Everyone knows vegetarians are a humorless bunch.

We get mad about bacon jokes. We worship kale. We ruin our eyesight endlessly reading the fine print on labels. We never laugh at the drunk uncle’s jokes about our “cardboard” meals.

Thus it comes as something of a shock to find the vegetarian community suddenly awash in laughter. And some of the jokes are even creeping into the mainstream.

This summer, the satirical Skip Showers for Beef campaign burst onto the scene, garnering coverage on California TV stations and making an (unscheduled) appearance during the Los Angeles Times-sponsored Water in the West conference that featured Gov. Jerry Brown.

The campaign, a collaboration between the activist pranksters and filmmakers The Yes Men and the website Funny or Die, centers on a promotional video featuring an earnest-looking couple, Jason and Kiki. The progressive LA duo explain how, after learning that it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, they wanted to do something to help. But give up meat? You must be joking.

Instead, the pair joins the Skip Showers for Beef movement and forgoes 37 showers for every 4-ounce hamburger they eat. That’s right 37 showers per hamburger.

I called up Mike Bonanno, a leading member of The Yes Men who is based in New York, to find out more. He told me the teams from The Yes Men and Funny or Die were looking for something they could highlight about the California drought when they stumbled on the “absolutely staggering” amount of water used by the beef industry. They knew it had the potential for humor since most mainstream reports about the drought were ignoring beef’s oversized water footprint.

“The campaign went out there, and it got some pretty good traction,” Bonanno said. “The news outlets reported it with a little bit of tongue-in-cheek. It got the (1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef) statistic more widely disseminated, and that’s what it was all about.”

The CBS affiliate in San Francisco reported in June the Skip Showers for Beef campaign follows in the footsteps of the French who “have eschewed bathing for centuries,” and touted the website’s Waterless Hygiene Guide that recommends using baby powder for “dry showers” and cutting down on body odor by avoiding spicy foods.

During the fake promotional video, Jason says to the camera: “I want to eat meat. I want to take care of our planet. I guess you could say I want to have it all.”

The Facebook group Vegan Humor, with nearly 80,000 members, is one of the largest gatherings for veg-centric humor on the Web and allows any member to post memes and links.

A fairly typical meme features a simple drawing of a person smoking a cigarette, holding an iPhone, raising a mug of beer and saying “I would go vegan, but I can’t afford rice and vegetables.”

Many of the posts are similar and focus on the odd things meat-eaters say to vegetarians. Of course, some of the humor is pretty dark. (Surely a side effect of watching too many undercover animal farm exposes.)

But just like the Internet in general, seemingly half of the posts feature cute cats and funny animals.

A few of the posts are a tad risque, but the administrators keep it in check. (Beware, they don’t police the comments.)

Author Michael Slusher created the Facebook group about three years ago after he noticed the lack of a place that collected all the vegan-related “humorous memes floating around.”

“We have to deal with so much horror and negativity, so I wanted to create a respite where vegans could get away from it,” Slusher told me from his office in South Carolina.

“The explosive growth has been pretty amazing,” Slusher said. “Right now it is the largest English-speaking vegan group on Facebook.”

In Israel (which is said to have one of the fastest-growing vegan communities in the world), an activist organization called Gary-TV produces and disseminates videos related to vegetarianism and American animal activist Gary Yourofsky.

Most of the videos are serious in nature, such as the “Best Speech You Will Ever Hear” and the viral videos you’ve likely seen of small children crying when they discover the food on their plates comes from an animal.

However, Gary-TV also releases the occasional humorous video.

“It’s hard to post only graphic videos and expect to have a consistent good engagement,” Daniel Erlich, co-founder of Gary-TV, told me via email. “We need to balance it a little bit.”

One popular humorous video Gary-TV shared is a Silk almond milk ad created in 2011 called “The Future Milkman.”

According to Silk spokesperson Sara Loveday, the ad was created through a contest and never aired on TV.

“The Future Milkman” features a young man pouring cow’s milk into his cereal, when suddenly a guy in aviator sunglasses who looks vaguely like a cop punches the milk jug out of his hand.

“Are you my mom’s new boyfriend?” the young man asks.

“No, I’m your new milkman,” the guy in the sunglasses answers. An exchange ensues: “You don’t look like a milkman.” “You don’t look like a baby cow.” “I’m not a baby cow.”

Then the milkman grabs the young man and says: “You could have fooled me the way you were gobbling down that dairy milk like a parched heifer.”

This leads to the question: “What kind of super milk do you drink?”

The milkman slams down a carton of almond milk and says: “It’s a superior product because it is made for people and not sucked out of a cow.”

The video closes with a couple more one liners.

Gary-TV translated the ad into Hebrew and got “a very good response,” according to Erlich. Later, the site added English captions and shared it again on its English-language channels.

“The video was unique – there are not many vegan commercials out there – and also very funny,” Erlich said.

Scholars point to humor as an effective agent of social change, saying it has the power to alter the way we view and think about mainstream forces and ideas, such as the meat industry.

Bonanno of The Yes Men says humor has “been an important part of every social movement ever. It’s not always the part we remember or the part that is well documented.” But, Bonanno notes, “humor is a way of telling stories differently and in a more entertaining way.”

Also significant, according to Bonanno, in this era of social media and viral videos is the fact that “people like to share funny things.”

Too bad vegetarians don’t have a sense of humor.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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