The Moral Universe Of Jokes

Jun 21 2011 @ 6:29pm

Adam Serwer considers the politics of humor:

Comedy is deeply revelatory in the sense that the relationship between a comic and his audience defines the borders of a shared moral universe. When Louis C.K. jokes about how being white means he can time travel wherever he wants, the audience laughs because of a shared understanding about the long historical legacy of racial discrimination against minorities. It's a shrewd joke precisely because it forces the question of discrimination into an impossible hypothetical that circumvents the expected defensive reaction of someone who might normally deny that such things still matter. To think it's funny though, you have to be someone who doesn't pretend that race no longer makes a difference.

Geoffrey Pullum, meanwhile, dissects last week's video of a news anchor trying to tell the Dali Lama a one-liner.