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Ari Shaffir and pragmatism in comedy

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Comedian Ari Shaffir is currently on the chopping block for his dark joke about Kobe Bryant. He has a sort of ritual where instead of praising celebrities when they die, he instead immediately publishes the darkest, cruelest joke he can imagine. In the past, he lost friends over this habit. Now he's losing gigs.

At first I wondered whether Shaffir is simply a nihilist. But after watching this video, I think it has more to do with pragmatism.

Shaffir describes himself as a troll. He'll say whatever it takes to get a reaction from his audience. In this case, he's trying to make people laugh. And who's going to laugh at death? People who don't take death seriously.

But there's more to it. Shaffir, and comedians like him, often talk about testing out jokes on audiences to see what works and what doesn't work. Their standard for a good joke is whatever makes people laugh. This sounds like the application of pragmatism to humor. Of course, if your audience is mostly made up of degenerates, then degenerate jokes will make them laugh. So the danger in not having an objective, moral standard for humor is the potential that you'll end up playing to an eviler and eviler crowd until good people decide that you're no longer fit for polite society.

Edited by MisterSwig
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