The Modern Stand-Up Philosophers

In a perfect world, my life’s work would be to find myself some library steps, a toga, and a nice comfy cushion. I would talk shit with whomever hangs out on city library steps these days: librarians, junkies, politicians, sixth graders on a homework assignment. We would shoot the breeze about philosophy and religion, Marvel vs DC characters and the Smoot Hawley tariff, the benefits of free needle exchange.

Unfortunately, it’s been a few millennia since that particular gig was on offer, so I am stuck with the alternative — somewhere between a travel writer, journalist, almost-board game inventor, communications strategist, housewife.

But the people who are actually doing this? You know them. They’ve found their Comedy Central version of library steps and they show up every week, spouting philosophy in the guise of yellow latex-wearing rap video dancers.

Amy Schumer. Key & Peele. Jon Stewart. John Oliver. Stephen Colbert. Louis CK.


I’m currently in ‘comedy school’ at Second City, studying sketch comedy,  improv, and writing for The Onion. After journalism school at Berkeley, I entered travel writing because I realized reading a newspaper article never changed my life the way traveling had.*

Now I’m studying humor and satire because I realized couching a truism in comedy allows it to reach that mystical, shamanic, dream-like part of the brain.

Case in point: Clinton, Bush Jr and Obama all more or less admitted to drug use. Clinton’s cagey answer was the ‘I did not have sex with that woman’ of bong hits. Bush Jr’s ‘Going back seven years, I have not done any drugs’ was equally namby pamby.

But Obama spoke about it honestly, and almost in a proud way, joked, “Yeah, I inhaled. Frequently. That was the point.”

This is what the best comedy does: take an issue, look at it, make us laugh, and we move on.

Or so we think.

Diehard detractors freaked out, of course, but for the most part, we all chuckled and life went on. But, ten years later, 23 states have some form of legalized marijuana use. Do I think the two are directly connected? Not exactly. But do I think that the one influenced the others? Absolutely.

To celebrate comedy as modern-day philosophers, here are two recent Inside Amy Schumer videos I could not love more:

This Friday Nights Lights parody about the general acceptance of rape was written by Christine Nangle, who also wrote an equally brilliant take on military rape a few seasons ago.

And, just for (heh heh) shits and giggles, here’s an inappropriately perfect sketch of hers I love just as much, in a vastly, vastly different way:

Here’s Key & Peele‘s take on racism in the post-alien apocalypse:

*Also, because, frankly, I’m kind of a shitty reporter.

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