Comedians Are Finding The Funny in a Heated Topic

The New York Times Metropolitan Section, print edition, Feb. 25, 2024

New York Times Letter on Comedians Are FindingThe Funny in a Heated Topic

A reader also responded by letter to Hilary Howard’s Feb. 11 article on how comics are
increasingly turning their attention to the climate crisis:

IS THERE SUCH A THING as a topic that should be “off limits”?

Schopenhauer knew all truth must pass through three stages:

  1. First it is ridiculed.

  2. Then it is resisted.

  3. Then it is accepted as self-evident.

Given that each stage is inevitable, we might as well get the ridicule over and done with as completely as we can.

The ‘That’s Not Funny’ Crowd, the latest self-appointed incarnation of the Society for the Preservation of Decency and Morality, prefers to shut down everything they disagree with.  That is more dangerous than the ridicule we fear, as it only postpones acceptance.

Comedians are on our side whether they intend to be or not.  Those with us lampoon our beliefs of “how things should be.”  Those who seem to oppose us uncover those same prejudices.

When thoughts that are “not allowed” are driven underground, they silently fester and become malignant, erupting in the violence that accompanies resistance when we’ve tried to bypass Step One.

Comedy is healing, but only if we let it be,
rather than direct it to be.
The marker indicating your movement has succeeded is that it is able to laugh at itself, which only comes through (self-)acceptance.


The writer is a standup comic who also works
startup electric vehicle companies.

Yes, I like my letter that much

PDF Downloads

There's more to the story, and maybe one day I write a whole article on this, but, if you are half as interested in thinking about this as I am, here it is:
Schopenhauer & Comedy  Tim McNerney's Letter to The New York Times

For the PDF of the letter as printed click here.

Schopenhauer and Comedy Original Text of Tim McNerney's Letter to The New York Times

For a PDF of the original text click here.

More thoughts in similar vein

"Laughter became a path to acceptance as audiences went from laughing at people they didn't understand to laughing with people they were beginning to understand."

— Cappy McGarr 
Laughter Is the Best
Medicine for Prejudice

Wall Street Journal
March 22, 2024

Cappy McGarr is a co-creator of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.  His article appeared one month after my letter to the Times.
Is there such thing as a joke that cannot be told?

Q: How do you make sure being offensive isn't confused with trying to get someone to laugh at themselves?

There is no joke that cannot be made. Every joke can be made as long as it is excellently crafted. So, I think if you are veering in the way of offensive and people are being offended by your writing, then you just need to write better.

— Robin Thede 
A Black Lady
Radio Interview

National Public Radio's 1A
August 1, 2019

Robin Thede created and co-stars in the Emmy-nominated HBO series A Black Lady Sketch Show.