Steve Martin’s Plumber Joke

One his album, Let’s Get Small, Steve Martin tells a joke for plumbers.

He sets it up that there are 30 plumbers in the huge audience and he worked up something just for them. After the lengthy setup, he gets to the punchline.  

This infuriated the supervisor, so he went and got Volume 14 of the Kinsley manual. He reads to him, “The Langstrom 7″ wrench can be used with the Findlay sprocket.” Just then, the little apprentice leaned over and said, “It says sprocket, not socket!”

The audience is quiet and Steve Martin says, “Were the plumbers supposed to be here tonight?”

The joke, of course, is that he is taking something intensely specific, intended for only a few people and presenting it to thousands of people. I’m guessing this is how he felt about most of his jokes, they were things that were funny to him, and he was mystified that other people were laughing.

If your audience is small and specific to you, do you need to simplify what you’re saying to appeal to a big audience?

Wouldn’t communicating something to your specific audience, in a language only they would understand, make them feel special and included? Wouldn’t it eventually attract more people to you? After all, being bland and easy to understand doesn’t lead to lasting success.

If you have a clearly defined group that you are doing your work for, it’s in your best interest to communicate in a way that sometimes excludes people that are not in that group. Take a chance on being misunderstood by the rest of the world so you can make your own group feel understood.

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