Abstract Bad jokes are not simply non-humorous texts. They are texts that are humorous for someone––their author at least––but not for their audience. Bad jokes thus involve a contextual––pragmatic––dimension that is neglected in the semantic theories of humor. In this paper, we propose an approach to humor based on the Aristotelian notion of surprising enthymemes. Jokes are analyzed as kinds of arguments, whose tacit dimension can be retrieved and justified by considering the “logic” on which it is based. However, jokes are based on specific pragmatic conditions: they are regarded as arguments grounded on a generalization that is at the same time uncommon, retrievable, and acceptable or plausible for the audience. This perspective integrates the “local logic” of jokes within a broader rhetorical theory that ultimately rests on the communicative notion of common ground.

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