“Everyone’s a comedian” is a phrase often uttered sarcastically, but with the rise of the Twitter joke it almost seems true.
If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon you need to be hanging around on Twitter when a major news story breaks. Recent stories such as the horsemeat scandal, the resignation of the Pope, and the unearthing of the body of Richard III, have provoked huge numbers of jokes (click those links to see some of them). Some are by those in the business of writing jokes but most are not.
Of course there are plenty of clunkers, and quite a few groaners, but a lot of them are really rather good. And it leads to a bit of a problem for cartoonists: how do you follow that?
It can be tricky to come up with new and original ideas, possibly to be seen a day – or several days – later, in an age when a colossal wave of jokes travels around the world as soon as a story breaks.
Well, the simple answer is that you just have to up your game. Of course, you can’t read every tweet to make sure your joke hasn’t been done, you just have to get on with it. Twitter is clearly here to stay, so there’s no point in complaining.
For political cartoonists, the problem is even more acute as people have taken to predicting on Twitter how the following days cartoons will turn out, most notably when the Richard III story broke on the same day that the MP Chris Huhne changed his plea to guilty.
As predicted by the Twitterati, some cartoonists did combine the two stories. But if it is done with enough skill and original thought, it’s clear that there is a big difference between a beautifully crafted cartoon and a 140-character quip.
Ultimately, what the trend for Twitter jokes tells us is that millions of people love to look at the world and all its problems through the prism of humour.
And that has to be good news for cartoonists.
Editor asks: Do you agree? Please tell us what you think in the comments.