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.

A few sources:

Find out about Dan­ny’s pod­casts, graph­ic nov­el, album, and videos at

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.