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Dinojoke Extinction?

You may have seen this video. Within one week in late June 2010 it has been featured on, Metafilter, Laughing Squid, Discover Magazine, and a dozen other geek sites. And yes my dear Nerdists, that is yours truly, a virtual unknown on the stand-up comedy scene telling jokes in a video with over 100,000 views.

I’m going to assume you’ve watched it for the sake of this post, because I’m not here to brag. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled and have gotten good things as a direct result already. I’m here to say, with no desire for pity: okay, I had a joke go crazy viral all over the internet. Where the heck do I go from here?

Because I am a relative unknown, I am just beginning to headline clubs. This bit often takes up a lovely 3-8 minute chunk of my set that I can completely customize from night to night, a great gift when you’re trying to do your best 45-60 minutes and need to feel some audiences out. And when I’m a featured act it does wonders for bringing energy up for the headliner. So it is an asset to me for sure.

Now, however, I am receiving a lot of unsolicited feedback from people who don’t get the joke. I’m sure you guys do. I like YOU nerds. But not all nerds are gifted with kindness and social graces. Many nerds just see FACTS and want to consume and process these FACTS as quickly and humorlessly as possibly. Never mind that this bit is full of obvious lies and general windbagging. I’m getting tons of emails (I don’t even bother to read the internet comments on those previously mentioned sites) picking apart my inaccuracies and literally threatening to come to my shows and teach me “a lesson.” What kind of lesson does a geek with Aspergers have to teach me? Not a physically violent one, thankfully, but I can’t count on them to not ruin the joke. Even though, if you put the clip in context, this clearly has little to do with facts. They are at home in front of their computers, sifting through the internet’s resources, culling the most obscure opinions to contradict me and waving it in my face like it is common knowledge. And I know it isn’t. Because I’ve cruised Wikipedia, and the facts about stegosaurus on there  are never the same.

This is not just any joke. This requires spontaneity. I believe one of stand-up comedy’s biggest enemies is an audience member who will not leave their baggage at the door. One of the worst kinds of hecklers is the kind who hears something they don’t like and shouts out a retort demanding the comedian feel shame or admit defeat regarding the thing they just said. Never mind whether the comedian is funny or not, this audience member’s aunt was devoured by rabid tapirs, and so when you compared that politician to a tapir you were asking to get shouted off the stage. Even if it’s believable baggage, like comedians and their rape jokes and the sad victim in the audience who wants none of it, a comedian hopes and pleads with fate that the audience came to let their worries go and will not derail the show. So what do I do when people come to the show expecting this bit? The shock element plays a large role- part of the gimmick is that I am trying to confuse the audience with my ridiculous agenda. Why won’t I just be nice? Why won’t I let them just have their dinosaur? Surely I could find a way to adapt, but the game has changed.

Most key is that this bit requires audience participation. They must know it. Are they going to come to shows with pre-loaded dinosaurs? This does not freak me out. I have gotten Baryonyx and Therizinosaurus from unprepared audience members. But also, this is unnecessary. I have never needed “plants.” Comedy nerds are smart! Otherwise they would not be haunting my inbox with their nitpicking. Are they going to try and stump me, even though stumping is not the point, because their brain works like a spreadsheet? Are they going to pull out their iPhones and correct me with internet facts as I go? That sounds miserable, and I can only hope comedy nerds are smart enough not to do it.

I am intentionally writing this before I do another show. I’ve not been onstage since this happened. It’s plenty likely that I can keep doing this bit and it will only get a better response. This post is an exercise in ego, but this phenomenon might not lead to anything at all. So why not meditate on it. And I feel I have to try this bit at least once more if not over and over until something goes especially awry. I can’t resist tempting the chaos that may follow. I mean let’s say something happens onstage that makes me feel like I got hit with a meteor the size of Texas. Oh well, right? The joke still might not die. Perhaps it’s time it evolved into a… well not a goose but something else.

John Cleese Recapping THE WALKING DEAD Is Simply Delightful

John Cleese Recapping THE WALKING DEAD Is Simply Delightful

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  1. Dan Telfer says:

    Thanks for posting that song, Dan! I’d been singing it to my daughter as a lullabye. Unfortunately it looks like I got a couple of the words wrong, so I should probably stop singing it.

  2. Dan says:


    Clankity Clankity Clankity Clank! Ankylosaurus was built like a tank,
    Its hide was a fortress as sturdy as steel, It tended to be an inedible meal.
    It was armored in front, it was armored behind, There wasn’t a thing on its miniscule mind,
    It waddled about on its four stubby legs, Nibbling on plants with a mouthful of pegs.
    Ankylosaurus was best left alone, Its tail was a cudgel of gristle and bone,
    Clankity Clankity Clankity Clank! Ankylosaurus was built like a tank.

  3. marcel says:

    20 years ago my kids*had a book of dinosaur poems. The one the I sort of remember started out:

    Ankylosaurus was built like a tank.

    I don’t recall the next couplet, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t

    With rings on its fingers and bells on its toes,
    it will have music wherever it goes.

    Oh well.

    Great bit, which I saw from the link at Carl Zimmer’s place. As for the mispelling of your name, I think you need to develop a thicker skin, so that it rolls right of you, something more telfon like.

    *Well, most likely my son. My then 3 year old daughter one day announced that she did not believe in dinosaurs, and that she especially did not believe in Tyrannosaurus Rex.

  4. Ken says:

    Dan, saw your set live in Madison not too long ago. Loved the dino bit. Especially when someone in the audience shouted out, “Barney” and you detailed an episode of Barney imparting toothbrushing ettiquette while miming fellatio. Really hit home as a parent of small children. I almost peed a little.

  5. Dan says:

    Ankylosaurus rocks! Dude, I Googled “stoichiometric ratio” and it responded “WHAT THE FUCK?!” Holy Absurdly Nerdly Batman!

  6. andoran_g33k says:

    Ankylosaurus? Awesome! That video was hilarious. I love how he combined comedy and knowledge in a perfect stoichiometric ratio for excellent nerdly fun.

  7. Richard says:

    Dan, the bit is absolute genius. I saw it on Boing Boing and clicked it, knowing the greatest dinosaur was the Ankylosaurus. I’ve been preaching it since I was five years old. I’m not ashamed to admit that i got a nerd boner when the local MOSI had a life-sized. animatronic version. It was the realization of a childhood dream.

  8. Jamie says:

    Dan, this is really interesting to read. I guess all comedians have to let their jokes go after a while. But the Internet and viral-ness has sped up at least the consideration of whether a joke has had its run. Of course, look at all the characters that, say, Richard Pryor came up with, and people went to his shows knowing the characters and hoping to see them again.

    The thing I like best about this joke is the overall structure that you work inside of. It’s perfect. Starts off innocent, turns kind of maniacal (enough to make the comedy fan wonder why you’re getting THAT maniacal about dinos, while laughing at it and understanding it on some level). And then the ending explains it perfectly.

    I think once you get a contract to write for Hollywood comedies, you should you think about inserting this bit (and yourself) into a screenplay.

    Good luck with everything. My friends and I will keep an eye out for you. – Jamie

  9. sanelli says:

    this bit was brilliant! aren’t you worried that this will hound you though? that this will be like the thing you are known for? oh hey there goes that “dino guy”? i have often wondered what its feels like for an artist that does something that gets mass exposure and then gets niched into this weird universe where all that matters is that “thing” and your other stuff is sort of left laying around picking up dust. i wish you the best!

  10. Dan Telfer says:

    There were some words after the video that answer your question, Seth. I wrote about the first scenario. The second happens already, and I deal with it. This joke is already very different every time I do it.

  11. Seth says:

    Great bit, but do you worry about continuing to perform it? I foresee two possible scenarios; either fans study up before the show and start throwing out more obscure dinosaurs just trying to trip you up or they just immediately yell out Ankylosaurus ruining the build up.

  12. Sarah D. says:

    Dan, I adore this bit. I saw it on The Daily What a week or two ago, and aside from watching it, my biggest joy was sharing it with nerd-friends who *never once* questioned that you were 1000% right. Every single one of them commented on how unfair it was that you were so smart and so funny. It has become my litmus test for new nerd-friends. Many thanks for the lulz.

  13. Mark says:

    I love this bit and I’m sad to say that after I watched it I did get a little depressed thinking of the Internet league of aspbergians hammering away at their keyboards, however as a nerd audience member and respecter of comedy my second and more important thought was that I cant wait to see how awesome the REST of your act is next time you are in town.

  14. Shane says:

    I really enjoyed the bit! Screw those nit-picking assholes.

  15. Chris says:

    Damn dude, you got me. Well played, Mr. Telfer!

  16. Dan Telfer says:

    Sadly that site was created by one of my mortal enemies. And my marketing team consists of me.

  17. VonRiesling says:

    Brilliant. You killed on the internets…which has to be a little weird. Huge room, very quiet.

    I presume your marketing team are building out and printing merchandise for the meme.

  18. Dan Telfer says:

    I’d heard that segment on NPR, Damian. The guy who is upset about the deafness joke, right? Joan is more aggressive than I am with hecklers, but I LOVED the way she handled that situation.

    And yes, when I say “I assume you have watched this video” I mean because I embedded it, not because I think I am king geek.

    I will be king geek when people stop spelling my name “Tefler.” 🙂

  19. Maura says:

    I had not seen the video. But now I have and it is AWESOME.

  20. Chris says:

    Solid bit, fascinating notes on your process AND an 8-bit tie? Yay for Dan Tefler!

  21. Damian Thompson says:

    There is a great scene in the Joan Rivers documentary where she is killing it and then makes a joke that upsets an audience member that voices their displeasure, it is great to watch how she handles it/him as there is nothing that will kill a set faster.

    BTW love the bit.

  22. Chris Hardwick says:

    Dan, beside the joke, I also enjoy the fact that you’re wearing the 8-bit tie!!!