Statue of Death, personified as a human skeleton dressed in a shroud and clutching a scythe, from the Cathedral of Trier in Trier, Germany (from here).

John Branyan is writing a book. To see if people will read the book, he has posted a portion of his book in Would You Take Relationship Advice from A Comedian? Here explains humor.

I’ve been writing a book.

It explains my theory that comedy makes relationships better.

Writing a book is hard work.

As I finished one of the chapters, I had this thought:

What if nobody is interested in this?

I’d hate to write an entire book that nobody wants to read.

So I decided to post an excerpt from the book.

This is a little piece of comedy theory:

If you’ve ever played around with a magnet, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it doesn’t work with everything. Magnets don’t work with plastic or glass. They only work with metal but only certain kinds of metal. When I was a kid, this disappointed me. I wanted magnets to be all power forces of attraction. I still kind of wish that was the case. It would be fun to point magnets at squirrels and pull them out of trees. Imagine how easy babysitting would be if children were magnetic. Sadly, magnets don’t work on everything. Magnets only work on certain things. That’s just the way it is. (continued here)

Seems to me that is writing a good book. Using magnets, goes on to explain what makes us laugh. Since he is a comedian, has subject matter expertise and experience. In addition, as a comedian knows how to communicate.

I have neither subject matter expertise or experience. Probably don’t know how to communicate well, either, but this is not the first time I have received an entertaining explanation of why we laugh. So here goes.

When I was a teenager, I read Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. I was astounded. That’s why we laugh? Really? That’s it?

Below is an excerpt from the book. Unfortunately, that excerpt is not especially quotable. Doesn’t stand alone well. So I have included this link from Wikipedia. Briefly, here is what you need to know.

  • Mike is the main character of the book. He has been raised by Martians. Laughter is not something the Martians do. So when he comes to earth, Mike has to figure out laughter.
  • Jill is Mike’s nurse, friend, confidante, and finally a disciple.

In the conversation below between Jill and Mike, Jill is talking first.

“But- Mike, it is not a goodness to laugh at people.”

“No. But I was not laughing at the little monkey. I was laughing at People. And I suddenly knew that I was people and could not stop laughing.” He paused. “This is hard to explain, because you have never lived as a Martian, for all that I’ve told you about it. On Mars there is never anything to laugh at. All the things that are funny to us humans either physically cannot happen on Mars or are not permitted to happen – sweetheart, what you call ‘freedom’ doesn’t exist on Mars; everything is planned by the Old Ones-or the things that do happen on Mars which we laugh at here on Earth aren’t funny because there is no wrongness about them. Death, for example.”

“Death isn’t funny.”

“Then why are there so many jokes about death? Jill, with us-us humans-death is so sad that we must laugh at it. All those religions — they contradict each other on every other point but every one of them is filled with ways to help people be brave enough to laugh even though they know they are dying.” He stopped and Jill could feel that he had almost gone into his trance state. “Jill? Is it possible that I was searching them the wrong way? Could it be that every one of all those religions is true?”

“Huh? How could that possibly be? Mike, if one of them is true, then the others are wrong. Logic.” (from here)

Somewhere along the line something very curious happened with science fiction. Instead of just being about the marvelous possibilities of science, it became a pretext for discussing deeper subjects. Thus, Heinlein’s “Mike”, that guy raised by Martians establishes a church, which oddly enough, some people took quite seriously. That resulted in the Church of All Worlds.

Remarkably, Heinlein’s book was not the first. Others had already used science fictional ideas to start a religion. L. Ron Hubbard started Scientology.

George Lucas, when he created the concept of “the Force” to advance the plot of Star Wars (1977), provided what is perhaps the most recent and most successful manifestation of a science fiction religion.

Anyway, it is all very tragic.

Mask of Dionysus. Greek, Myrina, 2nd century BCE. (from here)


  1. LOL! Well you made me laugh, Tom. The pic of the mask along with the words, “it’s all very tragic” struck me as quite funny. I do really enjoy Branyan and I would definitely read that book. Also, Heinlein was a favorite of mine. I was going to grow up and marry him, become one of his red headed girls. Sadly,God informed me polygamy was out and I cannot be alien, either. Bummer.

    You may enjoy this article, it’s about culture and comedy, too. I often really like this guy’s essays.

    1. @insanitybytes22

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed my attemp at humor.

      Read the post you suggested. Interesting. When I was a boy, I went through a period where I tried to be funny. I don’t think fast enough and well enough on my feet to improvise comedy. Did not understand how much effort it takes to perform, but I did begin to understand the consequences of putting my foot in my mouth.

  2. Never condidered my efforts to remind people about ancient wisdom being a “mission”..

    Now we that you did, I just saw the latest movie of ” missipn impossible” loaded with all kinds of movie stunts.

    In my opinion, those stunts are simple in comparison to remind people the wisdom of understanding “nothing new under the sun” wisdom.

    Regards and good will blogging

  3. Interesting subject. What in the end is more wise? To praise our accomplishments and laugh at our follies.

    Seems to have been a subject in the past too if you read Praise our Follies.

    I believe you commented the the best laugh is when we laugh at ourselves.

    If you listen in to conversations of old relatives and friends in a get together, often we laugh at ourselves about things we did that were serious then.

    Interesting subject to explore.

    Regards and good will blogging

    1. @Scatterwisdom

      Interesting observation. If we can’t laugh at ourselves when we have grown old, that has got to be miserable. It fits your mission to spread Biblical wisdom. If we could not share our stories without crying, how could we demonstrate the value of wisdom?

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