The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…’ — Isaac Asimov
The best humor goes beyond amusement. It can help people see the world from a new point of view and help people change the way they think. The humorist is a gadfly in the best sense of the word, one who annoys the powerful but provokes positive action. Even when kings wielded absolute power, they had the licensed fool or court jester to provide them with the truth in a humorous way. Considering how important humor is, it’s interesting that Donald Trump does not laugh. Below I have some humorous things that make you think and some things that are just funny.
- Some of my favorite humor takes something familiar and looks at it from a different perspective. If you spell American backward and you get “Narcirema.” In Body Ritual among the Nacirema, an anthropologist wrote about Americans from an outsider’s perspective. For some other funny perspectives look at: From C-3PO’s perspective, ‘Star Wars’ is a prolonged nightmare, It’s Time to Admit That Allowing Men Into the Workplace after WWII Was a Mistake, and Zach Morris is Trash
- Some funny videos make great points about work. For anyone who wants to show adding people to a project isn’t better, look at this video of 3 professional soccer players against 100 kids. And for anyone who tells you that kids are just better with technology, look at this video of kids trying to dial a rotary phone.
- Instead of naming their WiFi network something boring like “Schlaff WiFi,” some people have very funny names for their WiFi like “Girls Gone Wireless,” “Mom, Click Here for Internet,” “Definitely Not An FBI Surveillance Van,” “WeCanHearYouHavingSex,” or “C:Virus.exe.”
- Aziz Ansari had a great Netflix special that’s not only funny and thoughtful but tackles his #MeToo debacle head on.
- Chess Boxing is a sport that involves alternating rounds of boxing and chess.
- Spurious Correlations reminds us that just because two things are correlated, doesn’t mean that they have anything to do with each other (e.g., in the years that Nicholas Cage is in more films the number of pool drownings increases). Here’s a great New Yorker cartoon on the topic.
- This guy photoshops himself into Kendall Jenner’s Instagram with wonderful results.
- The New Normal Under Quarantine. This Holderness family vlog is uncomfortably similar to how we’re actually living.
- The Girl Who Had a Total Meltdown When She Found Out McDonalds was Closed.
- Shiny, Happy, People in Quarantine is a satire of what some people are sharing on Facebook.
- A “press conference” highlighting how difficult is to figure out what to do.
- It’s old but Dennis Leary’s A**hole song is a wonderful summary of Americans’ desire to avoid wearing masks.
Things added in 2020
- Jay Forman can sing songs one syllable off. So the notes stay in the same place but the words move.
- Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (soundtrack on Amazon Music) was a project of Joss Whedon, Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day during the writers strike of 2008. They also created an alternative musical commentary soundtrack that you can get on Amazon Prime.
- Possibly the dorkiest wedding proposal ever was when the founder of Slashdot proposed on Slashdot. I also really liked David Pogue’s mixed reality proposal.
- I’ve always loved the Mindset List which will help you empathize with college freshmen and also make you feel quite old. For example, the class of 2023 was born in 2001 and: 9/11 has always been a historical event, the primary use of a phone has always been to take pictures, and they are as non-judgmental about sexual orientation as their parents were about smoking pot.
- I love wrong but creative answers to test questions.
- Gina Pell coined the term “perennial” for the ageless group of people that defy living in any demographic cohort. As an example, watch her recite the first 314 digits of pi while drinking Tequila shots.
- In 2009, Yale students tricked Harvard fans at the Yale-Harvard football game to write the message “We Suck” in giant letters in the stands. My second favorite prank is when my college humor magazine, The Yale Record, pranked the temperance icon Carrie Nation into posing with a bunch of debauched college students.
- Lindy West wrote the book Shrill which then became the Hulu Series. She has an amazingly funny, mean, and probably accurate review of Sex and the City 2.
- At The Moth, a storytelling group, Margot Leitman gives a hilarious talk about being on Let’s Make a Deal
Funny Work and Tech Videos
- Every TechCommercial Ever Made was created in the vein of Apple advertising from quite a while ago — but it’s stood the test of time well.
- What if Google was a Guy who had to answer everyone’s questions?
- A Conference Call in Real Life
- It’s Not About the Nail was shown at Amazon to show how people sometimes don’t see that some problems have obvious answers.
- Facebook in Real Life is an early video showing how your online friends are not real friends.
- The Dollar Shave Club launched its business with this amazing ad.
- In a wonderful send-up of the “Ted Talk” trope, Will Stephen shows how to sound smart at your TED Talk even when you literally don’t have anything to say.
- Before Alexa and Google, we had corporate telephone systems to talk with. In 2002, NPR had a Valentine’s Day story about Tom, the United Airlines telephone system, getting set up with Julie from Amtrak.
- Camille Fournier, the former CTO of Rent the Runway, has a great parody called The Very Model of a Modern Exec-Technical set to the theme of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major-General song.
- My friend Aaron Gertler played a good prank and became the expert on Microsoft Word on LinkedIn.
- Spurious Correlations is a great place to remind you that just because two things are correlated, doesn’t mean that they have anything to do with each other (e.g., Nicholas Cage films vs. Pool Drownings).
- Michael Hearst created a music album with lyrics written by famous people. When Michael Chabon sent a rejection letter, Hearst set that to music.
- I loved Mike Royko’s columns in the Chicago Tribune. His article about people with unfortunate names Killer? Murder? Many Find They Can Live With It is one of my favorites.
- A great joke on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Apple’s planned obsolescence.
- The HBO show Silicon Valley did a great joke on Mansplaining. The only issue I have is that the real Silicon Valley is probably a lot like this
- OK Go makes some amazing videos. My favorite recent one is One Moment. They also have a great TED talk about how they come up with their ideas
- Yakov Smirnoff hasn’t been a household name for 20 years but his standup is really funny. Ben Stiller did a funny parody of Yakov’s fall after the fall of the Soviet Union.
- Chad saves the world is a great Saturday Night Live spoof on how a millennial might respond to an epic quest