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S1E5: Jokes I Wish I Could Tell

Religion and IT share a common ground when it comes to humor. In both cases, if someone doesn’t “get it”, it could take HOURS to explain enough for them to understand. in this episode, Leon, Josh, and special guest Doug Johnson talk about whether that is unique to IT/religious people, our own experiences with tech- and religious-based humor, and whether (as Josh asserts), Mormons just aren’t that funny. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone, it’s Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It’s called “The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked,” and if you like this podcast, you’re going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Doug: 00:24 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We’re not here to preach or teach you our religion. We’re here to explore the ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious,

Josh: 00:49 So we just missed a very special holiday.

Leon and Doug: 00:52 Wait, what? I…

Leon: 00:54 International women’s Day?

Doug: 00:56 Ash Wednesday?

Leon: 00:57 Mardi gras?

Doug: 00:58 Pi Day!

Leon: 00:59 The opening of Captain Marvel!!

Josh: 01:00 Uh, no, no. It’s that special day when we as it pros, we do important work, like changing everyone’s password to “butthead” or setting everyone’s email quota does zero, or setting off 500 alerts, you know, for no reason.

Leon: 01:15 Oh April Fool’s day.

Josh: 01:18 Exactly. And in honor of that blessed day we’re going to talk about jokes

Doug: 01:24 Religious jokes?

Leon: 01:25 Well, kind of. I think that religion and IT share a common ground when it comes to humor. In both cases if someone doesn’t get it, it could take hours to explain enough for them to understand it. And by that point it’s not funny anymore. So today I think we should focus on “jokes I wish I could tell.”

Josh: 01:39 So like religious jokes, you can’t tell at work, not because they’re bad but because it requires too much background knowledge?

Doug: 01:48 Sure. But maybe also tech jokes that you can only tell the other it people.

Josh: 01:53 Or even tech jokes you can only tell other folks who understand YOUR sub specialty? Like enterprise monitoring?

Leon: 02:01 That would be like the story of my life as a monitoring engineer. Exactly. So before we dive into the topic, I do want to do some introductions. With us today is Doug Johnson. Say, Hi Doug.

Doug: 02:11 Hey, hi.. uhey,

Leon: 02:14 You missed it.

Doug: 02:15 I know! All of a sudden I realized.. and oh no. I hate those jokes.

Leon: 02:22 “Good night Gracie” Okay. Well, and today especially, we can talk about the jokes that we don’t appreciate. So that’s, that’s fine. That’s fair. I didn’t mean to set you up for a joke you didn’t want to hear. Um, so like I said, I think the tech and religion have like similarities to them that they’re in the, you know, if you’re not in the “in” crowd, you don’t get it. But the other part of is that I think as IT people and also as people with a religious background, whatever, we keep TRYING to tell these jokes to people like, “No, really, you’re going to love it once you understand it.” Like, we keep doing that. Um, and, and that expands, I think to nerd or geek culture overall. The number of times I’ve tried to explain, you know, Harry Potter or Star Wars or whatever to people who just did not want to, did not want to hear it. Right?

Doug: 03:08 Oh, I know. One of the problems that you run into is, you know, here we are, we, we’ve got all of these jokes that we really think are great and maybe they’re jokes in our religious area or they’re jokes in our technical area and there’s a whole bunch of people we can’t tell them to, but there are jokes. Right?

Leon: 03:23 Right. And they’re our people. You know, just because I can’t tell, you know, something that really funny that happened at synagogue or a, a funny Jewish joke to people at work… But they’re still my friends. Right? So I want to share those aspects of my life and vice versa. I want to, you know, share a RAID array, joke with, you know, people you know, at shul and they’re just, they’re not going to care.

Josh: 03:46 It’s funny, as you were talking Leon, I was thinking first you’ve just described my entire teenage life, sitting in the corner, you know, laughing about jokes that nobody else gets. And the harder you laugh because you know, you’re making fun of that football player who looks like the ogre from your campaign last night and then suddenly you know you’re running because you’re, and you’re trying to run and laugh and you know, you’re dropping your “Magic, the Gathering” cards and like it’s just, it’s a, it’s a nightmare. Um, yeah, sometimes you’re, you laugh and sometimes you’re laughed at.

Doug: 04:21 But then the other thing that comes out of that though is if you think, I mean, we want to share the jokes, but sometimes as you note, you’re just laughing so hard. Everybody says, “No, no, no. Tell me what the joke is.” I mean, they actually, they try and get it out of you and you’re going, it would just take too long.

Leon: 04:35 Right. Okay. So that, that leads me to, I think the first big question that we should address, which is: is it really that specialized, you know, is religious based. You know, humor and/or geek tech humor so much different from say, sports humor or city location humor or humor that you would only understand if you were of a certain age or whatever.

Josh: 05:00 Uh, yeah, Canada jokes, ya hoser!

Leon: 05:04 Okay. But again, you know, we’re not talking about jokes that make fun OF somebody. We’re talking about humor that you’d only understand if you were Canadian. Right?

Josh: 05:13 I have a perfect example for you. Okay. So, uh, and this is a great extent. This is a great example of how I have to give you the backstory. So, uh, one of the former prime ministers of Canada, his name was Brian Mulroney, and he was recently in the, in the news for making a very derogatory comment horde, a young politician. He called her” little lady” a way to go. Brian. Brian is famous for bringing in something called the “goods and services tax”. It’s, it’s one of those taxes that was supposed to be temporary and it never was. And so, um, to the tune of the Tiny Tunes theme song, we used to sing a, “…we’re tiny, we’re twoney, we’re all a little loony, since Brian Mulrooney invented GST.”

Leon: 05:58 Okay…

Josh: 05:58 And we think it’s Hilarious, right? Where it, and it takes not only an understanding of Canadian politics, but you have to be someone who appreciates children’s… uh.. not-children’s cartoons… NOT children’s cartoons. Yes.

Leon: 06:12 Right. Okay. So to my point is, is the premise of this episode not to, you know, pop poke holes in the premise the episode, but is is the stuff that we’re talking about tech jokes and and religious jokes. I they is it really so specialized?

Doug: 06:27 The thing that makes things funny is the element of surprise that comes, I mean, so that’s why the one, two, three for jokes worksheet thing number one, thing number two, and then thing number three comes out of left field,

New Speaker: 06:39 ba-dum-bum

Doug: 06:40 Ba-da-boom. Right? That’s, that’s sort of the nature of all at least verbal humor. The problem is in the case of religion or IT or Canada or sports or whatever, you have to have enough knowledge to know what is normal so the setup works, if you don’t understand the normal, then there’s no surprise cause it doesn’t seem any different from the first two parts that were there in the first place. I mean it’s, I don’t know that it’s necessarily that different from other very specialized areas, but the fact is it’s a specialized area that requires a knowledge for there to be a normal for there to be a surprise.

Leon: 07:22 Right. And, and I would also argue that the populations that we’re talking about are significantly smaller. It, it’s a lot easier to find a group of people who would probably understand a, let’s say a Cleveland joke or again, not to joke about Cleveland, but a joke that only Clevelanders would understand.

Josh: 07:42 Did you just insinuate that Cleveland has more people in it than Canada.

Leon: 07:45 Uh, no, I was not that at all. I was actually supporting it or it can, you know, Canadians,

Doug: 07:51 They do have more people who are willing to go ahead and laugh at themselves though.

Leon: 07:56 Canada does. Canada is very, yeah. Um, yeah. Clevelanders are just tired of it all. So, uh, anyway, um,

Josh: 08:05 So Doug, when you were counting, I feel like I was, I was, uh, almost having to hold myself back, um, about making a number two joke, you know, you’re like number one and number two, I feel like there’s a, there’s a universal joke that every everyone gets and I feel like, you know, boys get it around the age of three or so, like as soon as those sentences start being stitched together.

Leon: 08:30 And they never lose it,

Josh: 08:32 They never lose it.

Leon: 08:33 Or as somebody said that, you know, all babies when they’re first born have to be burped. Um, boys just do it on their own from that point forward. Um, and you’re right, there was a study that was done and they found it two specific… Specifically two types of humor work regardless of culture, regardless of where you’re from or how old you are or anything like that. And that is scatological or a fart and poop jokes and mother-in-law jokes. Uh, those are appreciated everywhere. Right?

Doug: 09:02 Makes Sense. But, and the one that the, I’ve also heard that it’s like universal and frankly it doesn’t appeal to me at all, Is physical humor, slapstick stuff. I mean, if you look at even the comedy that we got in the beginning of the, uh, the film era, that was all slapstick stuff, right? And everybody loves it. I just don’t, I don’t know. It’s not me.

Leon: 09:25 Exactly. And I think that’s another important point, right, is that whether you understand the joke is different than whether you like the joker. Appreciate the joke. Um, you know, to give an a, an a tech example, a lot of people who know even the littlest bit about networking say, you know, there’s no place like one right? Okay. There’s no place like home, there’s nobody, you know, or I could tell you a UDP joke but you probably wouldn’t get it right. Ha Ha. Okay. That’s all right. I, you know, but there’s, even though that is, uh, that is a joke and, and some people will laugh at it. There’s a lot of networking people who are like, really? I just, that is the 1024th time I’ve heard it. Right.

Doug: 10:09 Oh Man.

Leon: 10:18 So, uh, yeah. And, and it, there’s a group of people right now her listening to this podcast who are like, “I don’t, I don’t get it” so, so

Doug: 10:26 You just need to wait a bit

Leon: 10:27 So “getting it” and “liking it”. Right. Uh, oooooh. So, um, so you’re liking it and getting it to, okay, this is where things get interesting. Um, I, I was playing around with the idea of like worlds colliding. Like are there jokes that you have to be both? Do you have to be like you have to be a Mormon and also a network engineer, you know, FULL INNER JOIN to get, you know, certain humor, stuff like that. I didn’t know if you’ve run across any of those.

Speaker 3: 11:01 Well, having been Mormon for 41 years, I, and as we talked about an episode two now post Mormon, I can tell you that the majority of Mormons, so that I know have, uh, no sense of humor. And it’s not that they’re not funny, it’s just the things that they laugh at our really contextualized for Mormonism, um, like, um, pickup lines at a BYU, right? Um, you know, hey, well things like, um, uh, “Baby, I came here to feel the spirit, but I didn’t know that I would see an angel.” I, you know,

Doug: 11:38 Oh yeah…f

Josh: 11:40 So as I was looking for, for Mormon humor, I realized that most of it is around getting married. Uh, which I think is, that ties with the youthfulness. And you know, LDS people tend to get married younger than others. And generally, if it’s not about Green Jello with carrot in it, if it’s not about a, the relief society, which is the women’s organization, uh, making ice sculptures, there’s a whole, there’s a whole trope of Mormon movies like “The R.M.” Um, well “The R.M.” is the one that we laugh at the most and it’s, it’s takes all of the sticks about Mormonism and cram them into, you know, 90 minutes of, of stories about people’s lives. Um, all of those things, although we laugh at them, they’re not really that funny. It’s just, it’s more self deprecating humor. So maybe we’re really good at picking on ourselves. I don’t know.

Leon: 12:35 Huh. And then again, trying to get the technology in there is probably a little tricky.

Doug: 12:39 It just doesn’t happen. That’s what I mean. We’re just not that funny.

Leon: 12:42 Huh. So I did here. So a friend of mine, Phil Setnik, posted on Twitter a little bit ago. So just for context for those listening, even though this is the April podcast, we did record it. Uh, not yesterday. We recorded it a couple of weeks ago and Purim the Jewish holiday of Purim is coming up in, one of the things about Purim is that you are commanded to drink. This is where everyone starts like, “Wait, wait, I want to convert!” Um, you know, you’re commanded to drink until you don’t know the difference between the sentence that the phrase, uh, “wicked is Haman” and “blessed is Mordecai”. And so Phil posted that on May 4th, we’re commanded to drink until we can not tell. The difference between “blessed is Obi-Wan” and “Cursed be Vader”. This is the, this is none of the Mitzvah. The commandment known as “Ahd Lo Yoda”.

Doug: 13:31 Yeah.

Leon: 13:33 Right, right. Okay. So requires deep knowledge of both Geek, you know, culture and also whatever. So I just wanted to get props out that, that this is a difficult brand of humor to, um, to perhaps a trade in and yet Phil managed to do it. So hat’s off.

Josh: 13:52 Does this mean that we had to have watched Star Trek?

Leon: 13:54 Uh, no, no, it doesn’t.

Doug: 13:59 If you come down to it though, it just comes down to audience size really. I mean, we would go back to mother-in-laws and fart and poop is relatively universal, whereas people who both have seen Star Wars and know the stuff+ behind Purim are relatively few.

Leon: 14:18 Right, right.

Doug: 14:19 So you’re, I mean you’ll, I’m sure you, you’ll kill it, your audience, but it’s not the two people.

Leon: 14:28 Exactly. It’s Phil and me and maybe one other person. Yeah, exactly. Um, there’s a few of us, but you know, it’s, it’s definitely a small group. So, so talking about that, like what are some occasions when, because it’s so hard to find these populations. I want to hear about some times that you’ve tried to tell a joke to the group and they just, they didn’t get it. Like what are those?

Doug: 14:55 I live those every day. I work out at my home, so, uh, you know, I do all of my social network stuff while I’m sitting down in the living room next to my wife and I tend to laugh out loud when I read things that I find funny and my wife will be sitting there, she’ll go, “what?” And you just do a take where you sit there going, how long would it, how much do I have to explain for her to get it to make it worthwhile? And then it always comes down to, and all the, all the answer is, is “Geek joke” and we’re done. It’s just she, she now has, cause we tried in the, you know, years ago, she would say, “No, no, really, I’ll get it.” And we’d go through it and she’d just eventually realized that it’s not worth it to her for me to explain it to her.

Leon: 15:50 So I had that the other day. And, and uh, again, for background context, uh, I, I work from home, so I had the same situation, you know, my wife and her sitting at the table for breakfast and we’re doing, you know, reading stuff. But on top of it, my, my daughter and her children, my grandkids are living in the house with us also. So I have a three year old and a two year old and all of the things that they, they do and they listen to and their very sophisticated music that they listen to. So all of a sudden I’m laughing hysterically and my wife says, “what?” And I said “wireshark, do, do, do, do, do wireshark, do do do do”, because you have to understand that that “Baby shark” is sung probably 52,000 times a day in my house. So it was just one of those things and she’s like, “I don’t get it.” You were so close, you had everything except that one little piece. So, yeah. So Josh, how about you

Josh: 16:52 Not to feel left out, I also work from home and I’m super grateful for it. One of, uh, one of the engineers on my team who lives in Boston. So if he’s listening to the podcast, you know who you are. Um, he always drops these great, uh, pop culture references. Um, he is a veritable catalog of pop culture, uh, both current and historical. And the problem is that, I mean, I have no idea the other engineers, you know, they’re like doing the ROFL and the LOL and you know, emojis are flying and I’m googling like a madman trying to figure out like what is so funny about that. And then I’m like, oh yeah, right. Ha Ha, lol, lowercase. That is my life. I get it. It’s hard. But you know, fortunately worked from home and Google have made me seem kind of hip, you know, like,

Leon: 17:44 right, exactly. And that’s not just like IT people to non-IT people. I think it works for people who work in one area of IT and you know, versus another one. I think there are jokes that, you know, you have to be a storage engineer. You have to be like to “get it” right?

Josh: 18:02 Yeah. We actually have a, we have a saying that it’s kind of an inside joke. And I think that a lot of these jokes that we tell are really inside a humor as opposed to the traditional, you know, uh, a “Jew, a Mormon, and an atheist walk into the bar.” They don’t start like that. But we have, um, so our, our cloud team, uh, whenever they do something that were, uh, upset about, we’ll say “what the cloud?” because that’s our thing, right? It’s, it’s almost like, you know “what the fork?” or “holy shirt!”, uh, from “The Good Place.” If you haven’t watched that on Netflix, you should. It’s hilarious. Teaches you how to swear without swearing. It’s great. Uh, but I think we all have those little sh…ticks that we throw out and uh, that is the ultimate insider jokes are the ultimate exclusivity of humor, right? You have to literally have been there and done that in order to get in on it. Um, and we’ve got them for technology. We’ve got them for a situational humor. We’ve got them for, uh, our religious things. Like I said, you know, the, the Green Jello joke, it just goes over roaringly, uh, and, and Mormon theology, uh, discussions and everyone else is like, “What Elliot? I like Green Jello. You guys put carrot in it? That’s weird man. I don’t understand you Mormons”

Doug: 19:20 Thing that it does is the exact opposite? We talked about, you know, how you trying to go ahead and reach out to other groups and it’s really hard. But what Josh is basically saying is we can actually use our humor to go ahead and cement the solidity of our very tight group. Oh Wow. That’s so many of the jokes that are coming out of this pop culture type stuff. And you know, you are willing to go ahead and Google pop culture. And I appreciate that, uh, Josh I just, I admire your willingness to do that. I’ve just, uh, I’ve reached the point where I just don’t care anymore. I was a disc jockey for like, you know, 12, 14 years. I was in pop culture. I would say celebrity, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care. I haven’t listened to I, it’s not, we were just talking about that today. My wife and I said, I, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a Taylor Swift song I may have. The fact that I know that she exists is pretty much it. And so I not only am not current on pop culture, but I’ve also now reached the point where I don’t care. I just don’t care anymore.

Leon: 20:23 And I think that that’s sort of like you’ve reached your final form, you know, not only, you know, not only do you not get the joke, you don’t care to get the joke. It’s not, you’re not curious about the joke. You just like, you know what, you know what you think is funny and everything else is like you do you, but I’m going to stay over here

Doug: 20:43 Pretty much it, and they’re perfectly willing to not explain it to me. That’s one of the nice things about reaching a certain age is youngsters no longer care to even bother explaining it to you anymore.

Leon: 20:55 Right. They just assume that you don’t know.

Doug: 20:57 Yeah, yeah.

Josh: 21:00 You can always get back at them Doug. I found that as my teenagers drop jokes and they will sit with their friends and banter back and forth and they’re just dying laughing. So the way that I get them back is that I, I drop their vernacular. I’m like at the dinner table, you know? Um, so I’ll be talking to my wife and I, and I’ll be telling her a story about work and I’ll say, “Yeah, today I was a real baller at work. I was, you know, totally…” And my kids, let’s just look at me and say, “What are you doing?” Um, so when you get, when you get to our age, I think, isn’t it? You can really, the, the joke is on them. We don’t actually care and we’re just going to pick at you for thinking that you’re, you know, so funny and welcome to old age or middle age or I don’t know what we are the, we won’t talk about that.

Leon: 21:55 My kids have banned me from being jiggy with anything anymore.

New Speaker: 21:58 (conversation fades)

Josh: 22:01 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.

Doug: 22:15 Hey, thanks for having me on. Until next time, I’ve got a funny story…

Leon: 22:19 You know what? Nevermind, you probably had to be there.


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