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Catchart & Klein Philosophize Through Jokes in Recent Chautauqua Lecture

Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
Photos courtesy of Minh Nguyen. Story below from the Eastern Progress:

Chautauqua brings audience to laughter
October 10, 2013 |


“What a philosopher calls an insight, a comedian calls a zinger.” The correlation between philosophy and comedy was the subject of Thursday night’s Chautauqua lecture, given by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein.

Cathcart and Klein are co-authors of a series of philosophical and comedic books. The focus of the lecture was based on their book Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar… Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. The book simplifies different thoughts of philosophy by translating them to jokes. The book is a New York Times best-seller and also appears on best-seller lists in France and Israel. The book has been translated into more than 20 different languages.

One part of the routine that made the entire auditorium laugh was when Klein posed a question based on a trip to Belgium.

“What does the bottom of a Belgium Coca-Cola bottle say?” Klein said. “Open other end.”

Cathcart said his favorite part about lecturing is the performing. He said since he started lecturing, he has become a total performer. Klein likes lecturing for a different reason. His favorite part of the job is meeting new people and making people laugh.

Cathcart’s favorite philosophers include many American philosophers, because they are very analytical and logical. He also enjoys what he calls the “murky European” philosophers, such as Heidegger, Sartre and Kant. Klein said his favorite philosopher was the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, because he emphasized the importance of enjoying life.

Cathcart and Klein met while they were attending Harvard and have been friends for 56 years. They met the very first day of their freshmen year. Their inspiration for the book came from a revelation when Klein was telling Cathcart a joke one evening. When they realized that jokes had hidden philosophical meanings, they decided to write a book about it. After a year of emails and phone calls, they had a book that was ready to publish.

Since their success, they’ve toured in various places giving lectures similar to the one they gave Thursday. Eastern is the third college they’ve visited and Cathcart said at the lecture that he thought Eastern was the largest audience they have ever addressed.

Students who attended the lecture were entertained through various jokes and enlightened on their philosophical meaning. Rylan Cromer, 19, a freshman history major from Rockcastle County said he learned a lot from this lecture and said that will be able to help him in his philosophy class.

Another student, Kara Andrews, 18, a freshman biology major from London attended the lecture as well. Her favorite part was the way the two speakers interacted with one another.

Left to Right: Thomas Cathcart, Todd Gooch (Associate Professor of Philosophy), Laura Newhart (Chair, Philosophy & Religion), Daniel Klein, and Minh Nguyen (Professor of Philosophy & Chautauqua Lecture Coordinator)

Published on October 31, 2013

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