Groucho Marx

The Wisest Men are Often Fools

Groucho Marx
Groucho Marx (1890 – 1977)

Dear Son,

The wisest men in the world are often fools and comedians.  We learn our best through laughter, and men who have devoted themselves to making others laugh find that they can only do so for long if they become great observers of human nature, and come to understand the struggles we face.  Any mean-spirited bully can laugh at another man, but it takes a wise soul to make us laugh with ourselves.

I wanted to make sure that if nothing else you had the names of the humorists that I believe are also wise men, so that if ever you set out to get some perspective on life, you’d be able to seek them out.

So below is a list of the names I consider to belong to the wisest comedians of the 19th, 2oth, and 21st centuries.

  • Bill Hicks
  • Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
  • Johnathan Swift
  • Groucho Marx
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Henry Rollins
  • George Carlin
  • Jerry Seinfeld
  • Bill Burr
  • Eddie Izzard

Stand-Up Comedy is a unique part of English-Speaking culture that has shaped us, and will continue to shape us into a culture that values honesty and wisdom over rhetoric and comfortable deception.

Develop a sense of humour and the willingness to tell a joke, my son, and you will learn much wisdom.  Both because the more you tell jokes, the more you will learn how to tell ones that uplift others, and the more you will learn to say things that need to be said, without causing pain when you do so.  The more you learn to laugh, the more you can see when others, and ultimately you yourself are being foolish.  Comedy is the ultimate tool for the critical thinker.

I also wanted to share two quotes with you, my two most favorite from comedians of all time.  They are ones I try to remember whenever life seems dark:

I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.

– Groucho Marx

and

The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while.

Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.”

It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love.

The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

-Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks
Bill Hicks (1961 – 1994)

With laugher,

Dad

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