I love Lindsay's wit and wordsmanship.
If we aren't laughing, smiling and getting lots of belly laughs, we aren't doing life right. Children, one study said, laugh about 400 times a day while adults average about 40. That's bad - we should be smiling and laughing more not less!
As a group Objectivist do seem less open to humor (some to an almost funny degree :-) and there are lots of reasons for that – each of which should be questioned and dealt with (given that our goal is to be happy).
But there are parameters that need to be looked at. Humor is sometimes intended to hurt a person in a kind of sneak attack, and the victim is ridiculed or teased if they complain, "What's the matter, can't you take a joke." "Hey, I was just kidding." "Lighten up!" That's a cowardly sneak attack and dishonest. Let’s be clear – some people have malicious intentions and mask them with humor.
Humor can be a great tool in persuasion. But, when I see humor (especially ridicule or sarcasm) used in an argument, I go back and see if it there was also some logic backing their position (soon as I stop laughing), or was the humor used to let them skinny past making a sound argument. Humor can be a mask for hiding a lack of argument.
As Objectivists, we are concerned with values and we advocate using our own minds to judge the intellectual content put before us. That includes jokes. And a joke can not only be maliciously intended, but it can also be malevolent in content no matter how it was intended. "How many Jews does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, they were all made into lamp shades." That's NOT funny, it's UGLY and an unforgivable expression of hatred - it is monstrous in both intent and in values. Some people have a dark and twisted sense of life, for them humor can be a cowardly way to express ugly views.
If some bit of humor can bring us a laugh, even just a smile, it starts out with a bunch of points in my book - but they get taken away if its purpose is to attack someone or its nature is demean an important value.
Then there is taste or style - which is almost like a subcategory of values but it varies from person to person, culture to culture and generation to generation. There is a distinct difference between a sexual act done in private and doing the same thing on a very public park bench, naked as one of the squirrels! Same thing with bathroom humor - something that gets tickled in our psyche's shadow, somehow as a result of the toilet-training years, can make the silliest thing funny. Sometimes delicately blurring that line between what's okay privately, but not publicly, is funny. Sometimes we laugh at what embarresses us - like being caught in a child-like state.
But one person's funny story can leave another person feeling like they've been taken to look into a stranger’s unflushed toilet, or taken into the bedroom while they are doing it! The way in which certain four-letter words are used also changes with time - What would have been in poor taste to me 20 years ago, might be funny now. Some people love it that language can shock people - they probably giggled over the idea of mooning people when they were younger.
Barbara Branden mentioned in a post above, where she referred to Koestler's Act of Creation, that there is a mechanism in a joke - a mechanism where part of the release of happy energy we call laughter has to do with making a strange connection between the joke's lead in and it's punch line - we have to create that connection on the fly. This is the reason that a joke of questionable character sometimes starts us laughing (our response to grasping that funny connection - the joke's structure); but then the laughter dies down a little because the negative value raises its head.
I know I became all academic and poked my nose into parsing humor, but I assure you, my family and friends alike are all belly laughers - so caveats aside, I liked Lindsays article and wish us all more laughs. His theme is a good one, this has just been an aside
(I was going to say something funny about Lindsay, but then I chickened out – Jesus, who in their right mind would get into a pissing contest, of that kind, with him?)