Next Meeting – “What does 'funny' mean?”
Tuesday 15 July 7.30 — 9.30pm, at the Bull
One of the great conundrums of our time is this: "why do people still flock to stand-up performances by Ken Dodd?" And what is worse, why do people still apparantly find him so funny and laugh at his jokes? Surely it is perfectly obvious to anyone with a modicum of reflective capacity that he is corny, cliched, infantile and totally without wit or humour! Ken Dodd is just not funny, but some people disagree with me. How can that be so?
What is humour? What is funny? What does 'funny' mean? We know that it is universal across all human cultures right back to the dawn of civilisation. The oldest recorded joke is a dreadfully corny fart joke, showing that Ken Dodd or one of his ancestors must have been around in 1900 BC.
There are three leading theories, or categories of theory, of humour: Superiority, Relief and Incongruity, Unfortunately none of them quite capture the wide range of things that give rise to laughter.
Probably the best account so far is that put forward by Arthur Koestler in his book The Act of Creation in which he suggests that jokes involve two insecting frameworks of understanding that appear 'logical' yet actually contradict each other. The sudden realisation that the frameworks conflict is what gives rise to the explosion of laughter. OK, it's not a funny theory but it's pretty interesting. The relevant chapter in the book is The Logic of Laughter which is definitely worth a read.
A 30 minute lecture by Jonathan Miller in the QED series is very entertaining too and illuminating.
Helping us to evaluate these theories at our next meeting of the Stoa will be Oliver Double, who runs an MA course on stand-up comedy at the University of Kent. So if anyone can explain why Ken Dodd is supposed to be funny, it should be him!
Come along and bring your favourite joke with you for analysis.
What is the Stoa?
The Stoa is a philosophy discussion group which meets every month in the The Bull pub in Tanners Street, Faversham to talk about serious issues but without being too solemn about it. None of us are professional, academic philosophers and although it's "popular" philosophy we're interested it's never dumbed-down!
When do you meet?
We meet on the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 7.30 — 9.30pm although many members continue informal discussion in the bar after the meeting finishes.
Where do you meet?
We meet in the back bar of The Bull pub in Tanners Street, Faversham, ME13 7JL. Directions...
How much does it cost?
There is no charge for membership but we do have a whip-round of £1 each just to cover the cost of the room.
What kinds of things do you discuss?
Browse through our Topics page to see what we've discussed at previous meetings.
What do you do?
Each meeting is led by a member or a visiting speaker and is generally based one or more articles we have all read (although it's not critical that you read the articles beforehand). Links to all the articles can be found on the Topics page and the dates of meetings can be found on the Schedule page (which includes a link back to the relevant reading).
Who can attend?
Everybody is welcome!
How can I get on your mailing list?
Drop us a line via the Contact form and you will be receive our monthly bulletin "News from the Stoa".
In classical Greek architecture the stoa was the covered promenade attached to the marketplace which became the place where philosophers frequently met to dialogue and debate. In fact it was this habit of regularly meeting in the stoa that earned the 'Stoic' school their epithet: it simply meant "guys who hang out at the stoa and chew the fat!". I like to think that the title of our group suggests an open marketplace where ideas can be traded and critical thinking is our currency.
What is Marginalia?
Marginalia is a blog containing random notes, scribbles, comments, jottings and drolleries on a variety of philosophical topics, including those discussed at the Faversham Stoa. While the notes in the topics section of this site are intended to be fairly impartial, the ideas and polemics in Marginalia are unapologetically my own. You are welcome, indeed encouraged, to append your comments to the entries and start a conversation.
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