Laughter: The Only Thing in Life That Will Save You From Looking Stupid

Comedy isn't just one thing, says stand-up comic Ian Edwards. It's a number of things, each of which are distinctly important.

Ian Edwards: I like a comic who can make people realize how stupid they are and how over serious they're taking something. And like somebody that can do that can calm like a rough sea because the last thing anybody wants to do is look stupid while they're trying to be serious. And sometimes when you get emotionally caught up in something, only humor can cut through all that seriousness to show people the real point of the thing and how stupid they look. And that's when people will back away from all this dumb serious stuff and just be like if I don't laugh right now, I'm going to look like an idiot and let me just relax. So I think that's what comedy is for.
Even sometimes, like when I'm in a relationship and I was serious about something that was so important to me and then later on I realize I'm a comic, why didn't I — why did I take this moment so serious? That was so dumb of me. Like my comedy is not just for onstage; it's for moments like this when things are getting heated between me and my girl I'm supposed to use this to help and I didn't. Like what an idiot. You feel stupid because it can solve so many things.

Comedy is like sex. Like if a lot of people didn't have sex, they'd be worse human beings. But because they're having sex, you don't see how bad they could be. So then there's pleasures in life that kind of work like something to keep the migraines away. It's like if we didn't have sex, if we didn't have comedy or just other things that make us happy, there would be a bunch of people walking around with migraines. Imagine if everybody in the world had a migraine. There’s a way to be irreverent and PC. Like there’s a way to do it where you close all the loopholes for people to attack you, but you can say things that people do not like. So I think that’s my approach. Just for a protection mechanism, like as a comic you want to be able to say what you’ve got to say, but you also have to protect yourself because people can attack you and take you down. Like you’re going to go up and on your way up and when you get to the top you’re going like bring you down and you worked hard in this business and you don’t want people to just destroy everything you have. I’m going to say this thing, but I’m going to figure out mathematically how to say it so that nobody can prove this equation wrong. So I’m going to say this and there’s nothing you can do about me saying it because of the way I say it. So you try to make it difficult, but I still got to say it.

America has had biting social satire since at least the mid-'50s (Lenny Bruce). We’ve gone through many convulsions as a society, but we’re still (again) in the midst of racial anxiety and social upheaval (rich-poor gap, Donald Trump’s xenophobia). Ian Edwards' comedy often deals with issues of social discomfort around race and identity. More than any other profession, stand-up comedy is about getting to the truth of who you are, and becoming at ease with that. Edwards discusses comedy not as one single thing but as several, distinct things. Comedy is an antidote to taking life too seriously — an equivalent to sex, and a way to safely express truths that aren't politically correct.

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

Sponsored
  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.