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Making Fun of People Is Inclusive, but Only If It’s Funny

Fear of offending one another is driving us apart, says the celebrated comic. That's why we have comedy.

Lisa Lampanelli: I feel like a comic's job, at least in my opening what I like to do is take the worst subjects on the planet, you know, rape and sexism and racisms and homophobia and anything, I mean, AIDS, cancer, things that people are legitimately scared of, pedophilia, molestation, rape, and if you can sort of shine a light and make light of it a little bit, then you can legitimately help the people who have been a victim of this. What's funny is when people come up to me and it's a black person and they'll be like, "You didn't know enough black jokes." Jewish person, "Hey, where's all your Jewish jokes?" Because people know by making light of it that's how you include people and that's how you include your friends. We all have those friends who we love so much that we just insult when we see them: "Hey a-hole; hey douche bag." That means you're a close friend. If you kind of don't like somebody that much, you find you're not really joking around with them that much. That's what I include everybody on the planet. I don't do that many French jokes because I'm not crazy about them, but everybody else is fair game.


To me there's nothing in comedy that's off-limits. What's off-limits only for me is things I can't make funny. If it's something that I just don't have the skill set for I just kind of leave it to the masters. I remember September 12, 2001, there were already comedians who were highly skilled making jokes about September 11th, and this was in New York City at the Comedy Cellar. I mean there were guys like Colin Quinn, Nick DiPaolo, guys who really felt that they could bring humor to the table with that devastating incident and they could. And I was like I do not have the skills for that. You know what, leave it to them. So that's probably been the one subject area I haven't found a way to make funny yet or shed light on, but some people do. So that's why there can be no line in comedy other than if you can't make it funny. I also was doing crowd work once with a guy and I just kept calling him all the different gay slurs because he was very handsome and I always call a guy gay if he looks like he won't have sex with me. So I was calling him gay this and that. Well, he comes up to me after the show because he had been laughing so hard and he goes, "Well, I think you're kind of a coward because why didn't you make fun of this instead about me?" And he points down that he's in a wheelchair, which I didn't see and it wasn't my fault because the club was dark and his wheels weren't shiny. So he said he goes, "You know what, figure out that as a comic you can make fun of all of us even me." He goes, "Even my disability is something you can make fun of." So I was like man this guy is really open and cool. So that's why I really kind of have no boundaries with crowd work because I go if that guy can take it, everybody can.


To me audience members are paying for punch lines not for prose. They're not paying to see us do therapy for ourselves; they're paying to hear us make light of subjects. So if I can't make it funny, I'm not going to make them sit through it. If comedians would start taking seriously the political correctness that's been rampant for the last 20 years, and it took Seinfeld to bring it to light in the last year or so, then comedy kind of would disappear. I mean look at Louis C.K.; look at Jim Norton; look at myself; look at people who just bring horrible things to light and learn how to make light of it through comedy. If we don't shine a light on it, who's going to? But I think it to somebody like Seinfeld, who's a clean guy for him to say, "Enough; are you kidding me?" So Jerry welcome to my world. That's what I've been dealing with for 25 years. What's funny about college students is it's not the college students that are sensitive; it seems that it's the administration and people afraid to offend the college minorities. I have an audience full of every age group. I have eight nieces and nephews aged 14 to 25 and when they were in college I did some benefits after their colleges, the older ones, and they never seemed really ruffled by any of the stuff I did because I refused to edit. So I don't remember anyone in that age group ever coming up to me and saying, "How dare you?" I think it's the administrations who's scared to offend anyone and I kind of get that. It's like a network being afraid to ruffle any feathers or viewers, but it's just all fear-based. If they only saw that inclusion is better than exclusion, if I include you and if other comics include you, that's a compliment.

Whatever we're most afraid to talk about, that's where comedy should go, says famously outrageous (and outrageously funny) comedienne Lisa Lampanelli. We're spending way too much time tiptoeing around each other for fear of causing offense, and it's driving people and communities apart. Whatever makes us laugh brings us closer together.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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R.P. Eddy wrote about a coming pandemic in 2017. Why didn't we listen?

In his book with Richard Clarke, "Warnings," Eddy made clear this was inevitable.

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
  • In their 2017 book, "Warnings," R.P. Eddy and Richard Clarke warned about a coming pandemic.
  • "You never get credit for correctly predicting an outbreak," says science journalist Laurie Garrett in the book.
  • In this interview with Big Think, R.P. Eddy explains why people don't listen to warnings—and how to try to get them to listen.
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Creativity: The science behind the madness

Human brains evolved for creativity. We just have to learn how to access it.

  • An all-star cast of Big Thinkers—actors Rainn Wilson and Ethan Hawke; composer Anthony Brandt; neuroscientists David Eagleman, Wendy Suzuki, and Beau Lotto; and psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman—share how they define creativity and explain how our brains uniquely evolved for the phenomenon.
  • According to Eagleman, during evolution there was an increase in space between our brain's input and output that allows information more time to percolate. We also grew a larger prefrontal cortex which "allows us to simulate what ifs, to separate ourselves from our location in space and time and think about possibilities."
  • Scott Barry Kaufman details 3 brain networks involved in creative thinking, and Wendy Suzuki busts the famous left-brain, right-brain myth.

What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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New study explores how to navigate 'desire discrepancies' in long term relationships

With the most common form of female sexual dysfunction impacting 1 in 10 women, this important study dives into how to keep a relationship going despite having different needs and wants in the bedroom.

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Sex & Relationships
  • A new study highlights the difficulties faced by women who struggle with decreased sexual desire, and explains how to navigate desire discrepancies in long-term relationships.
  • Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is one of the most common forms of female sexual dysfunction, impacting an estimated 1 in 10 women.
  • Finding other ways to promote intimacy in your relationship is one of the keys to ensuring happiness on both sides.

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