Comedy & Philosophy

When I was 18 I had a friend who studied Philosophy and the subject has always interested me. She told me that in her studies she had collected a number of books on the subject by famous philosophers such as Plato, Nietzsche, Jean Paul Satre, Rene Descartes and many more. She gave her books to me and they were well loved and littered with notes on her own academic reflections. These books fascinated me and even though some of it was beyond my intellect, I constantly felt the need to challenge myself through reading them. As I got older I discovered much more philosophy that rang true with my vision of the world. David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Emaneuel Kant and Schopenhauer being amongst them. Socrates stands out for me in the legend of Philosophy as almost a Jesus Christ figure to whom most of his work was appreciated in retrospect and died when at his peak. Socrates was self confessed as being quite an ugly man and who had such little vanity that he would walk around the streets of Greece in basic garb. Socrates was always challeging public opinon and often angered people with his contrarian views. Philosophy and the constant questioning lends itself to science, and unlike religion does not necessarily only tell us what we want to hear. In ancient Greece when symposiums would be held where large groups of people came together to exchange arguments. The symposiums are not too different to the large numbers of people who attend comedy performances to this day.

I have always been a fan of various comedians but have noticed that there are many comparisons between stand up comedy and philosophy. Bill Hicks (Pictured above) didn’t produce much varying material but the point was that it was strong, poignant and thought provoking. Hicks was often compared to a preacher in the way that he educated his audience. On YouTube you can watch the famous Bill Hicks speech at the end of his Relentless stand up where he refers to life as a ride and says that we should never be scared, and embrace all transitions we face. This philosophy of life spoke to me and a lot of people but particularly angry young men such as myself who find it hard to be accepted and are bitter about the unfairness of life. George Carlin was another obsession of mine and he managed to produce endless material on various subjects and he permanently extinguished my last glimmering ember of religious belief with his “Religion is Bullshit. I have always liked comedians that test the limits of what is acceptable because humour is an important tonic that should help us to deal with personal struggles. In my opinion there are comedians who create jokes that entertain and provoke thought and others that are simply out to offend and leave you talking more about how offensive they were than the calibur of their jokes. Jimmy Carr & Frankie Boyle are good examples of this flat tired routine. British comedy has turned into a conveyer belt of endless panel shows and ‘safe’ comedy. 

Like most young people I have a taste for edgy or unique comedy material. I have to look to America for my most recent comedy hero Louis CK. I have purchased everything he has made and had the pleasure of seeing a performance of his in London. If you watch Of course but Maybe this is another great example of comedy crossing the lines into a thought provoking dialogue. Louis CK has caused a lot of offence with his routines and tests the boundaries which I thoroughly enjoy. Louis often uses a surrealist artwork to depict his personal hardships and observations. In the television series “Louie” he represents his frustration with noisy bin collectors by having them actually smash through his bedroom window and bang the metal canisters an inch from his face whilst he is sleeping. Louis CK is clearly much more than just a comedian as he wrote “Horace and Pete” which is a drama he released exclusively online with no marketing what so ever, he simply emailed the fans on his mailing list and said it was available for purchase at $5.

I love laughing because it feels like someone has tapped directly into your soul and made everything a bit brighter. It is important to have heros. I personally believe that we cannot just be handed a way to live by others we need to read literature and try new things to broaden our horizons and understanding of the world. Laughter and fun give rise to creativity, creativity gives birth to art and art inspires love and understanding. You have to see things differently and be willing to learn in order to love others, this is summed up beautifully in the below which was written into Horace and Pete as a dialogue between a little girl and a sweet old man:

Old man: *walks over to a little girl who can be seen punching her stomach*

Old man: What are you doing little girl?

Little girl: my stomach hurts so bad I wanna pound my stomach because it’s hurting me so much!

Old man: that’s not how it works little girl, if your stomach hurts and you hurt it more then you hurt more… you have to find the place in you that hurts and be kind to it, be good to it, you need to feed it milk and honey and medicine and you and it will be okay! 

*the old man then reflects* I then though to myself if someone is hurting you, how do you stop them from hurting you? By being good to them and caring to them! You need to take care of people that hurt you!

The Biggest Weakness

Have you ever been so nervous that your stomach hurts? They call it ‘butterflies’ for some reason, but it’s actually just a reduction in blood flow to your stomach, as a result of the fight or flight reaction. I’m going to be quite gross and say when I’m nervous I get the urge to deffocate or even feel feverish or sick. No matter how much I prepare, or try to build my confidence; I always get nervous before a job interview.

Job interviews are confusing because the questioning is always based on distrust. They will never say “Can I trust you to undertake this task?” They will say “Give me an example of when you demonstrated X” but are hoping you will indirectly reveal your abilities of Y. The person holding the interview is never objective either. I look into the face of everyone who interviews me and there is always a catch in the eye as if they are judging me and getting a certain pleasure from it. No single employee will be under as much scrutiny in a job interview, as they would be in any other meeting, unless they were being disciplined. The notes are quickly jotted down as you answer their questions and you wonder whether their writing will do your answer justice when they review it again 24 hours later.

I once had an internal interview and learnt the hard way that you cannot have a laugh with the interviewer. Even if they know you very well, they will always read joviality as being too casual or unprofessional. You are much better off sticking to the robotic soul-less persona you normally hold when at work.

I have hosted interviews and it makes you feel powerful knowing someone’s life choice is now in your hands. You take pleasure in catching people out and I can’t imagine the amount of ridicule I have received after I leave an interview. I still have doubts about one interview when someone took out a banana mid question and proceeded to eat it in front of me. I managed to avoid asking questions through mouthfuls when I was the interviewer.

I normally prepare for my interviews by looking up example questions online and have a think about how I would answer them. I always see questions like “Why should we hire you?” and “What is your biggest weakness” but there is one question I have never been asked, but wish I had been: “If you could be any animal what would you be and why”. I have dreamt of this question and always had the following answer ready in my mind:

If I could be any animal I would be an Eagle. I would be able to soar majestically with a complete control of everything on the plain below me. I would be able to reach new heights and fly above the rain”.

My competing candidate would say “I dunno a bunny rabbit I guess tee hee” and they would get the fucking job, because poetry and intelligence is not important when you are applying for a non-managerial role.

The atmosphere found in most interviews is that of a clinical nature, and there is certainly no space for personality or even a soul. The responsiveness of those sat opposite you is as tepid as the complimentary glass of tap water they provided you with.

For it is only a handful of the worst human characteristics that help you thrive in an interview. Narcissism, Arrogance, big headedness, two faced ness and worst of all Greed. Let’s not deny Greed, because afterall why are you going for the position? to earn more money! To buy more useless material crap that will eventually break and then you’ll buy more crap. If people weren’t greedy you would have CEO’S on the national minimum wage.

If you are excellent at your job, you have superb levels of experience and perhaps even a few qualifications, but are useless at interviews you are fucked. Is the interviewer always right in their decision? have they always given the person the best chance to demonstrate their knowledge, or is that all clouded by trick questioning and unfair scrutiny. There must be thousands of people that will work very hard for a company if they could only be given a chance.

I have come to the conclusion that success in an interview is nothing to do with your knowledge or experience it is simply whether you can impress the person hosting it. When you leave the room after the interview has concluded, you stand a higher chance of getting the job if there are people fighting your corner. Never be afraid to show your true smile and don’t too be harsh on the interviewers if they don’t give you the job, every interviewer makes mistakes too.