Two weeks ago Daniel Drucker went to Metafilter with a request.
"My father passed away this morning," he wrote. "I'm going through his file, and I came across JOKES.TXT ... which contains only the punchlines." Could the Metafilter hivemind work backward and supply the missing jokes?
It could, and rapidly. Drucker posted his query at 4:49 pm; four hours later, 30 of the 31 jokes were solved, so to speak. The final one -- a "broken" joke about a talking golf ball -- was cracked two days later.
So take, for example, one of the punchlines on the list, "More ducks on that side." Alone, it's pretty useless, as punchlines without setups tend to be.
Ten minutes after Drucker posted the list to Metafilter, user O9scar provided the joke's missing half: "When ducks fly in a V formation do you know why one side is longer than the other? Because there are more ducks on that side."
A half hour later, Elsa gave some guidance on the joke's delivery:
O9scar outlines the riddle above, but it's worth mentioning that this one works best deployed not as a joke but as a casual bit of trivia tossed off when you see a V of birds in formation.
Person 1 [points to birds]: Hey, y'know when you see birds flying in V-formation? And sometimes one side of the V is longer than the other? You know why that is?
Person 2: No, why?
Person 1: More birds on that side.
If you do it casually enough and your friends are sufficiently curious about random subjects, you may even be able to use it on the same person more than once.
She closed on a personal note:
I caught my own much-missed father with that gag several times. My sorrow for your loss, and thank you for that happy memory.
And that's how the posts tended to go, with users prefacing or closing their jokes with a note of condolence, or a sympathetic memory. "I'm so sorry for your loss," they began. "Here's the ridiculous, crass joke you're looking for," they continued without skipping a beat.