Lesson to Unlearn from Glee – Season 3, Episode 3

Lesson: If you have a funny line, say it at least three times. An A- is an Asian F. They used it in the title, then Mike Chang’s father delivered it, then Tina delivered it. I must admit, that’s surprising restraint from “Glee.” Last year, I’d have expected that several songs would need to have been rewritten to include the phrase “Asian F” just to make sure we’d noticed the theme. This year they stuck to three. Good job.

The truth: A joke is still usually only funny once. (I mean, sure, callbacks can be funny if handled deftly but that’s a reference to a previous joke, not making the same joke again.) And if you’re doing it once, do it right. Especially do it right the first time you tell it.

See, in this case, the first time is the episode title (or the countless trailers featuring Tina going “An Asian F”?) That spoils the joke because you’ve already told the punchline.

Then, the first appearance in the episode is one of those “Let me explain why this is funny” moments, in which Michael Chang’s father informs the principal, very drily, that the A- Michael Chang got on a chemistry test is known as an Asian F. Dude, when it’s the father in the principal’s office, explaining that to him? It’s not funny. And you’ve now undermined the actual funny moment, when Mike tells his (Asian) girlfriend Tina that he got an A- and she says, “You got an Asian F?”

And it’s not even that good a way to get to that punchline. It would have been better if he had just showed her the test paper with a red 93 on it and then she could say, “An Asian F!” That would be funnier, but only if you hadn’t already given away the punchline. Twice.

Maybe you’ve heard that humor comes in threes, but that doesn’t mean, “Repeat the same joke three times.” It means, tell jokes with three parts. Like, if Mike had showed the group the red 93, and Tina had gone “An Asian F!” and Brittany had said, “A blonde A+!” and Rachel or Artie had said, “A Jewish shiva call.” See, three parts.

Don’t forget to check out my sister‘s lesson! And I swear I will write a non-Glee post sometime very soon.


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