We’re back with Part Two of the Back to School Survival Guide on jokes and pranks.

(Honestly, I did not expect to take so long to finish this. Back to school stuff seems a little out of place when it’s running in late October, but I promised you a part two, so a part two you shall have.)

This time, I’m breaking down some popular jokes to explain why they work or don’t work. If you’re not a student, you may want to read this anyway. There are some good bits of joke etiquette in here, somewhere.

Running Gags

A running gag is a repeating joke. These gags are usually effective on TV but they don’t always work in real life. Usually, there’s an easy way to tell if a gag is working: The more people join in, the funnier the joke is. If you are the only person participating in the gag, then you are probably the only person who thinks it’s funny. Don’t discourage anyone from playing along.

Inside Jokes

An inside joke is a private joke shared by a small group of people. Often, inside jokes are personal or embarrassing, which somehow makes them funnier. There’s usually nothing wrong with inside jokes, except when outsiders think that the joke is about them. Imagine that you’re walking past a small group of people who suddenly start laughing. You ask them what’s so funny and they all get quiet and say that it’s nothing. It’s easy to suspect that they’re laughing at you, right? The group knows this, but they can’t explain themselves without revealing their embarrassing secrets. If you’re part of a group that uses inside jokes, prepare a safe explanation in ahead of time. So when someone asks you “what’s so funny?” you can give him a vague, but reassuring answer, like, “We were remembering something stupid that happened on Friday. It’s nothing serious.”

Making Fun of Teachers

All teachers know that their students want to make fun of them. (This even applies to some college professors.) Frankly, your teacher would rather you vent your frustrations with harmless words than break down in the classroom. They’ll be good sports as long as you follow one simple rule: Don’t make fun of an adult who is in the room with you. Putting down your teachers right in front of them makes it look like they don’t deserve respect. Be polite. Make fun of your math teacher in science class, your science teacher in music class, and when you’re on the bus, make fun of everybody but the bus driver.

Toxic Jokes: Pranks to Avoid

A few popular pranks that are more trouble than they’re worth. Plus they can hurt you as much as your victims. Avoid them at all costs.

Pranking Your Helpers

Springing pranks is like setting traps. The tricky part is getting someone to walk into your trap. An easy way to do this is to ask people to do things for you. For example, you might think a funny prank would be to lock someone in a supply closet. But no one is in the supply closet, so you ask your friend if he would please, please, please put some heavy boxes away for you. The trouble with this strategy is that it only punishes people who are nice to you. The obvious problem here is that you are teaching people to never help you. The less obvious problem is psychological. People are conditioned to expect a reward for good deeds, usually in the form of a “Thank You” or some other kind words. Whenever someone who expects a reward is punished instead, it creates intense feelings of betrayal and resentment. You may be dishing out more of an emotional sucker-punch than you ever intended.

Scolding and Teasing

When people (both kids and adults) yell or scold, a part of them is saying, “It is VERY important to me that you listen to these words.” If you choose this moment to joke around, you are sending the message, “I won’t listen, and I will keep others from listening too.” Humor doesn’t fix this kind of situation. It throws gas on the fire. And it may cause the yellers to direct their anger at you. If you think yelling and scoldings are unfair, you don’t always have to put up with them, but you should find a safer way to deal with it.

Hiding People’s Stuff

This is a crime of opportunity. Someone leaves something unattended, his friends stash it, and then they watch him panic when he finds it missing. The trouble with this prank is that there’s no good way to end it. If the prankster returns the missing items right away, people usually complain that the joke ended too soon. So everyone has to sit and wait awkwardly for the right time to resolve the situation. This can make the prankster can feel almost as trapped as the victim. Plus, it’s a tense situation, and tension only makes people expect a bigger punch line. In the end, the missing stuff is either returned safely, returned damaged, lost or stolen. None of these outcomes are particularly funny and they leave everyone feeling unsatisfied. This one just isn’t worth the trouble.

In Conclusion…

You may be asking yourself, “Hey, I’m just trying to have fun, why do I have to follow so many rules?” Bringing humor means that you’re adding something new to an ordinary situation. And if you’re the person who’s added something new then you are responsible for the results. Jokes and pranks are a bit like pets. People enjoy their antics, but if they run wild and cause trouble, then it is the owners’ responsibility to keep them in line.