Last Updated on March 17, 2021
I can’t overstate how important humor is. I grew up in a culture where joking around and bantering is crucial for social connection. I don’t think I have any friends who don’t make me laugh deeply and regularly.
Why we laugh
I loved reading John Allen Paulos’s book Mathematics and Humor.
Laughter is due to the discharge of emotional energy that, “owing to its greater mass momentum, is unable to follow the sudden switch of ideas to a different type of logic or a new rule of the game; less nimble than thought it tends to persist … and finds its outlet in laughter.Mathematics and Humor
A necessary ingredient of humor is that two (or more) incongruous ways of viewing something (a person, a sentence, a situation) be juxtaposed.Mathematics and Humor
This is a funny and true phenomenon.
Diderot wrote, “A sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs.”
And so he coined the phrase l’esprit d’escalier — the spirit of the stairs, or staircase wit. In Yiddish it’s trepverter. Germans call it treppenwitz. It’s been called elevator wit, which has a sentimental resonance for me. My personal favorite is afterwit. But the idea is the same — it’s the incisive remark you come up with too late. It’s the hindered comeback. The orphaned retort. And it carries with it a sense of regret, disappointment, humiliation. We all want a do-over. But we’ll never get one.Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges