Want to stop humor in its tracks? It's easy to take aim at a punch line and kill a joke.
Step 1: Pick your moment Choose an inappropriate time to blurt out the joke -- any occasion when it's guaranteed to bomb. Once the joke's shown to be a dud, it'll be dead forever.
Step 2: Get it wrong Tell the joke repeatedly when you're near its creator. Make subtle mistakes each time you tell it, so the joke doesn't quite land, and the creator eventually gets frustrated enough to declare the joke dead.
Step 3: Dissect it Break down exactly what makes the joke a joke. Analyze the setup and punch line, explaining its plausibility and meaning in excruciating detail -- by the time you finish, people will be too bored to care about the joke anymore.
TIP: Be careful: though you'll have killed the joke, dissecting it may make people want to kill you.
Step 4: Give it a bad name Find a particularly annoying individual and share the joke with them. Encourage them to repeat the joke incessantly -- soon, anyone who tells the joke will risk being associated with the stink of lameness.
Step 5: Laugh hard When you tell the joke, have a friend laugh with an awkward, forced guffaw that makes everyone else uncomfortable and shines a spotlight on just how unfunny the joke is in the first place.
FACT: In 2009, a classics professor rediscovered a 4th-century Roman joke book with 260 jokes.