In letter XI of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, human laughter is divided into four cases: Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. Joy is described as the type of laughter found “among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday,” and is closely related to Fun; Fun is “a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct.” On the other end of the spectrum, there is the Joke Proper and Flippancy. The Joke “turns on the sudden perception of incongruity,” -meaning it relies on a punch line, deemed funny by the measure of abruptness and unexpectedness with which it is delivered. Flippancy is the conditioning of the mind to view something as if it is funny. “It deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.”
In “Malk” by Youtuber Julian Smith, a disagreement between three friends over how to pronounce the word milk quickly escalates into a gunfight. The clip begins with Julian, Josh, and Donovan sitting around a table. Josh gets up to open the fridge, and Julian asks for a glass of milk, but pronounces it “malk”. Josh teases Julian about it, and Donovan eventually cuts in, saying, “Give him the mulk, Josh!” Donovan’s father enters the room and asks for everyone to use their inside voices, to which Donovan replies, “Sorry Dad… it’s my white friends.” Donovan’s dad is white. Julian and Donovan then continue to pester Josh about how to say milk until Josh is so worked up that he pulls a gun and points it at himself, telling everyone to shut up. Julian and Donovan both pull out their own guns and do the same, screaming at Josh the whole time. A few more seconds go by, and the screen cuts to Josh on the phone, describing the table confrontation to Julian as an idea for a video. Julian dislikes the idea, saying it’s too dark, as he closes his cat in the oven. The video ends.
The types of humor employed in this video are Flippancy and the Joke Proper. The entire video is flippant, first poking fun at a simple mispronunciation and rising to a humorous standoff. The circumstances numb the viewer to the fact that three people are ready to commit suicide, and the viewer is jolted as the screen cuts to Josh describing the whole thing as an idea for a clip. It isn’t until Julian remarks that it’s a dark theme that the viewer realizes that that’s true, and we find ourselves agreeing with Julian a moment before we see him enclose his cat in an oven. That is another jolt moment, and both lean more toward the Joke Proper, as they’re both unexpected twists meant to get a rise out of the audience. The abrupt ending also helps to sell the absurdity of the whole thing.
As a whole, the video relies on spontaneity, innocence, and absurdity to pass as funny things that are condemned both in Biblically and in society- suicide, and cruelty (although the cruelty is just implied, as the oven could simply be the cat’s cage). While it isn’t the video’s intent to pass either of those things as okay, it employs them in order to accomplish it’s primary goal, which is simply to show how milk should be pronounced- it definitely isn’t malk.