TED Conversations

Jim Moonan

Owner/Artistic Director, NorthWind Education


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What role do you think humor has in human discourse?

I am a huge proponent of humor used in small measures to enlighten and propel a conversation forward. It is a remarkably versatile and worthwhile ingredient to any recipe for unlocking truths. It has been my experience that TED conversations appear to largely forgo the use of humor as if it were MSG or some kind of unpronounceable chemical additive. Do you think this is an accurate assessment?

On the other hand, many TED talks are well-seasoned with humor and it is standard wisdom that most formal presentations need to be whetted with humor from time to time to keep things “real”.

I’m talking about wit. I’m talking about insightful humor. Twain-like quips. David Sedaris-like observations. Churchillian witticisms. Obama-like levity.

It’s a difficult subject to address seriously. Everyone is born with a sense of humor, yet so often it is kept under wraps when we talk “seriously” about issues.

I am NOT advocating for “laughs”. Not looking for jokes. Not interested in embarrassing someone or offending someone.

I am NOT talking about the “everybody is a comedian” syndrome that seems to infect social scenes nowadays. I am not talking about the pointless, baseless humor meant to shock and offend sensibilities.

I am NOT talking about controversial humor that acts like an irritant.

I am talking about human nature.

How do you feel about it?

Topics: World Peace

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    Nov 24 2011: Silly question: Why is it that women typically say they are more attracted to men who have a "good sense of humor" then almost anything else?
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      Nov 24 2011: Because we are going to have to put up with their jokes anyway so it's better if they are good ones!
    • Nov 24 2011: I have no idea why all women repeat that, really. I simply can't understand why other person should have this so called "sense of humor" instead of each of us who requires it. Maybe people themselves should have the sense of humor that they are looking for all the time:) as well as the ability to ironise and laugh at themselves sometimes. People accept themselves so seriously and in the same time they want someone else to make them laugh. Especially women...I am not looking for sense of humor:). I have sense of humor and the sense of humor comes naturally from the other side. And re: the main question: The sense of humor is important but what is most important (as per my opinion) is not to accept yourself so seriously:)
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        Nov 25 2011: Pocahontas - I think you are onto what is most valuable about humor - it allows us to cope with the cruelties of reality. What if life is meaningless? Laugh it off.

        To be self-effacing is to know you are unimportant in the scheme of things but you're ok with it.
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      Nov 28 2011: To Jim's 'silly question:
      A smile can be a like the humble gesture of Ignatius ( or Augustine or one of those devotes). You kneel and you cannot help but feel humble. You smile and you can't help but feeling the world is a more likable place. A man who makes me smile, has me engaged. A woman who laughs at my jokes makes me feel appreciated. What better way to grow resonance between people.
      That 'reply' button doesn't put the rely anywhere close to the question being answered, just at the end of the list of indentions. On the learning curve.

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