Wit Privilege and America's War on the Witless

Mark Twain once wrote, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”   

Wit is not always a laughing matter.  For example, the Sons of Liberty used their wits to pull off one of the most memorable practical jokes in history at the Boston Tea Party.  Also, Ben Franklin disseminated and popularized his philosophy through his bestseller, Poor Richard’s Almanac.  His witty one-liners are quoted to this day by people who’ve never even heard of the book.

Wit privilege refers to societal privileges that benefit witty people in ways that are unavailable to the witless.  It continues to be a potent force in the United States.  The witty elite use jokes and anecdotes to win elections, spread ideologies, and market their services and wares.  All too often, the witless are the butts of the jokes. They are at a severe disadvantage in virtually every area of their sad lives.

Witty people are more likeable, more popular, and have greater social status.  They tend to be cheerful, and they receive more respect and better service across the board.  From bankers to beauticians, from the police to pediatricians, from clerks to computer techs, people who provide services of any kind prefer to do business with funny people rather than the grumpy. 

The witty are also considered more attractive than the witless.  That’s why comedians never have problems finding spouses, or second, or third, or fourth spouses.  A review of personal ads will inevitably show that the most desired trait for a potential date is a good sense of humor.  Nobody writes personal ads like this: “Seeking somber person to engage in serious conversation. Must hate laughter.”

Funny folks have greater freedom of expression.  In America, when you’re funny people listen.  The ability to tell a joke can make the difference between being heard and being ignored.  Funny videos are shared far more often than serious ones.  In the entertainment business, people who can make others laugh get more opportunities and are treated better than the humor-impaired.

The disparities between the witty and the witless are evident in the business world as well.  A properly delivered punchline can help a person land a job or seal a deal.  Jokes are also frequently used by the powerful to silence the witless.  The laughter emanating from corner offices may sound jovial, but it also reminds the peons in the cubicles of who is in charge.  

Disparities due to wit privilege are rampant in healthcare.  People who know how to tell jokes and enjoy a good laugh live happier and healthier lives.  The witty are able to handle stress and anxiety better than the witless.  Laughter is widely regarded as the best medicine, and the witty get it for free.  The primary reason comedy isn’t part of healthcare is that they want to keep it to themselves.  Meanwhile, people who suffer from humor deficiency pay exorbitant amounts for the prescription and non-prescription drugs they need just to get through the day.  

Witty people take their unearned benefits for granted.  When confronted about wit privilege, they deny that it exists or say that it’s not their fault they were born funny.  Furthermore, they have no comprehension of how different their lives would be if they ever lost their sense of humor and had to experience horrors like these: 

·      The realization, after they’ve delivered a punchline, that they’ve omitted a critical part of the setup.

·      The inability to produce suitable and timely responses to offensive remarks or insults.

·      Dreaded sympathy laughter due to poor comedic timing.

The roots of wit privilege go all the way back to William Shakespeare.  In Othello, the bard wrote, “They laugh that win.” 

Little has changed.  Renowned neurohumorist Karyn Buxman proclaims, “Humor is power.”  

Wit privilege has had a profound and disturbing influence in the United States throughout the country’s history.   It is deplorable that humorous people have advantages over people who are not funny and who may never become funny.  People born witless are human beings entitled to the same freedoms and opportunities as the witty.  

The longstanding and systemic abuses of power enabled through wit privilege are a form of discrimination which must be addressed.  In the interest of fairness and decency, if an equitable solution cannot be found, the laughter must stop.

Danny Murphy is the author of Murphy’s Law Breaker: Positive Thinking for Pessimists and Humor 101: How To Tell Jokes. He blogs at www.dannymurphyauthor.com .

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