Shyzer, M. et al.
The oldest material on earth has been discovered as part of a stand-up comedy performance at a local open mic. The archaic routine was discovered shortly after 1am during the fifth hour of Hump Day Laffs, an uncurated stand-up show held in the basement of Centre Line Sports Bar every Wednesday night if there isn’t a game on.
The find was immediately recognized as significant. “This stuff is old,” says comic geologist Peter Gershon. “It makes the jokes from a wedding toast seem cutting edge.”
The routine was so old, in fact, that determining its exact age proved to be a challenge. Usually, comedic material is dated by careful examination of the layers of jokes under which it was found, or by counting the number of “Fw: Fw: Fw:”s in the subject line of a list of one-liners emailed by your bachelor uncle.
However, this material was so ancient that standard measuring techniques wouldn’t do, so Gershon used audience decay to calculate its age. “Most comedic acts are fundamentally stable,” he explains, “meaning their audience size doesn’t change. But occasionally an act will cause the audience to shrink, as patrons walk out or decide this is a good time to go to the bathroom. By measuring the rate of change over a 15 minute set we can get a pretty good idea of how old that material is.”
Discoveries like this are crucial to our fundamental understanding of the universe, according to Gershon, who keeps a jar of calcified mother-in-law jokes on display in his office. “This has implications for many fields – snarkchaeologists, hysteriographers, anthropLOLogists. Some of this material pre-dates the formation of the pun.”
Gershon is hopeful that advances in technology and research techniques may one day lead to the discovery of even older material at even later shows in even sadder basements.