Yup, I’m a philosophy grad- twice over, actually. I’ve studied it, I’ve taught it, and I’ve written about it. The years I spent immersed in the academic side of philosophy were among the happiest and most fulfilling of my life. I don’t, however, consider myself an academic philosopher anymore. Maybe I never really did. That’s not to say that I’ve hung up my toga. I’m not sure it’s possible to crawl back into the cave once you’ve been out in the sun (high five to Plato). I’ve just become accustomed to looking for big questions and arguments in other places. When you’re a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail (last metaphor , I promise).
These days, I get my philosophy from movies, from television, from music, and even from advertisements, and I’m not alone. There are a slew of writers and thinkers devoted to digging for it in popular culture. My favourite source is, and has been for a long time, in the wonderfully wise-assed rantings of stand up comedians. Tackling difficult issues through laughter isn’t anything new. Satirists have been doing it for thousands of years, and it works. Comedic philosophy is especially potent in stand up, when the audience is addressed directly, the comedian is speaking with his or her own voice, and the raw energy of a live performance is there to amplify their ideas.
I’d like to pay tribute to the brave thinkers who spend hours writing material, schlepping from club to club, and enduring hecklers, all in the name of being able to say “What about this? Have your ever thought about it this way?” Here are some of my favourites:
- Want to teach yourself to see all angles of an argument, complete with counterexamples? Have a look at Louis CK’s “Of Course…but Maybe.”
- Struggling with questions of identity and personal freedom? Check out Margaret Cho.
- Find yourself questioning political structures? I recommend Russell Brand’s “Messiah Complex.”
- Need a new perspective on feminism? Give Amy Schumer a listen.
- Thinking about the ins and outs of language? George Carlin’s “7 Words You Can’t Say on TV.” will fit the bill.