I hope this hasn't been asked. A search returns 17 questions, all of which have nothing to do with humor.

Sometimes when responding, I try to be funny. It may not be humorous to anyone else, I'm not claiming that I achieve anything for anyone but myself. I just say things that make me chuckle.

Obviously, my response needs to be relevant. That's the whole point of responding. And I don't go out of my way to pull something funny where it isn't. And I definitely do not want to be offensive.

However, I notice that those types of comments tend to get removed. Is Math StackExchange averse to humor in general and it should not be used ever? Or is it likely I am just crossing some line I need to learn to gauge?

The most recent example is on

Pigeonhole Principle: birthdays on same day of week

I responded to Thomas Andrew's response to the question with something like:

"Not necessarily.  My sister died before she had any birthdays on a Friday."

And then I pointed out it wasn't true that I had a sister that died. It was just a stupid joke to play on an assumption.

The point, of course, was that the question could not assume, as Mr. Andrews had suggested, that everyone would eventually have a birthday on a Friday. In other problems that deal with periodic occurrences, it is common to check reasonableness assumptions based on the timespan.

So, I think the comment is relevant (and in fact, the question had to be revised due to everyone's questioning these kinds of assumptions of whether it meant ever or in that year or what). But I also understand it is not the most straightforward way to bring it up. And of course, I saw the comment had been removed by someone else shortly after I made it.

Should I avoid "funny but relevant" in general? Or what guidelines should I take?

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    $\begingroup$ The comments section is reserved for petty sniping, thinly veiled insults, pointless arguments and general combativeness. Attempts at humour should be strictly avoided. $\endgroup$
    – Scott H.
    Dec 5, 2013 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ I should've downvoted @ScottH.'s comment, as it is an attempt at humor. But given that I can only upvote it, it got upvoted. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2013 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlosEugenioThompsonPinzón It's worse than that, actually. Upvoting means that I agree that comments shouldn't contain humor, which I cannot do since his does. Not upvoting means I do think they may be humorous, in which case I should upvote. We seem to need to axiomatize this, naive humor theory clearly leads to contradictions... $\endgroup$
    – fgp
    Dec 9, 2013 at 13:33

2 Answers 2


I don't think "funny but relevant" is an issue. Everyone needs a little humor now and then.

That being said, a joke has to be tactful. Jokes involving death/dying rarely are. I'd say that falls under "crossing some line you need to learn to gauge."

As far as guidelines go, remember that this is a community of people, and so whatever behavior we put on needs to respect the members of the community.

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    $\begingroup$ I definitely do not have tact, so I can understand that being the issue here. That is very much what I had in mind with line-crossing comment. Thank you for your response. (But as an aside, the relevant point was that people might die before they have the birthday. I wasn't trying to inject death needlessly.) $\endgroup$
    – ex0du5
    Dec 5, 2013 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ I understand that you were trying to bring up a relevant point. It's just that if it can't be made into a tasteful joke, it shouldn't be made into a joke. Just asking for clarification would've been much more appropriate there. $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2013 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ I think there would not be much lack of tact in saying something like "Unfortunately not everybody lives to have a birthday on a Friday". (In fact people born Feb. 29, 1884 had to wait 40 years.) Of course it is hardly a joke this way either. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2013 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ "a joke has to be tactful" ... Gosh this why humor in the US is so bland to the point of not being funny. Everyone is so afraid to offend someone else. $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2013 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ Agree. Gallows humor is our last line of defense. Literally. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2013 at 11:33
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    $\begingroup$ @SergioParreiras: I often enjoy offensive jokes, but some things just don't belong in some places. Here at math.se it is customary to be polite, use somewhat formal language and to avoid being too offensive (especially this last "rule" tends to be bent and broken during more heated discussions, of course, but that's probably unavoidable...). I imagine someone grieving a recently deceased young sister could feel very offended by a comment like this. I believe it's a matter of convention. $\endgroup$
    – tomasz
    Dec 13, 2013 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ You know, I'm enjoying reading the comments generated by this question as much as anything I've read on this site at all. More amusing than most sites dedicated to humor. $\endgroup$
    – MPW
    Dec 17, 2013 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ I thought the original comment was funny and not really that offensive. Unfortunately, I cannot think of a way of supporting the OP with a comment saying as much whilst being mildly witty and slightly dangerous. For this I apologise. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Dec 18, 2013 at 9:57

I think it's great to have some humor here as everywhere else, as long as the jokes are not offensive.

Regarding your particular example, I think it could be unpleasant for somebody who lost his/her sister.


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