Using Comedy Clips in Philosophy Class


I sometimes use excerpts from comedy routines or shows in my teaching. For example, when I teach Frankfurt’s On Bullshit in my contemporary moral problems course, I regularly use this segment from the Colbert Report:

 

And in my philosophy and the future course, when discussing perspective and biases, I use this appearance of Louis C.K. on Conan O’Brien’s show:

Do you make use of comedy clips in your teaching, or have ideas for good ones to use? Share links to them in the comments.

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Matt Burstein
5 years ago

I use many clips in my classes. These are some that have been useful in generating discussion:

1) Hennessy Youngman, Postructuralism (NSFW — there’s a “clean” version on youtube)
https://vimeo.com/17431354

2) Harvard Sailing Club, (a) “Boys Will Be Girls” and (b) “Girls Will Be Boys” [for gender discussions]
(a) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gspaoaecNAg
(b) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paNiEdFTvuA

3) For race, the Buzzfeed series “If X said the stuff white people say” series can be useful.

4) Although I don’t show the clip (because students have seen the movie), I do point out that the entire story of “Talladega Nights” is predicated on a false dilemma. (Ricky Bobby is motivated to succeed in life and racing by his father’s instruction that “If you’re not first, you’re last.”) Spices up some discussions of logic.Report

Sylvia
5 years ago

For philosophy of science I have used this clip of a Dara O’Briain show (Science doesn’t know everything ) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDYba0m6ztEReport

Jake
Jake
5 years ago

Christopher from the Sopranos on the problem of induction: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kQrQcAzMb8EReport

Betsy Barre
Betsy Barre
5 years ago

Louis C.K. is amazing for *so many* topics.

This clip is useful for philosophy of law and/or introducing the social contract: “If Murder Was [sic] Legal” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQUr2RkjykU
And, relatedly, this one is good for discussing moral intuitions: “Of Course … But, Maybe” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFwBH2fb2E0

And if you’re teaching about the relationship between religion and morality, this Patton Oswalt video is great: “Sky Cake” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55h1FO8V_3w

I’ve used all three of these and students have had surprisingly thoughtful conversations about each.Report

Chris
Chris
5 years ago

Monty Python’s Argument Clinic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9YReport

Hayley
Hayley
5 years ago

I frequently assign articles from the Onion in my contemporary moral issues class, like this one to introduce natural and social lotteries: http://www.theonion.com/article/worlds-greatest-athlete-forced-back-into-diamond-m-28773
And this one in discussions of cultural relativism: http://www.theonion.com/blogpost/there-was-definitely-a-point-during-that-stoning-w-18165

I’ve also found that this Always Sunny in Philadelphia clip is a great way to introduce some complications for naive concepts of sexual consent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ1lc6KASWgReport

YL
YL
5 years ago

the nature of philosophy, types of explanation, right/wrong kind of reason…: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJlV49RDlLEReport

Nate
Nate
5 years ago

I show the Kids in the Hall sketch “Each Day We Work” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1si6M-vDEzI) when I teach Nagel’s “The Absurd.”Report

Arthur Ward
5 years ago

Most of my clips are ripped from the web and copywrite protected. But here are some that are shareable

(Euthanasia) Futurama suicide booth
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-vRpQ0YyYo

(Design argument) Athiest nightmare (unintentional comedy)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4yBvvGi_2A

(artificial intelligence) Colbert on cyborgs
http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/p8wqsa/the-enemy-within—bina-the-activist-android

(gun control) Homer buys a gun
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIpLd0WQKCY

(capital punishment) The head-ripping-off machine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfsMMVgIToAReport

Miles Rind
5 years ago

Sylvia, I liked that performance of O’Briaian’s so much that I produced a transcript of a large part of it and posted it on my blog: http://skepticaljew.blogspot.com/2011/03/rough-introduction-to-critical-thinking.html (in case you ever want to have the words in type).Report

Miles Rind
5 years ago

*O’BriainReport

Jean
Jean
5 years ago

Could be used in many contexts, but I use it when discussing Nagel’s article “the absurd.” From Woody Allen, Love and Death: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5cQcmAtjJ0Report

Eddy Nahmias
5 years ago

Oh, to teach a whole course this way!
I use Louis CK’s awesome “of course, but maybe” bit when I’m discussing trolley problems, etc. and the way the utilitarian options are like his”maybe” options. “Of course pushing the fat man is wrong… but maybe…”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFwBH2fb2E0Report

Steve Petersen
Steve Petersen
5 years ago

Besides the decent definition of ‘argument’ (“a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition”), I like to use this to emphasize to intro students that argument is *not* mere contradiction, and it is *not* abuse.Report

guy
guy
5 years ago

i like to use this clip from 30 Rock to talk about the Affect Heuristic and Framing Effects
https://youtu.be/fLRq8g6ETu4

And i like to use this Friends’ clip when i talk about Putnam’s Brain-in-a-Vat
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f68wVrXWOhIReport

guy
guy
5 years ago

i also like to use this Friends’ clip in Logic when teaching well-formed formulas.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqwzvtjeYBQReport

Bryan Frances
5 years ago

For metaphysics, you have to use the Louis CK clip on Meinongian views:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u2ZsoYWwJA

It starts out about kids but ends up with metaphysics of non-existence.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
5 years ago

When introducing students to issues of moral motivation, I often link to Monty Python’s “Merchant Banker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUhb0XII93IReport

Philosopotamus
Philosopotamus
5 years ago

Aamer Rahman on the possibility of reverse racism:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw_mRaIHb-MReport

Grad Student
Grad Student
5 years ago

I sometimes use the 30 Rock episode “The Bubble” to talk about standpoint and privilege.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
5 years ago

Justin: in case you don’t know, Colbert clips can’t be viewed from the UK (possibly also from other non-US IP addresses.) I’m not saying you shouldn’t post for that reason- it just occurred to me that you might not realise.Report

Kenny Pearce
5 years ago

I always start my logic class (on the first day) with the Monty Python Witch Village. It’s a great one because it’s a fully articulated argument containing a couple of valid inferences buried in a lot of really outrageous nonsense. The students like it, and they get the point of trying to tell the valid inferences apart from the nonsense.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
5 years ago

Like Matt Burstein, I don’t use it because my students tend to have seen it (also because I’m not showing videos in these classes), but the “So you’re saying there’s a chance?” bit from Dumb and Dumber is a good way to discuss the Lottery Problem in epistemology.

It’s a story rather than a video, but next time I teach the Philosophical Investigations I intend assign “Joe” from Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School, which can be found in dramatized form here.Report

Danny Weltman
5 years ago

Another Louis CK clip, this one for cosmopolitanism/Singer’s drowning child argument:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC4FnfNKwUoReport

Kirk
Kirk
5 years ago

Another for philosophy of science… Tim Minchin on science and alternative epistemologies: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U

And a more general one for philosophy of education that students can connect to from their long experience of cram-and-forget study strategies: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8x8eoU3L4Report

volberg
volberg
5 years ago

“How to analyze a statement” by Gandalf: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_cwRqXBR4QReport