Thoughts on Coogan Reading

I am usually a fan of The Onion. I often find the Onion’s humor intelligent, relevant, and not too offensive towards any particular group. But in Tom Coogan’s article, I strongly agree with the protestors of the Onion’s article called, “Study: Depression Hits Losers Hardest.”

Comedians can often get away with being insensitive, and I actually don’t think of myself as someone who gets offended too easily at jokes, but dedicating an entire article to bashing people with mental illnesses and calling them, “total fucking losers,” is taking this idea of satire way too far in my opinion. Depression/anxiety is extremely common and I am sure everyone in our class has experienced the effects of the illness in a direct or indirect way. I can personally say that I don’t consider this article funny, nor do I consider it a joke at all. It is insulting and hurtful to anyone struggling with any type of depression/anxiety which takes up a massive portion of our population.

To play Devil’s Advocate:

I don’t see a lot of purpose in discussing what is funny and what is not funny because any joke is going to make one person laugh and another person cry depending on their background, religion, sexuality, political stance, and culture. For instance, I might find a joke about a conservative politician (I.E. Mike Pence) funny because I am not conservative, but the same joke might be seen as extremely offensive to someone who is right-winged. I think it would be really difficult to find a comedian that doesn’t offend any group of people because a lot of the time, that is what comedy has to do with; Making a joke out of something or someone that may not be primarily seen as funny.

  When it comes to comedy, what I find funny is very specific to me and my personal life. I think that is part of the beauty of comedy and what makes laughter such a unique phenomenon. The varying punchlines of comedy have always been controversial, and always will be. I think that is actually one of the key parts of comedy. Of course there is a line we can draw, as Frankie said in his post, and we can agree on that line in class. (the line being what is seen as ok, and what is seen as not ok in comedy) For example, tomorrow in class we will most likely agree that it is not funny to be this crass about people who mentally struggle with depression.

But, there is no way for everyone in the media to agree on a line that we cannot cross in comedy.

(I’m sorry if my words seem jumbled/unorganized. It took me a while to attempt to get these thoughts typed out. I hope nobody takes this the wrong way!)

Rhetorical Analyses of “Why Woman Aren’t Funny”

In Christopher Hitchens article on “Why Women Aren’t Funny,” He gives a sexist view on why men are funnier than women, whilst including many incorrect stereotypes regarding both genders. Hitchens uses two strategies, ‘ethos’ and ‘logos’ to rhetorically analyze his very weak point that women are less funny than men.

He includes scientific studies with regard to male and female humor which shows his use of ‘logos’. One example of this is his mentioning of a study at Stanford University School of Medicine regarding male and female humor. He could also be thought to be using ‘ethos’ here because he is portraying his knowledge through scientific studies. This is to show the reader that Hitchens knows what he is talking about so the reader has more confidence in the writer. He also side-notes that he was at Stanford a few years before, doing a study of his own, which hinted towards ‘ethos’ as well.

Although his attempt to include the Stanford study was to strengthen his argument, it seemed to weaken it. The Stanford study was not aiming to prove that women are not funny. From what Hitchens included from the study in his article, the scientists at Stanford were simply studying male and female responses to humor and juxtaposing them. When discussing the results of the experiment, they show no signs of alluding to a woman’s lack of humor. It looks like Hitchens knows this because he seems to quote the study and then abandon it. After he quotes the study he completely moves onto another topic. (In other words, a hit and run quote)

This is the quote he included from the Stanford study:

“The researchers found that men and women share much of the same humor-response system; both use to a similar degree the part of the brain responsible for semantic knowledge and juxtaposition and the part involved in language processing. But they also found that some brain regions were activated more in women. These included the left prefrontal cortex, suggesting a greater emphasis on language and executive processing in women, and the nucleus accumbens . . . which is part of the mesolimbic reward center.”

Does it sound like they are trying to tell you that women don’t respond to humor as well as men? It doesn’t sound like that to me. It sounds like they are stating that not only do women have the same humor-response system as men but on TOP of that, they  have an even vaster response in various brain regions when compared to men.

Hitchens, if you are going to talk about such a controversial topic in such a controversial way, you should at least have very strong proof/studies to back up your thesis. When a writer includes an outside source to “strengthen” their argument and it shows to be weak or not support their thesis, it inevitably hints that the author’s argument is as weak as the source they utilize.

Bernstein Article

In Richard Bernstein’s article, “‘Just Kidding’- But at Who’s Expense?” he discusses the prevalence of political incorrectness in comedy/theatre/the media today, and talks about whether it is an issue or not. What I grasped from reading this article is that Bernstein does not believe that all prejudice/racist/sexist jokes should be entirely abolished from comedy. He seems to think that in today’s society we take comedy too seriously, and put too much energy into trying our best to be as politically correct as possible. Bernstein claims that the culprit is the internet. Due to the internet, comedy is viewable everywhere and it’s listened to in all parts of the world. There are listeners are from all different backgrounds, races, genders, and religions, which means that comedians need to be a lot more aware of who is listening when they try to make an insensitive joke.

In the article, he asks the reader many questions. He asks, “Why is it that even as the society becomes ever more publicly respectful of all groups, some entertainment figures – from rap lyricists, who are saying some of the most abrasive things these days, to stand-up comics – make their fortunes by ridiculing the very groups toward whom most of the rest are elaborately polite?” He then asks, “Is the society hypocritical? Is it just not paying attention? What are the conventions that we as a society observe, perhaps unconsciously, and what do they tell us about ourselves?”

The questions he poses are really impressive because they bring up good points, and he is showing that he is skeptical of our society today. I believe that these entertainment companies often feed off of this type of humor because people in real life feel like they can’t use prejudice humor. Therefore, these comedians can portray a specific sense of humor that regular people in their daily lives don’t feel comfortable using. I think it is refreshing for people because they spend so much time in their life being careful of what they say so it’s fun to watch a person who portrays this idea of not caring. Although this makes sense, I do think that Bernstein brings up a good point- this is in many ways, hypocritical. If we don’t want to be offended by anyone, we shouldn’t be supporting comedians that often aim to offend specific races/sexes/identities/religions.

Comedic Theorists

Hobbes: (with summary)

In Human Nature, Thomas Hobbes concludes that men laugh at “mischances and indecencies,” and that men are often prone to laughing when they feel superior rather than inferior in the situation. Hobbes delves into the idea that men don’t like being laughed at in the present, but they love laughing about their past selves. He discusses the idea that when jokes in comedy are relatable to the person because they have done something in the PAST that’s silly or stupid, it’s a lot easier to laugh at yourself. To laugh at your present self, you have to build up enough courage to be self-aware and see what you are doing in the NOW that is silly/comedic and be able to laugh at yourself at the same time. This type of thing is difficult for humans to do generally in life, let alone in comedy. “…for men laugh at the follies of themselves past, when they come suddenly to remembrance except they bring with them any present dishonor.”

In the excerpt of Critique of Judgement, Immanuel Kant he discusses the idea of “play” and explores why people laugh at jokes. He claims that when someone laughs at a generic joke, “it is rather that we had a tense expectation that suddenly vanished [transformed] into nothing.”

Arthur Schopenhauer in The World as Will declares that laughter comes from seeing the incongruity between concepts and real objects. “The cause of laughter in every case is simply the sudden perception of the incongruity between a concept and the real objects which have been thought through in some relation, and laughter itself is just the expression of this incongruity.”

In The Physiology of Laughter, Spencer talks of laughter being one of the most natural human reactions.

Concert Response Paper

In October, Bruno Mars surprised Harlem with a free concert on top of the Apollo Theatre. He sang his greatest hit, 24K Magic, and let anyone come and watch it. I had the pleasure of sitting front row.

At first, when I heard about the show, I had no idea what to expect. I was told by someone promoting the event that it was Bruno giving a free concert for people in Harlem and that it was going to be on CBS. I went there thinking it was going to be inside of the Apollo Theatre, and he was going to play a sequence of his most frequent songs. Boy, was I wrong. When we got there we waited in line which wasn’t too long, but as we walked through the doors they looked through our bags, and put a locked bag around all of our phones separately, and gave them back to us. “When you leave, come back and we will unseal your phones.” We later realized that the reason they did this was so that when CBS filmed the audience watching Bruno, our faces weren’t on our phones.  

After we got through that, they brought us through the back doors of the Apollo Theatre and immediately brought us to the front doors. “Why are we going outside again?” I asked the man we were following. He didn’t look at me and said “The concert is up there,” and pointed at the Apollo Theatre sign. We couldn’t believe it! We got outside and entered this mass of people, soon to realize that we were at the front, and Bruno Mars was going to be performing right on top of us. This was such an amazing experience and even in that moment, I felt very lucky to be a part of it all.

Bruno’s performance was truly impressive. I have always thought of him as an incredibly talented vocalist, but a huge part of his act was his dancing. He had a whole backup dance crew behind him and he was ripping up the dance floor whilst singing his heart out. Being a singer myself, it impressed me because I have tried dancing and singing at a much lower level than he was, and even that exhausted me to the point where it was difficult to keep up with my singing.

One thing that I did not like however was the fact that it was such a huge production for TV. On CBS when they showed the special, they acted like Bruno surprised Harlem with this huge debut on the Apollo sign, when the majority of the crowd knew very well that it was happening, and planned their nights around it. The fact that they confiscated our phones for a better video of the “enthusiastic crowd,” it made it very clear that this TV special was not authentic. Nonetheless, Bruno’s performance was truly impressive, and it was a wonderful experience. The funniest part was seeing my dance moves on TV when the special aired. (Or, I should say that was the scariest part!)

Cassius X Articles

In the 2nd article, “The Greatest at Rest,” it says, “He never stopped calling himself The Greatest, and he never stopped saying God is Great. He somehow reconciled with these assertions.”

This statement left an impression on me because it showed that even with his fame and glory he stuck with his religion which I find powerful. It’s so easy to get caught up in fame. Fame often results to drugs, insanity, anxiety, etc. But Muhammed Ali always turned to his religion which is really rare and I find it admirable. But at the same time this statement potentially makes him come off as conceded. Is he saying he is greater than God? For being such a religious man, this is odd.

I slightly lost respect for him after I read this because to hear about someone claiming they are greater than God is a weird, uncomfortable, and cocky statement. But when I read the other article, (“Cassius Clay, Cassius X, Muhammed Ali,” by Robert Lipsyte) I felt better about him. On page 1, Lipsyte tells a story of a news reporter confronting Ali.

“‘Hey Cassius!’ yelled a television cameraman.

‘The name is Muhammed Ali,’ mumbled the champion tiredly.

‘Okay, Ollie, okay, how about a little, ‘I’m the greatest, I’ll beat the Bear in two,’ huh?’

Ali stared at the cameraman and he mumbled: ‘Most of my campaigning was not really me. Now, I don’t have to talk like that…'”

This made me think, maybe he isn’t conceded after all? This comment he made about his campaigning not being him, made me really think about all of these famous people we look up to. (Or even the famous people we don’t look up to.) Every celebrity has an agent, a PR team, or something of the sort. They are often telling them what to do or say to win their crowds hearts. It makes me think about all the iconic quotes that were forced out of peoples mouths from their PR teams.

Revising My Essay

I have finally gotten some emails back from students with their opinions on my essay, and I am feeling really grateful for it. I had started my essay but I knew it needed something more. Having it be a narrative essay, it is hard to view the story from other people’s perspectives. I put quotations around statements without specifying who said the statement. This was an amateur move because the people reading the essay were not there, and they don’t have an idea of who is saying what. I have clearly not written a lot of narrative essays considering I didn’t figure this out, which is why I’m happy about this assignment. I clearly need more experience with this form of writing.

Another thing that a student pointed out is that I mix up my ‘tenses’ in the story, which has always been one of my weaknesses. I used to always have my mom read over my high school essays, and she would usually fix this problem, so I need to get better at paying attention to this on my own.


I look forward to delving deeper into this essay, and improving my writing and my story. It is a powerful story so it needs a powerful portrayal.

Performance Art Response

Today I saw a musical group play at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg. It was a musical group called TOEBOW and I absolutely loved it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because I have never seen or heard of them before. But afterwards, it made me want to do this a lot and just go explore new and exciting artists that are trying to make it in New York. I would definitely say this was an engaging form of performance art. Their music was very unique; The group had dueling guitars, synths, 4-part harmonies and acoustic/electric percussion. Their music channels a variety of musical influences. It involves many different genres and decades of music, from Frank Zappa to West African Guitarists. My two favorite songs were  Mr. Tony and Burnt Bread. But even with the music aside, seeing their relationship with the audience and observing how the audience interacted with the musicians was a performance in itself. I could practically feel the passion that was coming off of each and every body in there. Everyone was happy to be there. You could tell that they were there for the music, and I found that truly beautiful. I want to be up there some day.

Response to Travelling


We experience some of our best memories while traveling, and we also can experience our worst. You learn a lot about yourself, and the people around you, when you are in an unfamiliar place, being confronted with unfamiliar situations. The excerpt from, “Travelling,” by Grace Paley, describes two different scenarios that portray this phenomenon very well. It is a girl reflecting on a story of her mother who stands up for human rights on a bus, and she looks back on her own response to when she was once faced with a similar situation.

This story had me reminiscing on my personal experiences while traveling. I have spent a lot of my time and money going on trips around the world, and when I look back on each of my ventures, I can think of at least one positive or negative memory that I consider unforgettable.

I once found myself face to face with a woman I couldn’t keep my eyes off of. She was a woman on the streets of Hong Kong, who possessed all the wrong things. She had a drug addiction, a sidewalk for a home, and a baby girl. In the streets of New York I always try and avoid eye contact with the homeless, but this woman with her baby had my attention. She had the most beautiful, bright, yet saddened eyes that one could imagine. I wish I could have known what she was thinking in that moment. Did she hate me? Did she spite me? Did she think I was judging her? I always wonder what that women thought of me and I’ve always wondered why. She most likely didn’t even think anything of it- just another person poking sticks through her cage. But those eyes, that scene, and that baby’s gaze is something I’ll never forget. So I bought her a cup of bubble tea, and I swept myself away.