, on the other hand, cause conversation to screech to a halt and require everyone to focus on the joke teller, which can be awkward.
I can see how the social mixing of the sexes and the equality of women would tend to increase the recognition that the conversation must rotate. In mixed company, it's more noticeable that one person is being too dominant -- whether that person is a man or a women. So if a man does one of those old-style, full-scale jokes, the women may be thinking, when is this character going to shut up? But even if women don't tell jokes, they may relay simple facts in long-form stories, an elaborate play-by-play of who went where and who said what, and leave the rest of the group -- maybe especially men -- exasperated.
Oh, I suppose people have always been bored when one person holds the floor too long. Isn't that why we hate meetings and lectures? Maybe the difference is that now that we're used to the way TV and movies try to cut out all the boring parts and, perhaps more, now that we're used to clicking from place to place on the internet the instant we want, we're really in touch with our feelings about not wanting to put up with anything tedious.