Are Stand-Up Comedians Our Modern Day Philosophers? Pretty Much Pop #17 Considers

In an age where the average person can’t name a living academic philosopher, it’s been claimed that the social role of an individual orating to the masses and getting them to think about fundamental questions is actually not performed by academics at all, and certainly not by politicians and religious figures who need to keep on message in one way or other, but by stand-up comedians.

This is the premise of the Modern Day Philosophers podcast, where comedian Daniel Lobell interviews some of our best known and loved comics. However, as Daniel has discovered in the course of that show, only some comedians are trying to express original views on the world. Many are just trying to tell good jokes. So do the routines of those more idea-based comedians count as philosophy? Or does telling the whole truth (instead of a funny one-side or exaggerated take on truth) rule out being funny? 

Daniel joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer (of The Partially Examined Life philosophy podcast), actor Erica Spyres, and sci-fi author/linguist Brian Hirt to consider questions of authenticity and offensive humor.  We look at how philosophers and comics can use some of the same communicative tools like inventing new words, irony, and autobiography. We touch on Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr, Hannah Gadsby, George Carlin, Emo Phillips, Rodney Dangerfield, Louis CK, Between Two Ferns, Berkeley, Socrates, Kierkegaard, and more.

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This episode includes bonus discussion (including some out-takes from the interview where we got too off-topic) that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.


Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.