Sarcastic Jokes that Harm, Versus Witty Jokes that Heal

Laced with sarcasm, a gag can blow up in your face. Rimmed with wit, it might defuse a tense moment. Here are some common scenarios. You’re welcome.

Graham Roumieu for Reader’s Digest

Scenario 1: Your husband plants himself on the couch all weekend

Sarcastic joke that harms: Crack wise: “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.”

Witty joke that heals: This gag tells him you’re chill with his chilling: “In heaven, Mother Teresa is dining with God, who has made a couple of tuna fish sandwiches. While they’re eating, she looks down into hell and sees the denizens eating steak, lobster, and crème brûlée. ‘Not that I’m complaining,’ she says, ‘but why are they eating lavishly, and we’re having tuna sandwiches?’ ‘Well,’ says God, ‘with just the two of us up here, I figure, why cook?’ ”

Scenario 2: Your cheap friend is driving you nuts

Sarcastic joke that harms: Steal this line from Caroline Rhea, who recalls a thrifty date: “Instead of buying me a drink, this guy offered me a sip of his.”

Witty joke that heals: Accentuate the positive like Al Clethen did: “People always say, ‘He died penniless,’ as if it’s a terrible thing. Sounds like good timing to me.”

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