Hipster humor, explained

The majority of your friends will hate the Orange Head joke

He's got a lot of a-peel. [Non-hipster version of joke.]
  • He's got a lot of a-peel. [Non-hipster version of joke.]

Dear Hipster:

Please tell me a good hipster joke. What kind of jokes do hipsters generally like, anyways?

— Chad

Well, on the one hand, you have your “hipster jokes” such as, “How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb?” which I frankly find somewhat offensive. But, based on your follow up question, I think you mean “tell me a good joke that a hipster would tell.”

That’s a tougher, more sensitive inquiry. It requires an understanding of the hipster sense of humor, which, if this column has demonstrated anything, is one of the most complicated aspects of 21st-century hipster culture. I’ll begin with a joke:

A guy walks into a bar. He wears an expensive suit, and he has a beautiful woman with him. He also has an orange for a head. As soon as he walks in, all eyes turn to him. People can’t stop staring. He walks up to the bar, orders a round for the house, and pays with crisp, clean $100 bills. Not normally one to pry, the bartender says, “I can’t help but notice you appear rich, successful, and beloved. You also have an orange for a head, how did that happen?”

The guy with the orange for a head says, “Well, it’s a funny story, actually. One day, I was walking along the beach and I found this dusty old lamp in the sand. I picked it up, gave it a polish with my sleeve, and a genie popped out. As a reward for freeing him, he gave me three wishes.

“First, I wished for limitless success in business; and it was done.

“Then, I wished to be irresistible to people, particularly women; and it was done.

“Then — and this is the part where I admit I messed up a little — I wished that my head was an orange.”


Hipsters love this joke for several reasons. First, it’s neither dirty nor offensive which matters because, to paraphrase Seinfeld, purely offensive jokes are like Corvettes. If you have one, you think you’re a total badass; but the guy with the Ferrari (i.e. the clever joke that doesn’t get its laughs cheaply) isn’t impressed. Because hipsters think of themselves as a higher form of human intelligence, jokes devoid of crudity appeal more.

The guy with the Ferrari is not impressed.

The guy with the Ferrari is not impressed.

Second, these so-called anti-jokes, which poke fun at the concept of the joke itself, are tinged with irony. For better or for worse, the hipster tendency to take nothing seriously, even the concept of a joke, let alone the joke itself, favors this variety of humor,

Finally, jokes like the Orange Head Joke can be seriously divisive. I guarantee, if you go telling that joke to all your friends, a majority will hate it. For hipsters, nothing could be better. An eminently hateable anti-joke is the “obscure indie band you’ve never heard of” of jokes, and its value diminishes in inverse proportion to its popularity.

In the tradition of offering rambling answers to short, borderline perfunctory questions, I have done my best to capture the state of hipster humor today. I realize it’s an imperfect characterization, because it’s somewhat limited to situations in which you have a bunch of hipsters standing around, probably halfway through their fourth or fifth round of high gravity beers, telling each other jokes. That actually sounds like the start of a joke, but, in keeping with what I’ve been telling you, it isn’t.

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So glad I can learn more about hipster humor, orange you?

(Drops mic on foot. Limps off stage.)

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