In 2016, Workaholics executive producer John Quaintance tweeted photos of two whiteboards from the show’s writers’ room filled with all the jokes, bits, and lines deemed too cliché for the series. While the post undoubtedly helped some people off their cringey comedy crutches back when it first went viral, the ensuing years have spawned a host of new unfunny bromides in need of a moratorium. Despite predictions to the contrary, there’s a strong case to be made that humor has only gotten worse during the Trump era, so with the clean slate of a new decade before us, the moment could not be more opportune to nip some of these new hacky habits in the bud.
Of course, comedy is still subjective. Audience tastes evolve over time. Senses of humor vary wildly from person to person and community to community. Caveats aside, we still need to select some comedic arbiters for an endeavor like determining which hack jokes, washed memes, and otherwise stale bits need to be left in the 2010s. Since the Workaholics writers’ room is no more, we instead decided to pitch this question to a bunch of the up-and-coming professionally funny people who will likely be shaping comedy for (at least) the next few years.
Demi Adejuyigbe: I hope that we finally retire any variation of the terrible “gun = dick” jokes in any action film. All the “Is that a gun in your pocket?” or “My gun’s bigger” shit is so hacky and Freudian in a way that always makes me feel embarrassed for the writers. Also, any joke where the whole “gag” is that a grown man likes something that is typically for women, or a violent/intense action sequence set to a feminine song. It’s such a cheap laugh, and the punch line is always “How embarrassing to actually like a woman’s thing!” Oh, and if I hear the phrase “That’s gonna leave a mark” in a movie again, I am going to sue. I don’t know on what grounds, but I’ll figure it out.
Joel Kim Booster: It is time to retire variations on “Scarlett Johansson is Asian” jokes. I think she continually says dumb shit and is worthy of a certain amount of ire, but every time she stands next to another Asian person on a magazine cover or a stage, the entire internet makes the exact same joke and I personally think it’s reached a point where it’s boring, low-hanging, and to be honest, I would love to focus on the Asian person in frame rather than the fact ScarJo starred in a bad movie four years ago. That’s all! Cancel me!
Carmen Christopher: I want to see TikTok die. I’m not under 18 years old, I can’t do a backflip, and I can’t lip sync cause I’m scared to swallow my tongue. Therefore, I have no shot at being successful on the popular app. Above all else, I’m constantly messaging these cool teens to hang out with me to no response. Somebody please help!
Nick Ciarelli: When you open on a scene that picks up at the end of conversation where the person is telling a random story to a group of folks and ends in everybody laughing because the story is so ridiculous. The details of it can be anything; it’s usually weird for the sake of weird because it’s out of context and it’s not funny since you can really put any detail there and it will just feel like the same exact joke. “… So she says to me, ‘What do you mean you’re out of Diet Pepsi?!’” “… And let’s just say that’s one Boston Market I’m not welcome to anymore!” “… And then I said, ‘Paul McCartney, you are one epic son of a bitch.’” You can literally say whatever and it will always be not that good.
Mohanad Elshieky: When a comedian keeps a joke in their act that never gets laughs, and follows it up with “This one is just for me.” Why are you telling it to a roomful of people then?
Brad Evans: I’m tired of that thing people say, “Liking X is not a personality.” As in “Liking The Office is not a personality” or “Carter mistakes having a dog for a personality.” Whose personality is so amazing and multifaceted that they feel they can just sum people up and dismiss their whole being like this? It feels like such an arrogant thing to say when maybe the person saying it isn’t that different from or more nuanced than the rest of us. Each one of us is just a different bumbling accumulation of neuroses we’ve developed from childhood or adulthood babbling about the three things we’re interested in trying our best to get by. I would love if this decade, people found new ways to cruelly dismiss each other’s personalities.
Ziwe Fumudoh: “Hold my beer.” In 2020, we’re not holding anyone’s beer. Throw beer’s jersey in the rafters because he’s stale. We’re drinking water now. We’re staying hydrated.
David Gborie: No more stupid fat guys. We pretend to read books as much as you.
Emily Heller: Interpretive dance as a punch line. Does it even exist outside of being made fun of? Has anyone in the real world interacted with it? Enough already!
Ginny Hogan: Jokes in which the comic comments on what it means about the audience if they don’t laugh. Like, when a Trump joke bombs and the comic says, “Okay, if you didn’t like that joke, you’re probably a Trump supporter.” Jokes about the difference between cats and dogs. Jokes about a funny conversation that end with a reveal that it was happening during sex.
Mitra Jouhari: I think we can retire the joke of “two guys kissing is inherently funny.” If that’s your big “joke,” look inward. Even if those two guys are politicians you hate! Still lame.
Joe Kwaczala: There’s one trope in stand-up that was annoying me so much that I made a video about it. It’s when a punch line is just a descriptive detail plus an emotion, like saying “My life is just Funyuns and depression” or whatever. So many comics get away with this that when I initially released the video, I got dozens of messages from people who knew “exactly who it was about,” and they all said someone different.
Jamie Loftus: If I could have my sweetest wish, it would be for irony-poisoned comedy to be over. Didn’t it lead to a bunch of people actually thinking all that stuff they were repeating as a joke? Grimes and Elon Musk are having a baby, so as someone who once participated in performative irony, I think it’s reached its most sinister conclusion.
Patrick Monahan: If they can’t, or won’t, outright ban laughter reaction GIFs, they should cost money every time you use them. You know the ones I’m talking about. The lady laugh-spitting into her drink. Mike Tyson wildly clap-screaming at the Comedy Central Roast of Whoever. Ryan Gosling tittering into his hand in the park. A plague, each of them, and one we should leave in the last decade.
Natalie Palamides: Impressions of celebrities doing mundane jobs. If you’re gonna do something as soulless as a celebrity impression, it better be dumb as hell or have a fresh angle. I don’t care about Ariana Grande, and I don’t care what she’d be like as a Starbucks barista.
Brendan Scannell: I’m over basic takes on why astrology is silly, dumb, or fake. I don’t even subscribe to astrology, but I’m desperately waiting on a fresh takedown of it. As Big Astrology grows more powerful than theism, the world needs better jokes than “So my girlfriend told me she’s an Aries cause she’s a trailblazer, but I think she’s a Cancer cause she’s freakin killin’ me!”
Sara Schaefer: There are many jokes and joke styles that I think have become hacky, but then I’ll see someone present it in a new way, or I’ll find myself laughing at something stale simply because I like the comedian telling it. It’s at that point that I am reminded once again that none of us has absolute authority over what is good comedy. Having said that, if you log on to social media and see every random person with 20 followers parroting the same exact joke that you’ve been making, maybe it’s time to step back and ask yourself if what you’re doing is original or edgy in any way.
Shalewa Sharpe: We as comics have devoted our lives to a truly ridiculous thing. In this field, success can take many forms; my journey won’t be his journey, won’t be their journey. But we all have in common the desire to perform the perfect joke. I respect the various paths we will take to reach our goal. That said, if I hear another 26-year-old describe themselves at “old,” I will put leeches in their drink.
Ellory Smith: Here is my (ever expanding) list of jokes that are canceled:
• “Sir, this is a Wendy’s” or anything akin to this punch line
• Cat hissing at dinner/Real Housewives meme. (To be fair, I mostly hate this one because the woman in the meme is yelling about her abusive husband that committed suicide before the taping of that season and pain radiates from the picture. That’s probably too dark for you to publish but QUE SERA!)
• Vocabulary that has been co-opted and ruined by corporations trying to stay relevant (“tea,” “That’s none of my business though,” describing any man or woman as “mom” or “dad” to indicate you’re a stan, “mood,” “Gonna tell my kids,” “idk who needs to hear this but,” “It’s me, I’m bitches”).
Meg Stalter: Personally I would love if people stopped sharing my videos with the caption “This girl is INSANE LOL,” or like “Me after five glasses of wine.” Maybe save those responses for the group chat girly.
Alison Stevenson: Using the number system to rate your hotness and then saying in the Midwest you’d be a higher number. It’s hack, rude, and inaccurate! There are some hot people in the Midwest.
Whitmer Thomas: I think we’ve heard enough jokes where a straight guy says “I wish I was gay.” But what do I know? I’m 19. More bits where the joke is that the comedian is saying they are an age that they really are not. That is funny.
Irene Tu: Bad Me Too jokes. Anything about Uber or Lyft. We get it, the driver said something weird to you. Bad Tinder date. We’ve all had them, it’s not funny anymore.
Allen Strickland Williams: “Dating is hard.” I’m so sick of hearing about how hard it is to date. Dating isn’t hard. Dating is easy. You’re just hard to deal with.