Comedy and the New
Whitehead, Deleuze, and Reggie Watts
Good comedians are great philosophers.
“Good comedians are great philosophers. You can either just have fun with the joke or you can have fun with the joke and think about the implication of it. It’s totally up to the listener.” — Reggie Watts
Alfred North Whitehead and Giles Deleuze both place creativity, novelty, innovation and the New at the center of metaphysical speculation....Philosophy from Plato to Heidegger is largely oriented toward anamnesis (reminescence) and aletheia (unforgetting), towards origins and foundations, towards the past rather than the future. Whitehead breaks with this tradition when he designates "the production of novelty" as an "ultimate notion" or "ultimate metaphysical principle." Deleuze similarly insists that the New is a value in itself: "the new, with its power of beginning and beginning again, remains forever new."
-- Stephen Shaviro, Interstitial Life: Novelty and Double Causation in Kant, Whitehead, and Deleuze
God as a Lure toward Comedy
One role of comedy in human life is to create what Whitehead calls novel contrasts. Contrasts include ideas, images, sounds, and gestures that are brought together in surprising ways such that they are together and yet different, different yet together. Their very juxtaposition can be confusing, because they destabilize habitual ways of thinking. And yet the novelty is surprising and thus funny; and destabilizing itself can be productive, because in the very act of destabilizing the familiar; they open up space for the discovery of new ideas.
In process philosophy the act of discovering new ideas is a form of spirituality in its own right. It is one way that human beings respond to a lure within the very depths of the universe toward the production of novelty. This lure is the immanence of God in the world. God is always ahead of us, beckoning us to let go of the familiar and step forward into the unfamiliar, like Abraham and Sarah on their way to an unknown land.
Sometimes this beckoning is immensely serious, like Martin Luther King sharing a Dream; and sometimes it is wonderfully hilarious, like Reggie Watts giving a TED talk. One function of laughter in human life is to relinquish the familiar in openness to the New. Indeed when we laugh at and with Reggie Watts in his Ted talk, delighting in his creative nonsense, we are, for the moment, responding to the lure toward comedy. A space opens up in our heart so that we can become more open-minded and open-hearted. Patricia Adams Farmer calls it becoming a fat soul. In the process of becoming a fat soul, humor plays an important role. In the beginning was not the word. In the beginning was the New and sometimes it takes flesh, not as suffering or even courage, but as soul-widening laughter. The laughter is pleasurable in its own right, and that makes it worth it. But the key is to turn the moment of laughter into a recurrent attitude in daily life, not because everything is funny, but because what the world sorely needs are open hearts and open minds who can laugh when it's time to laugh and cry when it's time to cry. Comedy helps us deal with tragedy and, when needed, turn bitter grapes into sweet wine.
-- Jay McDaniel
Jokes are creating new ideas