Funny, for a philosopher.

I used to think that I was a funny person. Not exactly Saturday Night Live Eddie Murphy funny or Monty Python funny. Or even Chris Farley funny. But funny. I thought that I was the kind of fellow who could rip off a slightly humorous or even mildly witty comment whenever the opportunity would come up to make a slighly humorous or mildly witty comment. But, as of late, I’ve come to this horrible realization: I am not a funny person. Really, I don’t know what went wrong. It’s as if I went to bed looking like Conan the Barbarian and waking up looking like, well… me. The revelation was horrifying. Since I don’t want to take any blame for anything myself (I think it’s generational. A quality inherited by myself and my fellow Gen-Xers), I will blame it on the last place that I was when I began to feel like I was losing my funniness. Those damned philosophy classes. Now, let me get one thing straight: I didn’t initally got to philosophy as a major ( that would have been stupid). I had gone into political science, and since political scientists know everything, I felt no need to join the yammering crowd in philosophy. All talk and no action, they say. If I were inclined to be a bit dirty, I’d call what they did over there in philosophy intellectual masturbation (no need to be more descriptive there). What happened to me, was that I was “recruited”. And like the absolute idiot that I am, I took the bait. It’s not like the political science department was like a night at the Apollo, but there was, at least among the students, a sense of humor that was present and mainfested itself occasionally in comments about stupid liberals (or “communists”, it that term is preferable), or other departments, like philosophy. There was at least some humor that everyone could understand – there was no need to preface a joke with an explanation of “xeno’s paradox” or Russellian definite descriptions. It’s different with philosophers. I’ve heard that there is humor there, and I was even told that some of my professors were actually “funny”, but all the while I was there, I just didn’t see it. (Maybe there was a smartass or two). The more philosophy I read, the more I became convinced that there was a reason why I wasn’t laughing. Philosophers aren’t funny people. I’m not saying that I didn’t laugh because of the occasionally unintentionally funny thing in philosophy, there’s plenty of that. Reading anything on the “problem of evil” is inintentionally hillarious. But, beyond the inintentional humor… well… there just isn’t any. I heard this joke, see if it’s funny:

Descartes walks into a cafe. The waitress asks him if he

wants anything to drink. He says “yes, please”. She asks,

“Whatdaya have?” Descartes says “Coffee”.

She asks, “Ya want sugar with that?”. Descartes says”I think not”,

and disappears.

was that at all funny?

No. it wasn’t. And that’s exactly my point! There is no possible way to get humor out of philosophy (or out of a philosopher for that matter). I have become funny –for a philosopher. The real tragedy is that not only is philosophy not funny, it takes the funny out of you. It turns you into some sort of analytical philosophy-only being (actually being an existentialist is about as unfunny as you can get, so excluding continental philosophy might be a good thing) who looks at someone’s attempt at humor with quizzical eyes (this actually happened to me once) — AND IT’S NOT BECAUSE WHAT I SAID WASN’T FUNNY. It’s because, next to zombies, philosophers are the least funniest people on the face of the earth.

And I challenge anyone to prove to me otherwise.

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