Monday, July 08, 2013

one of the best examples of academic humor

Smart people, especially academics, often have dreadfully desiccated senses of humor. It's rare for me to laugh at most highbrow attempts at levity: they're so embarrassingly lame. My mother, who worked with a diverse crowd that included some wannabe intellectuals, would often grouse, "You need a bucket of water for your dry jokes!"—itself something of a clichéd reaction, but certainly funnier than the dusty-fart humor she had to tolerate all day long.

My own sense of humor is admittedly lowbrow: I enjoy the stupid, the inane, the disgusting, and the cheerfully vulgar. Loud sarcasm, boorish insults, and everything antipodal to subtlety are where I'm at. This may be one reason why I so enjoyed "This Is The End" (reviewed here), a movie that no one will mistake for a Merchant-Ivory production. Sure, I'm capable of understanding (and even making) obscure, pedantic references, but the highbrow is by no means my default setting when it comes to jokes. Jesus fuck, no.

And that's what makes the following bit of highbrow humor all the more extraordinary for me. I just saw this post from Research Fundermentals, tweeted by a certain Mike Taylor (no idea who he is) and retweeted by Steven Pinker (whom I follow on Twitter). By the end of the joke, I was chortling out loud, probably because this was a sad-but-true sort of moment: yes, folks, humanities academe really can be like this—a pathetic, incestuous, solipsistic world.

Go read the joke, then come back.

The piece's humor worked on several levels for me. There was the obvious finger in the eye to PC/leftist academe. There was the satirical take on the peer-review process. There was the almost-plausibility that real profs actually do think like this. Then there was the Easter Egg hunt for which peer reviewer was the "dangerous crackpot" referred to earlier in the post (several candidates recommended themselves; I'd vote for reviewer 3, but 5 is a close second). All in all, I had a good laugh. Now, if more highbrow humor were actually funny, as this piece is, I'd consider switching allegiances, abandoning the smell-me-finger-twas-up-me-bum crowd for a more rarefied gelotological perch.

PS: for my money, the funniest line was "Consider moving beyond your internalist approach." I busted a gut at that.



Charles said...

This is one of those pieces that made me laugh and cry at the same time, and both for pretty much the same reason: namely that it is so true.

Kevin Kim said...

"Like a lot of things in life, we laugh because it's funny and we laugh because it's true."

—Al Capone (Robert De Niro), "The Untouchables"