Good comedy and good scholarship are about challenging expectations. Still, they are an odd couple to pair in a single blog post (it doesn’t fit our expectations): there is seldom anything scholarly in comedy, and even rarer is there anything intentionally comic in scholarship. Philosophy jokes are even rarer, and less funny, than fencing jokes. For example:
When you’re at a party, you can always tell who fences with which weapon by what they talk about. In one corner will be the foil fencers, and they’ll be talking about the style and the finesse of the moves. In another corner will be the epee fencers, and they’ll be talking about the dynamics and continuities of the moves. In the third corner will be the saber fencers, who will all be talking about themselves …
It is actually a lot funnier if you’re a fencer, but it is still clear enough that even non-fencers might well be amused by the wordplay. Here, on the other hand, is pretty much the only philosophy joke I know:
Herr Doktor Professor strides into the lecture hall, turns and faces the terrified students in attendance. “I have come,” he declares, in his booming but gravelly voice, “to talk to you about … ZE UNIVERSE!! Und vhy, you ask, am I here to talk about … ZE UNIVERSE??!!” Herr Doktor Professor pauses, glares at all the intent faces, and then shrugs. “Because zats all zere is …”
Like I said, pretty sad. I’m the only person I know who has ever laughed at that joke. And that was even before I’d read much Hegel.