What’s funny? How comedians translate humor.

When it comes to making others laugh, you have to help them observe an absurd fact of life with you.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS: The first thing you start with when you're trying to write something funny is it has to – it really has to come to you first. I has to be an idea that you have that first makes you laugh, that strikes you as funny. And I think this is – this is always a weird thing to explain to people who are not in comedy what that is like because it's not as if I think of a written out joke that I tell myself. It's really – it's a flash of an idea that strikes you as funny. It's the same for everybody. It's just you, something strikes you as funny it literally strikes you as funny that all of a sudden you're amused by something. And then the job of the comedian, anyone who's trying to express humor to other people, I always think of it as an act of translation. And there's a language that I speak inside my head. There's a language that we all speak. What I have to do is convert it from the language that I speak in my head to a language that everyone will understand. And the heartbreak of it is is that it's never, ever – I'm never ever going to be able to open up my head and let you see it the way that I saw it. I'm only going to come so close. But the goal always is to get close enough. So if I can explain this concept to you I can show you why it is funny than that's the job, you know, then mission accomplished.

But, you know, it's weird to think about but there's that feeling that we all get when we make ourselves laugh, you know. And making yourself laugh is not a shameful thing. It's not an egotistical thing. Everyone does it. Everyone does it. You have an observation and it strikes you as funny. That's just built into us, you know.

I think that the idea of what makes people laugh is the ongoing search and, you know, for me the most heartbreaking thing is there's something that occurred to me as being hilarious that's so funny and I can never explain it to people. I can never fully translate it to people. And that happens occasionally that I can try to reword it, I can try to set it up differently but I can never get it to be as funny to other people as it is to me. And it could be that that's the breakdown of common experience. And that's where our minds are all different. I think that we're the same more than we are different and I think that the commonality of experience that we share is great and broad. And I think those are the things that always hit home the most. I think that we all enjoy silliness to varying degrees but I think everyone can enjoy a relatable thing if it is expressed in a funny way. There's something about that connection that I think is much deeper and much richer a lot of the time. That you may laugh out loud more at a silly thing but it's a different emotion when you're laughing at a thing that you relate to.

  • When you're trying to write something funny, it has to be an idea that first strikes you, personally, as funny.
  • The reason for this is that, then, it's something you're genuinely amused by. When this is so, it's based on observation of an experience that others may relate to.
  • The next step, after this, is to try to translate it for others to understand. Sometimes you can't reword it perfectly for others to appreciate because the words themselves carry different notes of meaning to you. Nevertheless, the aim is to try to keep your audience's jargon, their palette of words, in mind.

New AI can identify you by your dancing “fingerprint”

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  • The way we dance to music is so signature to an individual that a computer can now identify us by our unique dancing "fingerprint" with over 90 percent accuracy.
  • The AI had a harder time identifying dancers who were trying to dance to metal and jazz music.
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Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love my tsundoku.

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Study suggests sperm donation, like organs, should be allowed post-mortem

Is it ethical to use a dead man's sperm to become pregnant?

Photo by Lina White on Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • Many parts of the world are suffering from a shortage of sperm donors due to the high bar for acceptance and varying laws regarding donor anonymity.
  • A recent article suggested that, as a solution, we should consider allowing men to opt-in to posthumous sperm donation, much like men and women do for organ donation.
  • It's technically feasible, but how would we navigate the complex ethical and legal issues surrounding such a proposal?

Can, and should, dead men procreate? Yes and yes, says a recent article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

The UK is facing a sperm donor crisis. According to the article, UK sperm banks only take on a few hundred new donors per year, forcing them to import thousands of sperm samples from the U.S. and Denmark, which dominate the global market for sperm donations due to their high supply.

These countries have a high supply of sperm primarily because of laws and regulations protecting the donor's anonymity — in the UK, for instance, babies born from sperm donations are permitted to contact their biological father after they turn 18, an emotional confrontation that dissuades many from donating. In fact, in a 2016 study based in the U.S., 29 percent of current donors said they would have refused to donate if they could not be anonymous.

How can we increase the supply of sperm donors while simultaneously shielding donors from a potentially life-upending confrontation and providing children with the right to know their own ancestry? Allow for post-mortem sperm donations. Men could opt-in to become sperm donors after their death, just like they do as organ donors. So long as they were collected no longer than 48 hours after death, sperm could be collected via surgery or electrical stimulation of the prostate and be frozen for later use.

"If it is morally acceptable that individuals can donate their tissues to relieve the suffering of others in 'life-enhancing transplants' for diseases," wrote the article authors, "we see no reason this cannot be extended to other forms of suffering like infertility."

A legal and ethical quandary?

As it turns out, this idea isn't all that new. The first posthumous sperm retrieval occurred in 1980 after a 30-year-old man suffered a fatal brain injury in a car accident. His family requested that his sperm be preserved, which was done through surgery soon after he had been declared dead.

There have been numerous postmortem sperm retrievals since then, but they've always existed in a legal grey area. For instance, in 1997, a UK man named Stephen Blood caught meningitis, collapsed into a coma, and died soon after. His wife, Diane Blood, had requested that doctors extract two samples of semen from Mr. Blood.

However, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had forbidden Mrs. Blood from using those samples to become pregnant, as Mr. Blood had passed away prior to giving written consent to the procedure. In the UK posthumous sperm donation is illegal without written consent. After an appeal, Mrs. Blood was permitted to seek fertility treatment outside of the UK and later gave birth to a son.

Other countries, such as France, Germany, and Taiwan, have a full ban on posthumous fertilization. At the same time, countries like the U.S. and Belgium have no legislation on the subject whatsoever. Given the complex legal, ethical, and medical nature of posthumous fertilization, this range of legislative response is not unexpected. For example, is it ethical to collect sperm from an individual who never wanted to procreate in a country where the young population is dwindling and sperm donors are in short supply? Such is the case in many parts of the UK Is it reasonable to collect sperm from donors who have died and who are, by extension, more likely to be older and with less healthy sperm? Is the offspring of a deceased sperm donor considered to be the donor's legal heir?

These and other issues muddy the waters for countries when crafting policies around posthumous sperm donation. However, the authors of the recent Journal of Medical Ethics article argue that allowing for this procedure is at the very least ethically permissible and likely beneficial for society at large.

"The ability to reproduce matters to people and donated sperm enables many people to fulfill their reproductive desires," write the authors. "It is both feasible and morally permissible for men to volunteer their sperm to be donated to strangers after death in order to ensure sufficient quantities of sperm with desired qualities."