Sharing a sense of humour with Einstein

If Einstein was alive today he’d probably be laughing at Seinfeld, Three Rocks From the Sun and Malcolm in the Middle. I like those shows too. But I can’t see myself having much else in common with Einstein. What is it about humour that transcends intelligence? How is it that quantum physicists, philosophers, non-achievers and the mentally challenged can all laugh at the same things?

If Einstien were alive today, I imagine he’d be clawing wildly at the inside of his coffin!!!


But! Would he find my joke funny? I dunno…

I don’t know.

But if someone answers the OP, then maybe we can figure out from there why everyone laughs at people falling/tripping/hurting themselves.

Don’t sell yourself short. You have a lot more in common with Einstein than you’d think you might. You’d eat the same sort of food, right? Breathe the same sort of air, huh? Clothes–similar, maybe, who knows what he’d be into today (his brain’s in a jar, idnit?) He even spoke and wrote English.

A different question would be why you think he would be different from you–except in, you know, physics. So, if the only difference was physics, then of course he’d have similar sense of humor (but not identical–you should see some of the physics jokes. Here’s one: a guy walks into a bar and announces he’s just discovered a way to repeal the law of gravity. The bartender says, well, the drinks are on the house then.)

Here’s another:

What do you call a guy in the middle of a church?

The center of mass! :smiley: hahahahahaha

I can see that humour is an emotionally-driven thing and that Einstein’s ability to feel emotions would be the same as mine. But our reasoning capacities would be vastly different.

Understanding jokes requires the use of reason on some level doesn’t it? But the reasoning ability I bring to bear on understanding a Seinfeld joke is different from that required to easily understand Wallace Stevens’ poetry, Wittgenstein’s philosophy and abstract expressionism. How can someone be a big fan of both Wittgenstein and Jerry Seinfeld?

You have inadvertently stumbled onto a topic I’ve been mulling over. Thus, I will launch my thread in yours.

Recently I was rereading Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land. For those unfamiliar with the book, the premise is that a human infant is orphaned on Mars, and raised by Martians. Then at the ripe age of 21, he is “rescued” and brought back to Earth, where he must learn to adapt to other humans and human (especially western) culture. But he knows nothing about being human, as Martians are completely different than humans in physical structure (do not have sex the way we do, there are seven stages to their life), mental ability (they can perform “miracles” like teleportation, mindreading, making things disappear), cultural outlook (their infants are left wild without any guidance or support, and there is a high death rate - only the worthy live to adulthood), and even the ability to exist after death (the body discorporates, but the soul goes on). So consequently this “Man From Mars” is a total outsider to human culture, and has to learn everything anew. This includes everything from the language to wearing clothes to bathing to not “discorporating” someone at will.

How is all this related? One of the points is that the character Valentine Michael Smith (Mike) has no understanding of humor. Finally he has a revelation, and suddenly starts laughing at everything. And then he posits the explanation.

All humor is suffering. Humor is how we deal with pain and stay sane. Think about it - every instance of humor, everything that is funny and makes you laugh - relies at its core on pain - physical or emotional. It’s obvious in slapstick, but not so obvious in other jokes. But it is there.

That is why humor is universal - everyone laughs. It is an inherent part of our being. It is also why humor is subjective - people laugh at different things, because some pains are more personal than others. For instance, physics jokes may only be funny to physicists (and others with strong physics backgrounds), because they rely on some esoteric knowledge and worldview to understand. Whereas Seinfeld might be funny to a broad spectrum of people because it relies on common everyday experiences. The more it relates to your own life, the more you find it humorous.

Does that answer the question?

Can anyone offer an example of humor that does not rely on pain (physical, emotional, psychological - I would count embarrassment as psychological)?

Oh come on now. A lot of humor doesn’t rely on pain. The slapstick comedy depends only incidentally to pain. It is funny because it is incongruous to the norm.

Puns don’t, by their nature, rely on pain. For example, take the joke about the string that goes into a bar that has a sign on it: “No strings allowed.” The bartender tells the string that he can’t serve it. “Can’t you read the sign?” So the string goes out and gets another string to tie a knot on him, and he reeneters the bar. “I told you no strings allowed,” says the bartender.

“I’m not a string.”
“If you’re not a string, can you tell me what you are?”
“I’m afraid not.”

Where’s the pain, except after you finish reading a pun.

One could also ask, where is the humor, but I won’t. Wasn’t it Twain who said that a joke is an epitaph on the death of an emotion? That’s taking it beyond pain.

Irishman’s theory seems sort of Nietzchean if the subject under discussion is humour creation rather than just the appreciation of it. If art is a by-product of anxiety and pain as Nietzche suggested it would follow that comedians lead fairly tortured existences.

Incidentally, I’m quite sure a lot of people aren’t clear what “having a sense of humour” actually means - whether it refers to someone with comedic ability or just someone who is easily amused. So often you see job advertisements asking for workers with great personalities and senses of humour. Does that mean they’re only interviewing clowns?

Doh! “Wit is the epitaph of emotion.” -Nietzche

My theory on humor was that our minds contain points of data and a logic framework that connects them together in a certain way. A “joke” is something that creates a connection where none was before, using pre-existing data points and obeying the rules of our logic framework. Basically, our mind discovers a new way of understanding what it already knows.

This could explain the ‘frayed knot’ and ‘center of mass’ joke reactions, and why we (generally) don’t laugh at “blue are square chocolate!” (maybe it fits your logic system, but not mine) or “2+2=4” (nothing new). It could also explain why we sometimes laugh after solving a difficult problem.

I don’t know how slapstick or Beavis & Butthead fit in, though.


Reminds me of a quote I heard from a comedian (don’t ask who).

Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer.
Oh, and Astroboy, you owe me one (1) keyboard after I spit my drink all over.


sorry, jk1245!!

Many others have cause me to do the same thing, however, so there! :stuck_out_tongue:

Who do you think holds more power - Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Tim Berners-Lee or the world’s number one comedy writer (whoever that might be)? It’s the comedian isn’t it? It’s probably because, ultimately, their talents cannot be broken down, digitalised and manipulated.

Sometimes, but sometimes it’s a “joke” because it defies the pre-existing framework of logic, semantics, or whatever organizing structures normally connect the data.

The subsequently aroused feeling of “humor” is your mind’s way of resolving the violation without having to rebuild your entire notions of said structures to accommodate the non-compliant instance (joke); you are “laughing it off,” so to speak.

Beavis and Butthead don’t fit in, because they’re not funny. When I was a child, slapstick was funny: Abbott 7 Costello, Laura & Hardy, etc. It’s not any more. A pie in the face is no longer funny. Is it because we’ve seen it so many times? Or is it because it’s funny to a child but not to an adult?