Truth and Humor


Humor is a tricky thing. In advertising we are taught to use it wisely, by not letting it overshadow the product being sold and developing creative ways that avoid the "second-time-I-now-know-the-punchline" message. The goal of a great ad is an execution in which the "funny" never gets old— as you see the commercial again and again.

It has been relentlessly pointed out that I cannot tell a joke and really don't know funny. What I do know, is that when the message makes me think— and the funny comes out of truth— there's no stopping its lasting impression.

Having recently been introduced to NBC's "The Good Place", I struggle each episode with the attempt at humor and its relationship to truth— something I suspect the writers and directors had planned. In short, the series is set in an afterlife in which humans who have passed on are now dealing with their former and current ethical behavior. Funny right? I can just imagine that original pitch meeting to producers: "'s a situation comedy in which ethical manifestos from the great philosophers are going to be integrated into every storyline. And oh yes, there's Ted Danson..."

So I haven't laughed much at this comedy so much as I have wanted to think about its lessons long after the credits roll. Like a weekly sermon, it habitually asks, "If all of us spend time on earth together, what have we done to make things better? If we cannot have an understanding of what is to come, can we make now meaningful?"

It would have been so much easier if there were a lot of slapstick or sarcasm and stereotypes to propel the storyline. But this funny comes from a new place in which things are pretty serious or very sad and I recognize this honest truth. After all, this is 2018 and that fine line between tragedy and comedy is getting thinner all the time.