Comedy as a Conspiracy

(A version of this blog was originally published on Pete’s blog.)

Pete saw that Matt Kirshen (@mattkirshen) was performing at Denver’s Comedy Works and cornered him in the alley. Pete asked him:

Is good comedy a conspiracy?

Matt’s observation is reminiscent of the “minimal groups paradigm” in the psychology literature. Basically, you can take a bunch of strangers and arbitrarily create two groups (e.g., by having them count off odd and even numbers), and almost immediately people will like the members of their group and not like the members of the other group. In this way, a comedian who creates a group atmosphere can enhance the audience’s experience.

His answer also highlights the two-way relationship between humor and social bonding. Research shows that humor can improve social bonds, but conversely, building social bonds also improves humor.

Check out Matt on his recent appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: