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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Jokester is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. The story first appeared in the December 1956 issue of Infinity Science Fiction, and was reprinted in the collections Earth Is Room Enough (1957) and Robot Dreams (1986). It is one of a loosely connected series of stories concerning a fictional computer called Multivac.

Plot summary

Noel Meyerhof is a 'Grand Master', one of a small cadre of Earth's recognised Geniuses, who has the insight to know what questions to ask Multivac. But a computer scientist is concerned that Meyerhof is acting erratically. As a known joke-teller, he has been discovered feeding jokes and riddles into Multivac.

By computer analysis, the characters in the story investigate the origin of humor, particularly why there seems to be no such thing as an original joke, except for puns. Every normal joke is something you heard from someone else.

The computer eventually tells them that humor is actually a psychological study tool imposed from without by extraterrestrials studying mankind. They needed to isolate the responses to their jokes from original ones, so they 'programmed' us to react differently to puns.

They also find that figuring this fact out makes it useless as a tool, so the unidentified aliens turn off humour. Nothing is ever funny again.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jokester" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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