Saturday, March 10, 2007

In Praise of Inside Jokes

Brothers, Sisters, and Transgendered Comedists Everywhere,

Before we get to this weekend's sermon, let me address a couple of questions from the congregation. Brother Phil asks,

"How would the 'comedist school' relate to other philosophical categories? Is it 'analytical' or 'continental'?"
Analytic or continental? Since some who hear of us are pissed and think we're out of control, I'd have to say we are incontinental?

Brother Claude asks,
"Why is Comedism monotheistic? How can the same god have brought us slapstick and absurd humor? Isn't a pantheon of gods bickering and shoving cream pies in each other's face more funny?"
The true beauty of Comedism is that our central theological commitment is to that which is funny and since funny requires seeing things from multiple perspectives, Comedists are free to simultaneously be monotheistic (that is, believing in the existence of a single Cosmic Comic), polytheistic (believing that the Humorous Gods form the ultimate comedy troupe), or pantheistic (believing in the divinity of cookware).

Friends, my single biggest laugh this week came from the "Brain Hammer," the wonderful blog of good brother Pete Mandik. Earlier this week, he had a list of philosophical "yo mama" jokes. While many of them were good solidly constructed jokes, the one that really got me was
"Yo mama's so fat that when she sits around the house, she sits AROUND the house in every possible universe."
Now the root of this joke is as old as fat mamas, but the twist was to make it a joke about theories of modal semantics and would only be funny to those people in that club (fortunately, we just happen to have a regular here who wrote his dissertation on interpretations of modal semantics and another who is looking at this sort of question for his dissertation, so for them -- is that a good one or what?) This is an inside joke. A joke designed to appeal to a particular segment of the population that knows it is a distinct minority.

Inside jokes become extra funny when they are gotten. Jokes that really aren't that good, become instantly better with the recognition of them as inside jokes. The reason is distinctly Comedist -- again, the central theological notion behind Comedism is that there are always other perspectives from which to see life, jokes depend upon this multi-perspectival stance. An inside joke not only makes a funny, but also is an active affirmation of the fact that this little group that the teller and hearer are a part of is there to give another angle on reality. They exist to enrich the world by providing another route to humor.

It is true that there is the price of exclusion. Inside jokes mean there are people on the outside. It creates an us vs. them and this is not always healthy. but what makes the inside joke funny is that the inside group is small. Everyone understands the humor of the dominant group since they control the culture. You can't have inside jokes if you are the ones in power. But small groups, those with less social cache, they have the power of the inside joke. When you hear an inside joke and are on the outside, you know you were just left out. And even they are then explained to you, they cease to be funny. It is only the persecuted minority that gets the laugh. That is how the powerless get comically transformed into the powerful and once again there is another way to look at something. The Cosmic Comic be praised. All is funny.

So what are your favorite inside jokes? Here's mine:
Did you hear about the new physics nightclub? It's called the h-bar.