On joking with students

At some point in recent years, my students lost the ability of discerning when I playfully give them a hard time. To pick just one example of many from last semester…

Student: Did you get my homework that was slid under your door last Thursday?
Me: Oh, so *that’s* what I threw in the trash on Friday.
Student: (groans) I told my friend that she should’ve put it in your mailbox. Is there anything I can do to get my homework to you?
Me: Nope. C’est la vie.

I kept this up for about a minute before telling him that I was only kidding and that I had his homework. And this is just one of several anecdotes I could relate.

I conclude that either:

  1. I’m a world-class comedic straight-man up there with Bud Abbott and “Super” Dave Osborne,
  2. I’ve now old enough to be around the age of my students’ fathers instead of their older brothers, and so the jokes that worked 10 years ago elicit a different response now, or
  3. (more likely) Students have been so conditioned by past experiences with inflexible and uncompromising professors that they react submissively when I feign unreasonableness.
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