This is where “HA HA” is the only one. This perfect little blue pill fixes a problem that has always upset my dealings with comedians or anyone trying to tell me a joke – a perceived reluctance on my part to adequately “give up”. It’s no exaggeration to say that this Tapback saved a lot of my friendships.

I love comedy, but, to my great detriment, I react to jokes the same way my 6 year old enjoys his toys – taking them apart and trying to figure out what makes them work. I have never been a “LOL” person either, especially by SMS. It’s uncomfortably performative, like typing “Ouch!” When you accidentally sit on your car keys. Although I have my own need well attached to every joke I try, it still makes me anxious when people use “LOL” too liberally. Its motive is questionable, like transactional flattery. When someone sends more than one “LOL” in a thread, I can’t help but think that that person is about to ask me to drive me to the airport.

For a while, I preferred a simple “Ha”, until I learned, through negative comments, to switch to the more emotional “Ha! It sounded like a proportional response to a text-told joke, until the well was poisoned by that shapeless chain of “HA”. You saw it, and you probably did, “HAHAHAHAHAHA. Looks great on paper, feels good in a thread of text, but it’s anarchic. Not only does it make the “Ha!” suddenly appear condescending, it sets a terrible new standard because there is no standard. How many “HA” are enough? In any group thread, the “HA” chain quickly leads to nightmarish scenarios like this:

PERSON A: [JOKE!]

PERSON B: HAHAHA

[A fine response; all is well.]

PERSON C: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

[Wow, I guess Person B hates jokes!]

When you improvise these “HA’s” like jazz music, it becomes difficult to keep up with your work and easy to hurt feelings. Set the bar too high with a dozen or more, and, at any time in the future, even one less “HA” may suggest a curdling of your support.

That’s the joy of the neat and appealing uniformity of the “HA HA” Tapback: just one large “HA” and one reduced in size below, suggesting that there is probably no more where it came from. Gone are the days of competing long “HA” chains of varying lengths. The bossy “LOL” and “tears of laughter streaming” emoji are also gone, which is, let’s face it, a bit too much. The Tapback takes the entire joke scoring system to ‘pass / fail’, and any teacher charged with grading this way knows that more people are likely to be successful – maybe even a few who don’t deserve it. The special magic of the “HA HA” Tapback is the way it meets your expectations while lowering them.

I once saw a comedian perform his entire act to an audience that responded, appropriately, with a thick wall of silence. At one point, after another soft joke was received by nothing more than the tone of the room, an audience member, perhaps moved by the absurdity of it all, let out a tickled snort. The on-stage comedian tilted his head slightly, like a cat hearing a can opener three pieces away, and said, “I heard a laugh. I’ll take it. ”The“ HA HA ”Tapback streamlines a vast network of complicated and exhausting needs for one: I saw a laugh. I’ll take it.

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