There was the following passage in New York Times (December 25th) article describing Mr. Jeb Bush’s subtlety or lack of humor under the title, “Hear the one About Jeb Bush’s humor? You have to listen closely”

In one Republican debate, about a town in Iowa with a curious name; “I was in Washington, Iowa, about three months ago, talking about how bad Washington, D.C., is,” he began, pausing to hear the crickets. “It was — get the — kind of the. Anyway.” As Mr. Bush’s poll numbers have lagged, the bids for laughs have proliferated.


What does "It was - get the kind of the. Anyway," mean? Does the phrase make any sense? Or it's simply an interjection like 'You know' or "Guess it"?

What 's good for the writer's picking up this specific nonsensically looking line?

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    Jeff??? Bush... – GEdgar Dec 26 '15 at 1:58
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    Who knows what he started to say? Something derogatory about DC, which he realized might be interpreted as derogatory about Washington, Iowa. Then he couldn't think of a way out of it, self-censored, and moved on. – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten Dec 26 '15 at 3:29
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    @Drew. Please understand this site is not exclusive to native speakers, or elitists. What is off-topic because you think self-explanatory is not necessarily off-topic to many non-native speakers like me. If you think the line is nonsensical, it’s the answer I want to get. But I want get a more considerate and elaborate answer as given by deadrat than a hasty and reactive close vote without trying to make any effort to explain the implication of the remark in question or rationalize why Jeff Bush made this particular remark. – Yoichi Oishi Dec 26 '15 at 12:17
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    Continued:No matter how it looks silly to you, there should be some reasons for why he uttered these words. He isn’t an average man, nor an asshole. He would be a leader of you and all Americans if he should be chosen. Beside if it’s an off-topic remark as you rate, why did the New York Time’s writer waste the precious time and space to include this line which you think not worthy of even asking? - I asked this in my above question. – Yoichi Oishi Dec 26 '15 at 12:19
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    "there should be some reasons for why he uttered these words." Yes, but sometimes they are known only to the people who uttered them. This isn't particular to English; I imagine people say mysteriously incomprehensible things in every language. Drew was making a small joke of his own, btw. Why would the Times report it? Because stupid utterances by famous people - especially policy makers - make the news. Look at Donald Trump. – anongoodnurse Dec 27 '15 at 0:14

Typically, a short "story" joke has three parts -- the setup, the narrative, and the punchline. The setup sets the scene. For instance:

A man walks into a bar with a duck on his head.

The narrative describes the action that takes place after the scene has been set. To continue:

The bartender asks, "May I help you?"

The punchline supplies the humorous conclusion, of which there are several to this example and which I'll leave to others to supply. If the audience for the joke teller thinks the setup is amusing enough, they are said to "buy the premise," meaning that they are prepared to find the punchline absurd enough or incongruous enough or silly enough to laugh. If they do, they are said to "buy the bit."

An axiom attributed to Johnny Carson says, "If you buy the premise, you'll buy the bit." In other words, if the setup is amusing enough, people will be disposed to laugh at the punchline. But every comedian knows that a setup, no matter how amusing, isn't enough. A punchline must follow.

Here's Jeb's setup:

I was in Washington, Iowa, about three months ago, talking about how bad Washington, D.C. is

This is a potentially amusing contrast. Washington, Iowa is a place of absolutely no importance to anyone, probably not even to some of the seven thousand people who live there. Washington, DC, on the other hand, is a metropolis and the capital of the country. And people in Washington, Iowa and the audience for the debate are disposed to believe bad things about DC. So people may be prepared to laugh, but even people at Republican debates expect a punchline.

But Jeb didn't have one. And he didn't realize he needed one. And he expected laughter anyway. When he paused and didn't hear laughter, he haltingly tried to explain what was funny. I'll extrapolate:

It was [very funny] ... get the [joke?] ... [it was] kind of the [way I found myself in one Washington talking about another Washington]

If you have to explain your joke, it isn't funny. But Jeb tried anyway, apparently unaware that he had only 1/3 of a joke.

This was widely reported to illustrate just how clueless and humorless Jeb Bush is: First, he had only 1/3 of a possible joke and couldn't understand why it didn't get anyone to laugh. And secondly, he thought he might explain himself into the response he wanted.

  • +1 However. If you give someone a premise and a narrative, you've got to give them a punchline - even if you aren't intent on telling a joke. Otherwise they'll feel all aggrieved :( – Araucaria - Not here any more. Dec 26 '15 at 11:02
  • Maybe you could put a punchline in the comments? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Dec 26 '15 at 11:07
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    @Araucaria Sure. Bartender: May I help you? Duck: Yeah, you could get this guy off my ass. – deadrat Dec 26 '15 at 20:29
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    @Araucaria My favorite joke is from a New Yorker cartoon, in which the narrative is the punchline: Setup: A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. Narrative/Punchline: The bartender says, "Very funny." But there has to be a punchline for a standard joke. – deadrat Dec 26 '15 at 20:31

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