Following up on my last post, here are some more examples, some cultural and some personal, to make my point.
1. Consider Cake:
Listen to Cake singing "I Will Survive."
When this rendition came out in 1996, it was greeted as a "naughty cover." A parody of some sort. When I hear it now, I just think it's awesome, and not disrespectful of the original disco version at all, i.e. even though disco was the ultimate in uncool from the point of view of the grunge generation in whose wake Cake gained its burst of fame, the boys in the band were not slaves to such fashion and so used this old groove to create their new groove. I think, though, that the question "is this a joke or not?" is a misunderstanding of irony. This is not a case of finding an already written song in their style and performing it; it really is intended to be weird and surprising. Irony is such that the listener can take it as ridiculing or praising the original; it does not require the artist to take a stance either way.
2. "That's what she said." Many jokes, and even entire forms of joke (the knock-knock) are so overdone that they contain no humor in themselves for anyone over the age of 10, certainly not humor of the unexpected variety, yet you can, in earnest jest (intentional oxymoron there), recite them as a sort of humorish mantra. Are you still trying (and failing) to make a joke, or are you commenting on humor itself and its social role? ...i.e. expressing lightheartedness, as if to say "insert joke here" and so remind the listener of the realm of the comic, which in many situations is actually enough to do the job of easing the tension in the room and distracting from one's daily hell. So, I'm claiming that you can make bad jokes ironically, with a purpose that floats in a realm of indeterminacy between actually joking and parodying the joke process. A knock knock joke told by an adult is ironic in the way the Cake song is (and if it's actually funny, then it's successful in the way the Cake song is).
3. I keep blogging on this because this approach to humor thoroughly infects my life, and I'm trying to figure it out. I'm not claiming to actually be funny here, but just like the avant garde art fans described in the Danto episode recognize that art can be found even in ordinary objects, i.e. it's a way of seeing, that's how I feel about humor.
As a musician, I use Cake's technique as a stylistic regularity: I was (partially) trained as a foo-foo classical composer who at age 17 thought of rock as barbaric and stupid, yet I now often write big, cheesy rock songs, and while this was in part a simple evolution and discovery that my old viewpoint was limited, irony was my way into these new realms, and still enables me to write, e.g. country songs or funk songs that I have no cultural reason to (not being particularly influenced by or properly appreciative of those generes).
On the podcast, our initial conceit (still present in our opening spiel) is the rebellion against professional philosophy. Though I've evolved on this issue (e.g. whether it's neurotic to fetishize over Kant's every stray thought as a Kant scholar would be required to do) in the years since we started, even at the start, the bombast was ironic in the sense I've been describing: a way of calling attention to an issue (that there's something screwy with the stance that most practitioners of philosophy take towards philosophy, just by professional necessity) that I'm honestly ambivalent about. I'm playing with the idea.
In general, not being too afraid of saying dumb things of a certain sort (one dude called me the Donald Trump of the podcast) is my way of not really taking a position, but instead trying to shift the framework of the debate. So, no, I don't really think Socrates is an asshole, but I had the hypothesis (back when I would say that kind of stuff in our early podcasts) that approaching philosophical texts with some degree of hostility would incite our skeptical faculties to see if the text really had something to say to modern life or not, instead of taking our teachers' word for it that he was a genius and that we need to just pore over his work trying to understand every nuance and not have any time left to actually think for ourselves. I still think there's something to this approach, though I quickly became much more patient with the texts once I'd fully taken on the task of trying to learn/relearn this stuff en masse rather than simply dipping into my moldering store of knowledge left over from school.