Individuals, at times, use self-deprecating humor to entertain others. For a prime example, recall the White House Correspondents' Dinner in which it is tradition for the sitting President to mock himself on camera.
Does this kind of humor damage one's self-esteem, or is it an innocent recognition of flaws or quirks in a comedic light?
There is an illuminating section on "Humor and Morality" in Ayn Rand Answers, pp. 140-142. The opening question, asked during the 1976 "Philosophy of Objectivism" lectures by Leonard Peikoff (Lecture 11), received a lengthy reply by Ayn Rand. The way the question was worded caused Ayn Rand to classify it as a dishonest question, and her answer explains why. In the process, she offers some very useful insights on the nature of humor. Here are a few examples:
Humor is the denial of metaphysical importance to that which you laugh at.... humor is destructive, which is proper [depending on the target of it], but its value and morality depend on what you're laughing at. If you're laughing at the evil in the world -- provided you take it seriously but occasionally permit yourself to laugh at it -- that's fine. But if you laugh at the good -- at heroes, at values, and above all, at yourself -- you are a monster.
Regarding those who strive to make humor a "major part" of their lives and want others to do so, too, Ayn Rand explains:
Anyone looking for humor as a major issue is looking for that [laughing at oneself]. Such a person doesn't think it's funny when you laugh at him -- that is, at villains -- but he wants you to laugh at yourself, and will be happy and at home only with another character like himself, spitting in his own face.
From these comments, I see the issue of self-deprecating humor as wider than just self-esteem, although dimished self-esteem certainly seems to name the essence of the psychological harm, and probably helps to drive future acts of self-deprecating humor as an escape from personal responsibility for living and an invitation for sympathy and companionship from other similar sufferers of low self-esteem.
answered Jan 08 '12 at 02:32
Ideas for Life ♦
I think it depends a lot on how the humor is done. If a comedian is truly making fun of themselves, that's probably unhealthy. But many comics just temporarily pretend to be a certain way, or they exaggerate some feature or stereotype, and then make fun of that. In most cases, I don't think that's damaging to one's self-esteem. In fact, being able to get a laugh out of a crowd is probably a good builder of self-esteem.
answered Jan 08 '12 at 05:00