So Monday’s episode of How I Met Your Mother ventured into vulgar joke telling territory. It stuck a toe into the water. And it wasn’t even a main plot point. Not really.
The episode starts with Barney telling Lily a disgusting joke. Ted and Marshall warn him that his joke is “boy funny” not “girl funny.” But of course, he tells her anyway. Only we don’t hear the punchline, just the setup, which is: “What’s the difference between peanut butter and jam?” And then he tells her, but it’s all slow motion and voiceover from older Ted, explaining how bad the joke was. When the three dudes are killing themselves laughing, Lily says “Yeah, I can’t hang out with you anymore” and gets up to leave. According to Ted, they don’t see her for four weeks.
Darn it! Just when Barney needs to talk to somebody about his lurve for Robin and how it’s all going to hell because she’s banging the dude Ted hired as his assistant! Seriously, that joke was told specifically so Lily would not be around when Barney needed her to overanalyze his feelings for Robin. By the way, they’re totally not feelings! He just thinks about her all the time, misses her when she’s gone and imagines that they will one day run into each other’s arms in slow motion while he’s wearing a brown suit vest.
Lord amercy, the “Ted hires assistant” plot was dumb. I mean, Ted is essentially unemployed, yet he hires an assistant? WTW? And Barney is jealous of this dude, so he needs to find a way to stop him from hanging out in Ted and Robin’s apartment, because apparently, Robin will literally do anyone who comes in and hangs out for more than a few minutes. (OK, that’s not ridiculous. If I lived with a guy and he hired some dude to sit in my apartment all day and the guy was decent looking, I’d bang him. Hmmm… I need a roommate. A roommate who does zany things.) But this problem is essentially solved by Marshall, who has a problem of his own.
See, because of cutbacks at Goliath National Bank, Marshall is worried about being fired. So instead of being productive and good at his job (which I’m sure he is when Barney isn’t enlisting him to help with some inane b-plot) , he decides he needs a “thing.” Like food guy. Or toy guy. Or creepy back rub guy. Something that makes him at once memorable and essential. So he decides he will be fantasy guy. He will start a fantasy baseball league. Also, they have to start calling him sports guy, because fantasy guy exists. He wears a cloak and carries a staff. And dated Robin. But I digress. Marshall soon finds out that fantasy baseball leagues are hard to keep up and he’s doesn’t really want to do it.
So after Barney confesses his love for Robin to Marshall, who already knew because Lily told him (Of course she did. And by the way, they are both totally shipping Robin and Barney), Marshall kills two birds with one stone by hiring away the assistant to take over his fantasy baseball league.
1) Marshall’s solution to a fear of cutbacks at work is to hire another dude? Um… I suspend my disbelief about a lot of things, but Marshall is not Barney. Not only would he never do something that stupid, this show has really, so far, done an excellent job of portraying the reality of the economic downturn for young professionals. You know, as much as any sitcom ever really could. Robin was out of work in her chosen field of journalism and had to take a job she doesn’t really want with hours she can barely stomach. TRUST ME when I tell you this is realistic. I did this. Except I wasn’t anywhere as fun as New York. Ted’s now out of work. Marshall was out of work for a very long time before taking a job HE didn’t really want. To turn around and be like “Har-har! We’re really worried about the cutbacks! I better find a way to be essential. Man, this is hard. Welp, I’ll just hire a guy to do the secondary job I created to look essential! Whatevs!” sort of negates all the good stuff.
2) Yes. EVERYBODY knows except Robin. Cue the hijinx.
OK. Complaints over.
I really, really liked the conversation Robin and Ted had at the end of this episode. It’s hard facing your thirties, being out of work and feeling like you don’t want to extend yourself because if you don’t try, you won’t fail. It’s ridiculous, of course, but logic doesn’t enter into the equation for me when I’m having nightmares about bringing ketchup packets home from my McJob to empty into a larger ketchup container. I mean, I should have spent the last three days working on freelance pitches and waking up before noon and stuff. Instead, I’ve been watching porn reruns of House and trying to beat that Spider Solitaire high score I somehow magically set the last time I was avoiding taking action so I wouldn’t set myself up for epic fail. I’m a pro at this, people.
Part of the reason I like this show is because it REALLY captures that transitional time in your life where you’re trying to figure out important stuff, all while fitting in as much drinking, partying and ridiculousness as is humanly possible. Doing something as stupid as Marshall does for a sappy reason like “It will get this dude away from Barney’s OTL” doesn’t quite fit. Unless, of course, there are consequences later. Like, if Marshall got fired for that, it would be nice to see Barney man up and take the firing FOR Marshall, realize he has nothing left to lose and tell Robin how he feels. Because Barney telling Robin would have potentially solved the whole “How do I stop Robin from boning other guys?” issue.
And while we’re on the subject of Robin boning other guys… is Barney going to stop fucking every woman he sees? Because if not, him wanting Robin to stop fucking other guys is a huge double standard. And if yot, then I don’t know… Barney is awesome in part because of the ridiculous things he does to get laid. Take that away and I don’t know if this part of the show can sustain itself. I’d like to think it will, because I know the writers aren’t going to just turn Barney into some perfect boyfriend. Nor will they turn Robin into some shrill harpy begging for a ring and babies. Still, I’m a little nervous about how it will all work.
But back to that joke. I liked it because it reminded me of one of my favourite long-running gags on Homicide: Life on the Streets, except in that situation, all we ever hear is the punchline. My favourite character, Detective Meldrick Lewis, was always coming into a scene telling the punchline to the same joke. He must have done it four or five times over the course of the show’s seven seasons. The punchline is the same as the subject of this post, as I’m sure you’ve guessed.
The joke is as follows: A guy goes hunting and sees a huge bear. He takes aim and squeezes the trigger, but misses. The bear approaches the hunter, grabs him and fucks him before letting him go. But the hunter vows revenge. He goes out to the same spot the next day, sees the same bear, takes aim and fires. Again, he misses and again, the bear fucks him. The hunter borrows a friend’s rifle the next day. He heads out to his favourite spot and sees the bear again. He gets the bear in his sights, shoots and misses. So the bear says “You didn’t come here to hunt, did you?”
It’s not a very funny joke, but in the context of the show and defining the character’s eccentricities and sense of humour, it’s pretty great.
The joke on How I Met Your Mother serves its purpose and that’s pretty much it. For the record, the punchline to that one is “I can’t peanut butter my dick up your ass.” Yeah. I’m not so sure that’s “boy funny” as much as it is “not funny at all.”