The embargo on jokes related to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, due to end in 2015 has been extended until at least 2025 due to this week's tragic events in Japan. Comedy officials warn that jokes relating to the most recent disaster are unlikely to be permitted until 2038 at the earliest.
Although demand for Kobe-related jokes has not been seen as high, investigators have discovered within the last six months that several humorous quips have been circulated on the black market in China and the far east. China has been battling joke problems of its own - amusing comments about their 2008 earthquakes have been banned by the government until 2088, a length of time seen as excessive by many humorologists in the west.
The embargo system, enforced by the International Comedic Union, was first introduced in 1961 to replace the previous fixed period (life of last survivor plus 50 years) - the successful 1958 prosecution of Tony Hancock for making a joke about the Titanic was seen by many as the catalyst for change.
The current system allows a sliding scale depending on severity of events. For a small scale incident where there are not many deaths the embargo may be as little as six months. But in extreme cases the embargo may be set for even longer periods than previous rules allowed. Jokes about the 9/11 terrorist attacks will not be permitted until September 12th 2061 and jokes about the Holocaust cannot be made before May 2145, if at all.
Dates are agreed by a secretive Comedy Committee based in the Hague, and not by a computerised process as many believe, in fact attempts to automate the process using a table of date ranges based on death counts had to be dropped in the late 1980s after it became temporarily illegal to laugh about Ghengis Khan.
Specific exemptions to the embargo are allowed for certain strictly-regulated scientific research projects and, in some cases, for humanitarian purposes. The Royal Family in Great Britain caused an uproar late last year after it was announced that an application had been made for permission to use a joke about the 2007 foot-and-mouth outbreak for Prince Harry's Best Man speech at the Royal Wedding this April.
Many twitter commentators were quick to point out that jokes about his mother's unfortunate death are themselves embargoed until 2037, and it believed the request has now been dropped amid rumours that the joke will instead be based around the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege, which has been free of all control since May last year.