Our seventh edition, Science, Humour and the Absurd is out now!
I’ve been thinking about what humour is, and what it means for something to be ‘funny’. There are definitely different kinds of funny depending on where you live—I know this as a midwestern American now living in Australia. Love you, Oz, but I will never understand Kath & Kim. (I am, however, with you on Team The Office UK.)
But ‘funny’ is more than where we come from or where we find ourselves. So much of humor is in what surprises or unsettles us. Take, for example, the amusing, satirical Ig Nobel prize, which ‘honor[s] achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think’. The Ig Nobel prize recognises, for example, the chemist whose work enabled blue jello (Ivette Bassa, 1992); the inventor of Neuticles, prosthetic testicles for neutered dogs (Gregg Miller, 2005); and the medical team that officially described (finally!) misophonia, the discomfort some people feel at hearing others chew (2020).
There are also—thanks to Homer Simpson—the things that we know as ‘funny, because [they’re] true’. That little spark that comes when we see ourselves in a new, but completely recognisable, way. Among these, my favourites are Seinfeld and The Onion, or this absolute gem, which I discovered via the excellent Austin Kleon newsletter— Science: Abridged Beyond the Point of Usefulness (by Zach Weinersmith, 2017). I have never seen a truer thing written about science and scientists
Some of my favourite humour is strange or absurd—the kind of lightness that, in its proximity, makes the darkness all the more poignant. Taika Waititi’s JoJo Rabbit. Jordan Peele’s Get Out. The incredible art of Patricia Piccinini. And, love or hate him, Ricky Gervais shines so much empathy into the pain of loss.
Our current edition explores all kinds of humour, from all kinds of perspectives—it’s our most international edition to-date! We have chickens, customer service, Dr Moreau tales for the climate emergency and Bombardier beetles shooting fire from their asses.
We hope Edition 7 brings you joy, makes you think and—importantly—makes you laugh.