One of Bud's favorite things to do these days is tell jokes. Most of the jokes he tells are ones he's memorized from Zoboomafoo, like:
"Panther no panth, I'm going swimming!"
He's got a million of 'em. Sometimes he takes a more surreal approach and just tells the punch line, like:
"Ants. And maybe uncles!"
I don't think he understands why any of these jokes are funny. He just knows that they are intended to make people laugh, and is always the first one laughing once the joke is out.
Tonight he was repeatedly scripting a joke from an Arthur computer game, in which Arthur's dad is giving the kids ice cream.
"Look," says dad. "We have chocolate, strawberry... and mocha almond spinach."
"Eeeeeewwww!" shriek the kids.
"Just kidding," says dad.
"Dad, that's not funny!" say the kids.
And actually, because Bud is not familiar with mocha or almonds, his version of the joke includes "milk on spinach." The way we "tell" this joke is to take turns being dad, or being the kids. After a few rounds, Bud started substituting words to make the joke his own:
"Look! We have pancakes, jello... and chicken nuggets!" or "Look! We have grilled cheese, apples... and bananas!"
After a couple of rounds like that I decided to try deconstructing the joke for him. I explained that the reason it was funny is that the dad named two very yummy foods and the kids expected him to name another yummy food, but then he fooled them and named somthing really yucky instead. I gave him a couple of examples, like "Look! We have grapes, pretzels... and bugs."
He caught on almost immediately. "Look!" he said slowly. "We have apples, waffles............ and banana hay!"
"Eeeeeeewwwwww!" I squealed, and he squirmed with delight. He made a joke and he knew it. And not only that, he knew WHY it was funny! He continued telling me versions of his joke, then wanted to take turns so that I would make up new versions too. Every version was different, but every one ended in something yucky. I realized quickly, though, that in Bud's versions the third options always took the form of "something good-something yucky." So in addition to banana hay I was offered apple branches, orange juice leaves, and the like. I imagine this is because in his original joke, the punchline "milk on spinach" mixes the yummy milk with the yucky spinach. And, purist that he is, he needs to stay true to the format.
I am absolutely delighted with these jokes. This seems like an enormous step forward for Bud - with reciprocity, problem-solving, creativity, flexibility, language, and emotion-sharing.
The only problem is, I've suddenly got this odd craving for pretzel dirt...