Why Is This Funny

Why a lens of humor allows you to understand most things

Hi Friends,

In my summary of How To Understand Things, we talked of how we should value intellectual integrity, honesty, and have a scaffolding of things to really understand stuff. This week, I’ve been thinking about humor and why viewing most things in life as funny also reveals a unique truth about them, and why it helps you understand stuff better.

I read somewhere that if you start questioning, “why is this funny,” the answer you get is strikingly more real than if you were to just question “why is this true?”

So, I sat down, burst my ‘seriousness bubble’, and thought about things as if they were funny. I started with the great weirdness around us, the stock market as the first. Why are the markets doing so well even as the economy struggles? Then, I thought about the rapid, accelerated disruption of brick-and-mortar institutions like colleges, due to COVID. Then, I thought about a few other macro fields like politics, economics, tech, and healthcare.

And while the picture is grim in many areas, the reality only dawned on me when I questioned why it was funny. So this does work. While the truth itself may be sad, an effective way to reach that truth is by questioning why the phenomenon you observe is funny in the first place.

A line of questioning you could follow to reach the plain, simple truth is this:

  1. Does this make sense?
  2. Is my sense of the thing distorted from what reality is?
  3. Is this true?
  4. What is this true about? (meaning: What phenomenon makes X true?)
  5. What is true about this? (meaning: What is specifically false and what is specifically true about X?)
  6. Why is this funny?

I have felt that using this line of questioning for anything is super effective, productive, and useful.

Have fun this week :)


PS: I highly recommend checking out Airr, a podcast highlighting service. Sam, the founder of Airr, reached out and nicely explained his project, and I’ve been using it ever since to make cool highlights in a few podcasts I listen to.


- Why Tools Matter - Roam, Notion, and Evernote

One recommendation

- The 3 Biggest Myths About Minimalism — Matt D’Avella

Half A Thought

Listen to the latest episode on Why We Should Take Laughter More Seriously on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. And if you liked it, consider giving us a rating :)

Here’s what we talk about this week: People laugh. A lot. We do it involuntarily, sometimes in embarrassment, through comedy and jokes, or simply to feel more in with the crowd. It is a language in itself, complicated with its own syntax and a social way of communicating. But a lot of times we don’t really know why we laugh. To understand this simple yet deep question, we discuss the theories of humor, the relationship between laughter and the subconscious, and The Joker. Next time you laugh, consider why you’re actually doing it and what meaning it has.

Other Recommendations:

  1. What’s Next In Education - Tiago Forte on David Perrel’s Show
  2. The Tim Ferris Show - Kevin Hart — The Unstoppable Combination of Positivity and Relentless Improvement

The Commonplace Book

A few articles that struck me:

  • Here’s a cool article on how to think about your "career path" as a free agent. (Venkatesh Rao’s work always stimulates.)
  • Here’s the best Twitter thread I’ve come across, till date, and probably will, ever. Look at it for the most forward-thinking folks.
  • Here’s a little post on ‘5 pieces of essential life advice from seniors’ on TED Ideas.