Creating cognitive tension – and then what?

I stumbled upon this entry in the great BoingBoing-blog, an excerpt from a longer Smithonian article: Steve Martin explaining a special method of eliciting laughter from the audience, in comparision to the usual comedian’s technique of creating tension and releasing laughter via a punchline.

Martin’s approach is different: Creating tension – and not to relieve it. Giving an unexpected anticlimax, not the expected ‚unexpected‘ exit. And then let the audience choose a point where to relieve the upbuilt tension. Steve Martin:

„What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation. This type of laugh seemed stronger to me, as they would be laughing at something they chose, rather than being told exactly when to laugh.“

This seems to be a good approach, too, for educational gaming. In a usual, moderate constructivistic setting, you have the path of

[exploration] – [encounter of a task/test] – [correct solving of the task/test] – [reward].

What will happen if you constantly deny the learner the ‚punchline‘ as confirmation that he learned something he was meant to learn?