How to Tell a Recession Joke

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Top row: Max Silvestri, Marc Maron, Rachael Harris, Tom Papa, ANT. Bottom row: Sara Benincasa, Greg Johnson, Kevin Avery, Jill-Michele Meleán, Tom Ryan. Photo: Getty Images (Rachael Harris)

Recently, the Wall Street Journal's "Careers" section ran a story suggesting that making jokes is a good way to alleviate some of the stress of the recession. Comedian and actress Rachael Harris, who will be the correspondent for a recurring segment, "Recessioning it with Rachael," on Jay Leno's new show when it kicks off next month, agrees. "The recession is happening to everyone," she tells Daily Intel. "When you make light of it, it takes the stress out of it. Like when somebody comes up and says 'Hey, I’m so freaked out about getting fired that I’m gonna fire myself.' If you acknowledge what the fear is in a funny way, it brings people together." But how do you begin to joke about the biggest recession since the Great Depression™, and how far should you go? The Journal, for its part, suggests avoiding observations that are "aggressive, sarcastic, or alienating." And if possible, says Harris, "you should keep it specific to yourself. Like, a horrible example would be somebody trying to be funny and saying “Wow, looks like your days are numbered, Frank.” Or, saying to someone who's fired. ‘Well, at least you’ve got more time to dream about that Knicks job!’

Local comedian Sarah Benincasa offered Daily Intel a few more pointers. "You don't want to go the traditional 'Man, my boss is such a jerk' route in an effort to open a charming bon mot," she advised. "No one else has a boss to hate, and they will despise you for bragging." Similarly, "it would be in your best interest to avoid saying something like, "People without jobs are worthless and without social, economic or spiritual merit. They should be shot out of cannons for the amusement of their betters, i.e., people with jobs." And, whenever possible, Benincasa said, avoid derogatory references to bindles, cans of beans, and riding the rails. "You never know whether or not your audience may contain an actual hobo!"

It sounds so restrictive — but hey! It's a recession. We all have to make do. Herewith, some of today's best comedians share bits from their recession routines:

"The recession has made me shrink my goals. I was talking to my girlfriend about a party the other day and said 'I hope I get free snacks and don't sweat too much,' but I now realize that's pretty much my entire life philosophy." —Max Silvestri, writer, comedian, host, Big Terrific

"A lot of people out there think that we're going to have another Depression and that we could even see the return of those soup lines. I'm not too worried. Because, since 1929, our soup has gotten so much better. You'll be able to find me in the Southwest chicken tortilla soup line." —Tom Ryan, a comedian who has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, will be performing at Gotham Comedy Club on September 11 and 12

"Republicans have one idea to deal with the recession. No nationalized health care. We have like a 10 percent unemployment rate. We need the turnover! Problem solved." —Marc Maron, comedian, writer of one-man show Scorching the Earth, coming soon

"How about these billionaires killing themselves? They lose their money and they kill themselves. How insulting is this?! They'd rather die than live like us. 'You want me to eat at Applebee's? I don't think so.'" —Tom Papa, comedian, actor, The Informant with Matt Damon, coming out September 18

"I want to bring bartering back, because we don’t barter enough. I think we should barter. And I just like the word 'barter'. For example, why can’t I barter for stuff from Whole Foods? I would love to take some mugs from the Trump Tower Vegas my ex-mother-in-law gave me as a gift one year into Whole Foods and say “Can I just get a protein bar for these two mugs?” I mean seriously, It’s like $3.25. That’s a way for me to take goods that are valuable to someone but not necessarily valuable to me, and get something of value back." —Rachael Harris, comedian, actress, The Hangover

"This recession has been so hard on my bank account, I'm thinking of moving in with my grandmother. And we buried her in October!" —Greg Johnson, host of "The Comedians" Sunday nights at Pianos

"I’m not saying the price of gas is getting ridiculous … but today went to my Chevron and asked the clerk to give me $3 dollars worth of gas — he farted and handed me a receipt." — ANT, host of Celebrity Fit Club

"With this economy, I've had to cut and watch my budget. I can't give up shoe and handbag shopping, so I started dating again to get some free meals." —Jill-Michele Meleán, comedian, Showtime's Hot Tamales

"I've run out of places to meet women, and it's only gotten worse with this economy. I was in the bank the other day and made the mistake of asking out the teller. Horrible idea ... You can't ask out a woman who knows you only have $11.32 in the bank." — Kevin Avery, comedian, currently opening for David Alan Grier in cities across the country

Think you can do better? Then put yours in the comments!