Letters from Home

Bedtime Stories

Years ago, back when we were in grad school, studying Kant and Descartes and Aristotle and Plato, a friend of ours had an interesting remark:

A philosophy of comedy needs to be funny.

What was interesting about his remark, besides its cleverness, was what he was getting at: The essence of something needs to be what it is. If you’re getting at the essence of comedy, what it’s about, how it works — which is what you do in philosophy, and why philosophers get laid so hard — your understanding of it needs to be funny itself. Which is the classic problem with explaining a joke: There are the ingredients, but where’s the soufflé?

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