CSotD: Foolish Jokes for Smart People

Dark Side of the Horse (AMS) on the dumb side of praise.

There are a couple ways of looking at this simple cartoon, the first being that paying to be told you’re smart is contradictory, and you can bet that vending machine never shows anything but 160, which is genius level, 100 being average.

According to a test that a lot of people who understand such things don’t much respect.

There are free IQ tests on Facebook and other sites, so you don’t have to put in a coin but you do have to allow them to harvest you in their like farm and sell you to the spammers.

Ditto with all the quizzes that say “9 out 10 can’t answer this,” to which my response is to wonder how they verified that claim, but, of course, 9 out of 10 are smart enough not to click on the link, so it’s kinda self-fulfilling.

Being told how smart you are, or aren’t, is of dubious value to begin with. Better you should just do your thing and let matters play out.

Social media is full of high-IQ people at the troublesome end of the spectrum, and I say that with a great deal of affection for Aspies but not so much for people who become quarrelsome when social norms and reality conflict with their opinions.

Funny story: I had a conversation with my ass’t editor about Mensa one day, in which I took the position that Mensa exists for people who feel a need to qualify as members of Mensa because they don’t appear to be very smart elsewhere. Within days, some guy stormed the Capitol and I remarked to her, “Must be a Mensa member,” to which she, of course, offered a sneer and we went back to work.

Turned out he was.

She said, “Shut up” but laughed.


Pardon My Planet (KFS) offers a view of how those sorts of certifiably smart dumbasses get themselves into big trouble, because they’re smart enough to have ideas but not socially adept enough to know when to STFU, a situation neatly captured in one of my favorite passages from Catch-22:

I think it’s akin to the fool who doesn’t understand that “Where do you want to eat?” really means “Guess which restaurant I want to go to,” which is a variation on a game couples once played in video stores but now play in the comfort of their homes while scrolling through Netflix.


And Agnes (AMS) and Trout illustrate yet another example of how being too smart can lead you to some very foolish conclusions.

Yes, I know the existence of Something Out There has been acknowledged. It’s the “knowing what they are” part where people like Agnes go astray.

I say this as someone who worked at a newspaper in an area that had its own cryptocritter, which meant we were the go-to place for people who were certain that they’d seen it.

There’s a big difference between “I’m willing to listen” and “I want to believe!”


Speaking of cryptocritters, Bizarro (KFS)  answers a question that long bothered me and should have bothered you, too.

It’s not so much a matter of whether mermaids are viviparous, oviparous or ovoviviparous, but simply the mechanics.

“Splash” dealt with it by having Daryl Hannah transform into human shape, but that makes her more of a selkie than a mermaid, and while that was infinitely more appealing than Wayno’s explanation, it’s the wrong legend. Selkies are seal people, not fish people.

Selkie stories are also better, and so is the only movie I know about them, though I suppose any film that teams John Sayles with Haskell Wexler (again) would be.


Man Overboard riffs on a different form of legend, and one in which arrogant disbelief is as foolish as unquestioning belief.

You can, after all, believe in George Washington without believing that he threw a dollar across the Potomac (or Rappahannock) or chopped down a cherry tree. That he inspired folklore doesn’t mean he never existed.

The Bible is challenging, because it’s a collection of folklore and laws by many authors written at many times, and, while Noah is likely pure folk tale, David is equally likely to have been a real person.

As for Jesus, if you compare the stories about him with other early histories, it’s not hard to believe he was a real person pumped up, as Parson Weems pumped up Washington and as Washington Irving pumped up Columbus, with admiring exaggerations and promotional fantasies.

A more contemporary parallel would be with Eusebius, a historian not of Jesus’s lifetime but of the period when the New Testament was being committed to writing.

He wrote a biography of Constantine which, in its early version at the beginning of the emperor’s reign, had him dreaming of a divinely-ordained victory before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. A later version had him actually seeing a cross in the sky, and then, when he had become Constantine the Great, Eusebius added an audible-to-everyone heavenly choir and a proclamation of “In Hoc Signo Vinces.”

And smart people once dismissed the Trojan War as legend, until archaeologists proved the existence of the city. Was there a war there? Well, it’s not likely that Ares and Athena intervened, but using that to dismiss the historicity of the war itself is foolish.

Anyway, I don’t believe Jesus handed out donuts, but there’s no reason to dismiss the rest of that particular story and certainly no reason to disbelieve in his existence.

Other than thinking it makes you look smart.


Finally, in our round-up of smart and not-so-smart things, Guy Badeaux, whose blog is a must-read for comic aficionados, passes along this well-considered explanation and defense of editorial cartoons from Seven Days, a Burlington-based alternative weekly.

It’s a smart analysis, not full of self-back-patting nor of condescension but simply laying out how things work, in their publication but with universal implications for the art form.


Now here’s your moment of zen:

All the talk of “Summer of Soul” made me wonder if this Rufus Thomas clip was from that festival. It wasn’t — it’s from the WattStax concert of 1972. 

Still worth a play.

12 thoughts on “CSotD: Foolish Jokes for Smart People

  1. Boy, that Pardon My Planet is definitely one of those “where was the hidden camera” deals. I recently was “volunteered” to work on a committee to “increase innovation” at work. The thing started with an hour-long YouseTube video of some bloviator (er, “TEDx presenter”) bragging about some ideas he’d had and pursued using the luxury of his job, which had liberal support for wild employee research. We do *not* have that…

    Of course, the only firm guidance we were given was that we couldn’t propose things that cost significant money. Other than that, the classic “bring me a rock” exercise, with an added layer of “here’s a bloviator’s hints.” Anyway, a terrific comic.

    And the Man Overboard was great too. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on whether it’s reasonable to be express skepticism about two thousand year old stories, but it was a great strip in any event.

    Hope your vacation went well, Mike.

  2. Even though I tend towards skepticism, that story about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery is still a great story with an excellent moral, so it always irks me when scholars make an issue about whether it’s “true” or was just added in later, or “true” but really happened to someone else, etc. It’s “true” in the best possible sense of the word – and if it didn’t really happen, it should have! (Though the donuts would have been a nice addition!)

  3. Let me recommend the opposite of the Dark Side of the Horse offering. The DENSA test, free on the web, pretty much guarantees a below average score.

  4. “Foolbert Sturgeon,” did one of his Adventures of Jesus Christ that dealt with the woman caught in adultery, and the upshot is that the bewildered believers suddenly look like they’ve caught wise. “I get it!” says one. “He wants the first throw! Sorry, Jesus! We just didn’t think.” The offended JC concludes “The problem isn’t sin, it’s stupidity.”

  5. There are a lot of explanations for things in the New Testament that are presented as miracles, even if you assume that Lazarus and the Centurion’s daughter were dead and not simply catatonic or in comas and dismiss those “miracles,” along with the walking-on-water, as folkloric.

    For instance, if there were no food for people at a huge gathering, it’s reasonable to think a wise teacher might offer up the little his crew had brought and thus either shame or inspire others in the crowd to share what they had with those who brought nothing.

    Also worth noting that there are far more sayings attributed to Buddha, Confucius and Mohammad than they could have said in their lifetimes, but nobody doubts that they existed.

    Personally, I find Jesus more interesting as a wise, self-controlled Essene-schooled country rabbi surrounded by rural zealots than as a blond, mild-mannered worker of improbable miracles. YMMV.

  6. One of my favorite jokes is probably only funny to died-in-the-wool Roman Catholics:

    Jesus confronts the crowd with the adulteress and declares “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    The accusers grow quiet and look sheepish when suddenly a stone flies out of the crowd, striking the woman.

    Jesus cries out in anger, “Mom, you’re always embarassing me!”

  7. Silkies lead people to their deaths. Mermaids – like Lorelai – had that in mind too, but apparently they’ve had better PR lately.

  8. Mike Peterson, I am not at all sure I would call that tale sweet, but most certainly sad.

  9. People who claim that Jesus didn’t exist THINK it makes them look smart when they’re actually ignoring all of the actual scholars and historians, and getting their info from some guy’s blog.

    Here’s a link to an article by Bart Ehrman (historian, scholar, and atheist), which pretty much puts the question to rest:


  10. Golly, nobody ever explained to me that the evidence for Christ’s historical evidence is “Bart Ehrman says so.” Shucks, I’m convinced by the sources he says he has that I’ve never heard of from anyone else (including people who would really benefit from them).

    It’s hard to see why the controversy has continued for so long since this 2012 article put the whole thing so definitively to rest.

  11. Ehrman has a pretty impressive background and the fact that he’s no longer a believer adds considerable heft to his contention — which, admittedly, matches my own — that there is no reason to disbelieve in the fact of Jesus’s existence, even if you don’t accept the myths and folklore that surround him.

    Match his knowledge base and then contest his opinions:

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