Sep 13, 2016

Stoic Comedy and Commentary

A few years back, I came across some of an Australian comedian, Michael Connell's, philosophically-focused comedy routines on YouTube.  After I emailed him and proposed having a chat sometime, we ended up not only doing that, but also carrying on an online correspondence and occasionally collaborating on various projects where our skills and interests intersected.

The first of these collaborations took place on my long-since-lapsed philosophy forum series.  Back then, I was experimenting with Google Hangouts on Air, and so I proposed that Michael and I discuss philosophy and comedy.  Each of us was a seasoned professional in one field and an interested amateur in the other, and it went quite well, I think.

Since then, Michael has been developing a lot more philosophy-informed content - really excellent stuff! - including a short bit with him dressed like the Stoic Emperor, Marcus Aurelius.  More recently, he released his much longer Stoic Comedy Special.   He's also engaged in some thoughtful and illuminating discussion about what attracted him to Stoic philosophy, how he managed to fit it into his comedy work and his life, and what implications it has had for his own craft.

The first of these, I think, is his piece in Stoicism Today, Stoic Comedy is not an Oxymoron, which was soon followed by Donald Robertson's interview with Michael about Stoic Comedy.  There's also a post in Daily Nous from earlier today as well, How To Teach Philosophy In Comedy Clubs.

As he was putting the finishing touches on his special, Michael asked me if I'd be interested in providing a "philosopher's commentary" on his work.  I was honored and jumped at the opportunity to get involved not only in comedy, but his show, in that way.  I'm not a particularly funny guy myself, particularly when you contrast me with an actual commedian, but I can easily provide a "straight man" foil for Michael's dry wit.  

Stoicism also happens to be one of the philosophical traditions in which I've become more and more interested, even immersed, over the last decade or so, and creating the commentary playing off of Michael's references to Stoic ideas and practices, seemed like a project that could culminate in something of interest not only to myself, but perhaps even useful for others.  So that furnished a second good reason to watch and rewatch Michael's routine, reflect on what might be said about it at various points, and then generate some sound files going a bit more in-depth with the Stoic philosophy.

On his end, Michael used those to create a sequence of 14 short videos, assembled into a playlist, Stoic Commentary - Get the philosophy behind the laughs!  Each one starts out at a point in Michael's routine, and then has my commentary discussing that bit of his set.  

In any case, here's the commentary videos - if you'd like to know more about the Stoic philosophy informing Michael's excellent and hilarious comedy routine!