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Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Engaging Cowardice 101.




Eagleton, Terry, Humour,

(2019), p.129


here are moments in our life when we are confronted with undesired questions. Whether it's Aunt Greta - at your younger 

sister's wedding - asking: "When is yours?" Or your supervisors, John and Eric, wearing those dope hats with the slogan "Make America Great Again", asking: "What do you think about the immigrants?" Now, you can either hide your feeling with diffidence, "Hmm, we will see, Aunt Greta…", Or you can choose to argue with frankness: "In a way, aren't we all immigrants here in America?" Still, wouldn't it be nice to express our feelings without all the ugliness from confrontation? Don't you want to tell Aunt Greta to mind her own business and stop stealing all those sugar packets? Look no further, you have come to the right class.


I believe that you have seen the example of the art of Engaging Cowardice on the website that led you here. Throughout this intensive and compact course, you will embark on the metamorphosis from Argument Enthusiasts or Humanoid Parrots to Engaging Cowards. If you are already a coward, congratulations! You are already one step ahead. Now all you need to do is to sugarcoat the unpleasant truth with humor. However, if you still insist on being an Argument Enthusiast, or a true believer of Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave”, feel free to drop this course now and say what you wanna say. But before you do that, please help yourself with an application for insurance, a will template, a resignation template pointing out how your supervisors are a bunch of racists, a divorce paper that is already signed by your spouse, and the top-ten list of homeless shelters. You can find these forms on your way out. 

"But what if I don't want to strike back?" Excellent question, Single Lady at Her Younger Sister's Wedding. British literary theorist, critic, and public intellectual, Terry Eagleton once said: "You can use a flash of wit to thrust but also to parry, fending off an insult with a show of insouciance." The very same principle can apply to humor. Humor can be a defense mechanism. You can laugh at your defect or mistake that is being pointed out by someone. By doing so, you make light of the seriousness of the matter that the insulter assumed. Therefore, you diminish their superiority of thinking they have the upper hand and discourage a future attack on the same spot. Since Engaging Cowardice employs humor to thrust, a coward can decide whether to set their shell to parry, or to riposte. However, the parry mode will not be the main focus of this course. It's time to silence your Aunt Greta, Single Lady at Her Younger Sister's Wedding!




You Know It’s Good If It Goes Viral

Eagleton, Terry, Humour,

(2019), p.96


Since when does Engaging Cowardice exist?" I heard your question but I didn't see a hand in the air, The Boy Who Was

Told Not To Play With Barbies. We are cowards, not savages. Still, to answer your question. Engaging Cowardice is an ancient art that can be dated back to the moment when humanity developed the concept of majority and minority. We learned to keep our real opinion that was alien to the social norms to avoid exclusion, so we had a better chance to survive as a pack. The price of a meal at the table is your freedom of expression. However, this built-up oppression will eventually erupt if we don't find a way to safely relieve, like why we switch to the last hole on our belt after Christmas dinner. That last hole, is humor. People employed humor to sugarcoat their genuine opinion. For example, Lucian of Samosata, a Greek-speaking author of Assyrian descent, wrote a novel called A True Story in the second century AD to mock tales that quote fantastic and mythical events as truth. Homer, the Greek legendary author, was among the many literary 'liars' he mocked. 


However, when the majority are not the ones who have power, Engaging Cowardice serves as a different function - it represents the collective psyche of the majority instead. When humanity entered the stage of sovereignty and hierarchy, the oppression aggravated. The minority, such as the selected elites or hereditary nobles, were the ones who had power and authority instead. The consequence of being outspoken or standing out was also no longer simply being an outcast, but rather a matter of life and death. In the need to relieve their mind without losing their head, the civilians and peasants then fashioned their discontent with humor into farces, folk songs, jokes, folklores, and carnival. These forms of expression did not require specialized expertise, nor nurtured knowledge that might be restricted from the common folks by the authority to reinforce their power. They were also easily distributed and reproduced.


"So, kinda like Instagram story and Youtube video?" Yes, The Boy Who Was Told Not To Play With Barbies, you can see them as ancient Instagram stories and Youtube videos. Again, hands before questions please. Such qualities that could make certain ideas go viral also made them a democratic danger to the authorities. When everybody was laughing at the same farce that indicated the king's idiocy, the laughter dissolved the individual body and formed a collective consciousness. In the eyes of the authority, it could be a sign of potential riot. "Comedy poses a threat to sovereign power not only because of its anarchic bent, but because it makes light of such momentous matters as suffering and death, hence diminishing the force of some of the judicial sanctions that governing classes tend to keep up their sleeve. It can foster a devil-may-care insouciance which loosens the grip of authority.” Therefore, it was not unusual for authority to diminish humor as frivolous and unworthy of serious study.


With all that has been said, Engaging Cowardice sometimes is considered an informal social study of a period. "Humor is one of the best indicators of popular thought. To ask what strikes a period as funny is to probe its deepest values and tastes.", said Roderick Frazier Nash. Vine Victor Deloria Jr. also mentioned "Irony and satire provide much keener insights into a group's collective psyche and values than do years of [conventional] research.”

Nash, Roderick Frazier, "21. The New Humor", The Call of the Wild: 1900–1916, (1970), p.203

Nash, Roderick Frazier, "21. The New Humor", The Call of the Wild: 1900–1916, (1970), p.203.




Burn The Witch!

Marshall, G. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, (1999)


ow, while Engaging Cowardice might be considered as an informal social study, other scholars believe...Hey you, African

American Who Doesn't Act Black Enough, no texting during the course. "Chill man, I am just Instagramming a post about this class. Everybody is doing it nowadays. It's a new social norm. Give me a sec, let me finish this hashtag. Say, professor, do you spell chicken with one or two k’s?" Social norms? Okay, do you wanna talk about social norms? Let's talk about social norms!


Practicing the art of Engaging Cowardice is rather cheap compared to other arts. (I am talking to you, Adobe and Maxon.) Besides the tuition fee, which I hope that everyone has already transferred, all you need is one material. The shared experience, or social norms as we called it, is the crucial material when practicing Engaging Cowardice. However, listen carefully and mark my words, students. Social norms, are also the enemies of Engaging Cowardice. 


We mentioned in Lesson 02 that Engaging Cowardice was a social defense mechanism to oppose social norms, regardless if they were accepted by the majority or by the minorities. Before we start the battle with social norms, we have to make one thing clear right now: social norms are neither good or bad. It depends on how we enforce them. "Social norms are informal understandings that govern the behavior of members of a society." They represent the shared values of a society. However, we are still individuals within a community. Like O'Shannon said, "We all live our lives with a big rule book in our head. It tells us how the world and its creatures should behave. We build this rule book ourselves, based on years of learning and experience." We are not programmed with the same system that syncs our thoughts and believes. This ain't one of the episodes of Black Mirror. At least not yet. It's logical to feel threatened by unique behaviors since their existence might encourage more unique individualities and thus overthrow the current social norms that you hold dear. It's our primal instinct to fight for superiority. But when harmless behaviors are opposed to the social norms, it is absurd and arbitrary to attack and outcast them. You can't refuse a kid at the lunch table just because he is a fan of eccentric movies. You definitely can't burn a woman alive on a stake simply because she spent more time with books than kitchenware. These actions are abusing social norms for their own benefit, and it shall not be tolerated. Thus begins the everlasting battle between Engaging Cowardice and social norms.


As the old saying goes, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." The very same wisdom also applies to Engaging Cowardice. In one episode of Friends, The One Where Heckles Dies, Phoebe Buffay was scoffed by the gang after she expressed her disbelief in evolution theory. Ross Geller, paleontologist by day, jerk by life, started to obsessively corner Phoebe into believing that evolution is the only possibility for the development of species. Phoebe riposted with the examples of former scientific facts which were later proven wrong, such as the flat earth model. Ross was struck dumb and later admitted that there might be a teeny, tiny chance that evolution is not the sole answer. He was immediately mocked by Phoebe for abandoning his belief so easily. Whether this is a good example of Engaging Cowardice or not - some believe that Phoebe was trolling Ross at the very beginning just to discourage his arrogance - it's a great example to use the logical flaw of your opponent to riposte. We employ Engaging Cowardice to expose the flaws and contradictions within the existing social norms. "Our world is built on a wobbly foundation of religion, instinct, science, tradition. We don't stand on solid ground; there are logic gaps all over the place." By knowing the logic gaps lie within the social norms, we are able to exaggerate and ridicule those gaps to make it visible to their devotees. Through speaking their languages, it also makes it easier for receivers to discover the hidden message. That being said, a well-founded Engaging Cowardice cannot be achieved without a rigorous understanding of the standpoints of those social norms. 


"Man, you are saying that Social norms and Engaging Cowardice, like most celebrity couples I follow on Instagram, are in a very toxic relationship?" Yes, African American Who Doesn't Act Black Enough, they are. Also, one last time, put, that phone, away! The toxic and complicated relationship between social norms and Engaging Cowardice isn't just established by the fact that Engaging Cowardice relies on acknowledging and understanding the standpoints of the social norms in order to ridicule them. It is also due to the fact that Engaging Cowardice has its contribution to creating social norms. "Wait, what? That's messed up! This ain't Greek tragedy." Indeed, now I have got your attention away from the phone, allow me to elaborate on this 'Greek tragedy' for you. "In real life, the norm is an evolving set of definitions.” Throughout history, many factors stimulated our revolution in thoughts and actions, factors like the change of environments, developments of technologies, or deteriorating injustices. These revolutions usually started with an exchange of view, either a conversation or a confrontation. As a hybrid of both forms, Engaging Cowardice also played its role as the catalytic agent of evolution. When we confront a social norm and expose its logic gaps with Engaging Cowardice, unknown to us, we simultaneously start evaluating if the social norm is fit to contemporary society. If not, actions and voices will spring up, little by little, until they dethrone the outdated social norms. A new social norm will be crowned. Like its predecessor, it will face its test of time eventually. Little did we know, we are always part of a revolution. We may not have torches or pitchforks in our hands, but those share buttons and hashtags will do just likewise.

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.107

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.182

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.228



First Rule of Fight Club


Why have I never heard of the art of Engaging Cowardice before?" Excellent question, Girl Who Is Shunned By Her Vegan

Friends. See, she raised her hand before the question, The Boy Who Was Told Not To Play With Barbie. Mastering the art of the Engaging Cowardice is similar to the first rule of Fight Club. Of course, here I used the term “similar” to avoid any legal problem from Hollywood big shots. But you get my ideas. In case you forgot the first rule of Fight Club or you have never seen that movie as I have, the first rule of Fight Club is: ”You Do Not Talk About Fight Club."  


Remember, we are cowards, which means we are not so fond of confrontation and argument. Therefore, when you are employing Engaging Cowardice on your vegan friends who pinched their noses while passing by, you shouldn't say, "OMG, do you girls also smell the hypocrisy? By the way, I am being sarcastic." On the contrary, one should never state their intention in employing Engaging Cowardice in their action. You simply let the receivers unpack the hidden message within the action in their mind. By doing so, you may avoid most instant confrontations, since it takes time to unwrap and see the message within. Furthermore, considering the process of unwrapping happens in the receiver's head, you can redirect the accusation of the revelation of their vice or flaw to themselves. Because, hey, it is not what we said that makes them mad. It is how they interpret what we said.

"Man, what you are saying is that they are gonna get the hidden message eventually. Then, a dispute is unavoidable, isn't it?" Unfortunately, it is, Contemporary Artist Who Loves Hollywood Movies. Like we mentioned in Lesson 01, Engaging Cowardice aims at riposting instead of parrying. Unlike normal cowardly action, we intend to deliver our thought to others. Truths can be ugly, especially those that expose our flaws and vices. Therefore, we wrap the truth within a sugar coating to soften the blow. The sugar coating we use here is humor. It provides two functions in the process of counter. First of all, it lightens up the matters and displays a well-disposed attitude to receivers. It blunts the arrow of truth. Secondly, as one of the main features of humor, incongruity forces receivers to think over the logic, which may or may not be false, they uphold. Consequently, receivers can see a different perspective and might open to further discussion on that matter. However, the incongruity you create should always be supported by incisive and irrefutable logic when it comes to Engaging Cowardice. Otherwise, your quick wit will only confuse the receiver and make the situation worse. A perfect example of such incongruity of Engaging Cowardice can be seen in the sketch of Weekend Updates in Saturday Night Live (SNL for short), aired on 02/04/12. Lana Del Rey, impersonated by Kristen Wiig, accepted the criticism from the public and explained why these criticisms were genuine and logical. However, her logic behind these criticisms actually exposed how absurd they are. She didn't directly point it out, but people with a basic sense of logic could deduce the hidden message within easily. People laughed, and they learned. Logic plays an important role in Engaging Cowardice, but we will discuss it further in Lesson 07.





O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.09

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), Chapter 7


ow, is it clear for everyone so far? If you have any questions, please don't be afraid to ask.There will be no cowardice in my

class. Practice the craft outside of the class, please. Yes, you back there, Asian Who Eats Chips with Chopsticks. "What if they don't get the hidden message? You know, not everyone gets the same joke." Thank you for bringing up our next topic. You are right. Making your sugar coating easy to unwrap is crucial. You only have one chance to deliver the message. We all know the embarrassment of explaining your joke and how it loses its power afterward. “At best, information by itself can only be intended comedy", American television writer and producer Dan O'Shannon stated in his book What Are You Laughing At? "In order for it to work, it has to be activated by the receiver.” So we ask ourselves, what stops people from understanding our humor and discovering the hidden message within?  


Let me introduce our beloved friend, Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the American TV series, The Big Bang Theory. In the episode, The Big Bran Hypothesis, Dr. Sheldon Cooper broke into his neighbor's house and cleaned her apartment because of his germophobia. During a heated confrontation, Dr. Sheldon Cooper advised Penny, the neighbor, to check in with an otorhinolaryngologist for her snoring problem. Penny then responded with a question in a calm voice, "And what kind ofdoctor removes shoes from asses?" To which Dr. Sheldon Cooper replied genuinely, "Depending on the depth, that's either a proctologist or a general surgeon." It was not until his roommate, Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, held a "sarcasm" sign behind Penny's back, that he realized it was meant to be sarcasm. Then the audience burst into laughter. Now the answer to the question of why was the audience laughing, is clear. It was provoked by the incongruity of a genuine answer to a clear rhetorical sarcastic question in the middle of a heated conversation. The real question is, how can a character with such intelligence not recognize  sarcasm as a high school teenager can? If you know Dr. Sheldon Cooper, then you probably know the answer already, being a fundamental lack of social skills. When Penny said "And what kind of doctor removes shoes from asses?", she meant to say, "I am going to kick you in the ass so hard that my shoes is going to be stuck in it." As Sheldon is not familiar with such a usage of language, not even the wordplay of it, he genuinely thought Penny was asking a question in the middle of an argument. But it wouldn't be fair to say Dr. Sheldon Cooper has a fundamental lack of social skills. As you can see in the later episodes, Penny sometimes had trouble understanding the world of geeks as well. In the fairness of all lifestyles, let's call it a different understanding of social norms. Now you may want to write this down because it will be in your midterm. A mutual understanding of social norms plays a crucial part in a successful Engaging Cowardice performance. This concept is quite important. Therefore, we will talk about it in a future lesson.

Also, for someone who is not very good at reading people's emotions, Penny's calm voice did not help to convey the sarcastic intention to Dr. Sheldon Cooper. It's an example of how verbal expressions can also influence the delivery of the message. Yes, Asian Who Eats Chips With Chopsticks, it will be in the midterm as well. We will also cover that in Lesson 09.


Speaking of what will be in the midterm too, let's go back to the example message from Girl Who Is Shunned By Her Vegan Friends. If she responded "OMG, do you girls also smell the hypocrisy?" to her friends who pinched their noses while passing by, what would they really get from the message? Let's break it down, shall we? First of all, in the spirit of deflecting, you did a good job by redirecting their nose-clipping insult back to themselves with the word 'smell', since their action implied you smelled bad as you eat meat. However, your redirection was diffused due to a lack of context. If I were one of those girls, the obvious logical chain reaction goes as such, "Why did she say hypocrisy?", "Are we hypocrites? Or is she a hypocrite?", "Why are we hypocrites?", and "Why is she a hypocrite?" As you can see, it took too many twists and they still couldn't unwrap the hidden message. I don't even know what you meant because there is a big gap to fill within your logic. You will end up either explaining your sarcastic message or letting it be. Neither of them is the result we wanted. Instead, if you said "OMG, do you girls also smell the hypocrisy coming out of your leather bags?" you narrowed the gap, and make the connection between hypocrisy and the girls more obvious. To fill the gap within the incongruity that was intended to be humorous or sarcastic, O'Shannon coined this process as the 'cognitive process’. In the later lesson, we will dig deeper into this, together with incongruity.

L5 Graph.png



Raining Cats and Goats

Eagleton, Terry, Humour, (2019), p. 67


But professor, you have already mentioned that there will be a lesson about incongruity. When will we get into it? And what is

incongruity? (gasp) Is it something gruesome?!" Sorry to disappoint you, Class Weirdo Who Collects Splatter Films, it has nothing to do with gruesomeness. Originally, I was going to introduce incongruity after 4 more mouse-wheel-scrolls. Yet, in the spirit of incongruity, let's talk about it right away! First, I will begin with a short video. Hey, where did you get that popcorn? I told you it has nothing to do with gruesomeness! 


At one scene of The Simpson's episode, The Springfield Files, Homer Simpson wandered into the woods and got lost. "Wooh, something scary is about to happen." (chewing popcorn) "Shhhhh" Thank you, class. Now, where are we? Ah yes, Homer got lost in the woods. While searching for a way out, he bumped into a signboard with the word "DIE" written on it. Scared, Homer screamed. Then a gust of wind blew away a tree branch that was in front of the signboard, revealing the letter T. Upon seeing the word "DIET", Homer screamed even louder and ran away in fear. Let's pause the video here because I heard your simultaneous laughter. This might sound like I am blowing my own trumpet. But, what were you laughing at? A man fleeing from an ominous situation, or the fact that diet was much scarier to Homer than death, the ultimate ending? I believe that most laughter was triggered by the latter, except for Class Weirdo Who Collects Splatter Films. Because in reality, nothing is scarier than death. Class, the contradiction between Homer's reaction and what is written in our rule books, is incongruity itself.


"Humour springs from a clash of incongruous aspects - a sudden shift of perspective, an unexpected slippage of meaning, an arresting dissonance or discrepancy, a momentary defamiliarising of the familiar and so on." These are the common descriptions of incongruity within humor. "Incongruity exists only when measured against a norm." To simply put it, we feel the presence of incongruity when we are in a situation that does not fit with the rule books that we built with a lifetime experience and knowledge. Incongruity is the opposite of our stereotypical expectation towards situations we are familiar with. As we briefly mentioned in Lesson 04, incongruity forces the receiver to think over the logic so they can see from our perspective. Think it as the wrapping of a candy. Only if you unwrap the twisting ends of the package with logic, will you be able to see the sweet treat in the center. However, in our case, it will be the hidden message within, and unfortunately, it tends to be more sour than sweet. Incongruity can be puzzling or comprehensible, it depends on the level of incongruity we create. The lower the incongruity level, the more the receivers can discover the message within. Vice versa, the higher the incongruity level, the harder for the receivers to relate to it since it bears less resemblance to reality. 


Incongruity can be impossible or improbable. Can anyone give me an example of impossible incongruity applied in Engaging Cowardice? Yes, Single Lady at Her Younger Sister's Wedding? "What about "Don't worry. I will send you the invitation when my cat learns how to fly and deliver, Aunt Greta."?" That's a nice one. Because it's common knowledge that a cat can't fly nor operate a flying machine, the incongruity is impossible. But when Homer Simpson said to his bro-crush, "Our houses are the cheapest. The one next to me's been on sale forever. I see them lowering the price every morning when I go out to pee." in the episode, The Day Earth Stood Cool, it's an improbable incongruity instead. It's unlikely for people to urinate outside, but not impossible. And yes, I am a fan of The Simpsons. Sue me.


Now, every incongruity can be impossible, however, there is one kind of incongruity that is never impossible but only improbable, the attitudinal incongruity. "What is attitudinal incongruity?" I am about to bring it up, Girl Who Doesn't Use Social Media. Attitudinal incongruity is when we respond to situations in an out of ordinary mental state. A good example, and my personal favorite, is when Sophie Kaczynsky responded with "Oh, it's so nice to be corrected when you walk in the door" when Caroline Channing told her it's 'raining cats and dogs' instead of 'raining cats and goats', in the episode, And the Move-In Meltdown, in 2 Broke Girls. Knowing the relationship between Sophie and Caroline, it's not so difficult to realize that Sophie actually didn't feel nice to be corrected by Caroline. She was annoyed by Caroline's know-it-all personality as usual. The conflict between Sophie's superficial emotion and her real emotion created an attitudinal incongruity. And yes, as you may have figured, attitudinal incongruity is frequently seen in sarcasm. "The incongruity in sarcasm does not come from the self-contradiction, but in the picture created by the sarcastic one." The sentence "It's nice to be corrected" is not the main incongruity here but the thought of Sophie praising Caroline for her criticism. It's like how I enjoy your reviews of my project What Are Your Laughing At? Who doesn't like to be called boring and surprisingly humorless?

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), Chapter 7

2 Broke Girls, S04E10, (2015)

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.189





Eagleton, Terry, Humour, (2019), p.13.

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.242

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.108

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p. 131


Professor, it seems to me that people laugh at incongruous concepts. Is incongruity the reason we laugh?" Jesus, Asian

Who Eats Chips with Chopsticks, can't you see I am urinating? I swear to God, there is always one Asian every year. Well, it looks like I am not going anyway. Let me answer your question. No, unfortunately, incongruity is not the reason why we laugh. There are many theories attempting to explain the reason behind laughter. Among these theories, three of them are most frequently seen and they all support our decision in employing humor in Engaging Cowardice. 


  • Release Theory: Laughter is a physical reaction when our psychological tension is released. Some psychological tension can be caused by situations that are nerve-racking or ominous. When we later realize it is a false alarm or we are in a safe distance, then the previous buildup tension is released as laughter, whether it's a sign of relief or appreciation of the play. Other psychological tensions come from the oppression of social norms instead. It explains why people sometimes find racial jokes or dark humor funny. It's the brief moment that we escape from the shackles of social norms and admire the boldness of the humor. "Laughing is in this sense a failure of repression." It's also why Engaging Cowardice employs humor because we dare to say what the social norms discourage us to express. Okay, not "dare" per se, but we beat around the bush. Still, we said it. 


  • Superiority Theory: We laugh at the misfortunes and imperfections of others because we want to feel superior. Overall, we enjoy the fact that we are not the ones exposing our imperfections. "Where there is inequality, one may find superiority." Human interaction is full of comparison. We notice not only similarities between each other but also differences. Within differences, social norms will automatically tell you who has the upper hand and who is the minority. Therefore, Engaging Cowardice employs humor not only to diminish the power of those looking down but in return to expose the logic gaps of the assaulter. As a result, they become the ones who are exposing their imperfection and flaws. We shift the upper hand to us. Who is laughing now?


  • Incongruity Theory (or Incongruity-Resolution Theory): “A good comedian understands how to take advantage of and manipulate the way in which our brains made connections.” We laugh at incongruous concepts the moment we realize how incompatible aspects are connected to form a novel image. Laughter then becomes a sign of appreciation of the wit that we didn't come up with, as well as a sign of the joy of resolving the logic that forms the connection. Because incongruity alone only triggers questions towards the incompatible aspects without revealing the origin of the incongruity, it requires the process of resolution to complete the generation of laughter. "We don’t resolve the incongruity. We resolve the logic." Receivers wonder how the incongruity is formed and eventually trace back to the logic that connected the incompatible aspects in the first place. When the incongruity was generated for the purpose of Engaging Cowardice, receivers will also see from our perspective through the process of resolution. You can then ask them to sign on your tablet because the hidden message, has been delivered.


(Turn off faucet.) So no, Asian Who Eats Chips with Chopsticks, incongruity is not the reason why we laugh. Incongruity creates what we laugh at, the message hidden within incompatible aspects. The resolution process, or as we called before the cognitive process, on the other hand, is the reason why we laugh. But we will talk about it after the break. Would you hand me that paper towel over there, please?



It’s Only Logical

Gensler, Harry J, Introduction to logic, (2017), p.1


n the episode of... "Professor? Can you give an example of your work instead of a TV show? Otherwise, we can't see the

connection between your practice and the lecture you are giving. Unless what they say is true: "Those who can't do, teach. And those who can't teach, teach gym’." Okay, you sound exactly like my tutors in the exam for my Master's degree, Asian Girl With Caucasian Boyfriend. Alright, I didn't want to become those professors who use their publications as textbooks, but I will use my own work as an example this time. "Logic is the analysis and appraisal of arguments.” We question certain social norms because we find it illogical in our point of view. As we mentioned a couple of times in the previous lessons, logic plays an important role in the practice of Engaging Cowardice. It provides solid support for your riposte as well as serving as a bridge between us cowards and receivers. 


In Lesson 04, we have discussed how a solid logic can support Engaging Cowardice, along with exposing and ridicule the logic flaw of the social norms. I am going to bring up another example to reinforce my statement. In my work, God's Words, a man walked into a book store and asked the clerk if they sell Bibles. Like a salesman in a media market, the clerk started to show him different editions of the Bible. Some focus on the sinful sodomites, also known as homosexual; some highlight what women can or can not do. But when the man asked if there was one about general and unconditional love or acceptance, the clerk replied "Ah, that would be the first original edition. Unfortunately, we don’t have it anymore. But hey, these editions are all God’s words. We can even customize one for you. What do you hate the most?" This was my riposte to those who kept using 'God's words' as their moral weapon to preach their lifestyle to people. Let's analyze the logic within, shall we? Each time people told me that the Bible is God's words so we must follow the gospel truth, the fact that there are over 2053 translations of the Bible in the world, 61 translations in English alone, confused the Jesus out of me. Some translations even contradict with other versions. Which one is the real God's words without human filters? I know we are talking about my work here, but the video clip in Prayers for Bobby is a valid example of human interpretation of the Bible. Now, in God's Words, by creating a novel service of customizing your own Bible, I used the logic of the receivers to expose and exaggerate their logical flaw that humans can interpret 'God's words' however they want for their benefits, as long as the words are from the Bible. I also used the way the clerk introduced the focuses of different versions of the Bible like the feature qualities of a product to indicate how illogical some people enforce certain parts of the Bible but ignore the others. In this fashion, when a passionate Bible warrior comes to me and complains about how offensive my work is, I can simply say "Hey, I am just following your logic." "If his act is offensive, it is because what it represents is offensive, and it is hypocritical to complain about the former while saying nothing of the latter."


"So if I told my Aunt Greta ‘Don't worry. I will send you the invitation when my cat learns how to fly and deliver.’, it doesn't look like she will realize what went wrong, won't she?" You are correct, Single Lady at Her Younger Sister's Wedding. One may say you have set your Engaging Cowardice to parry. Your riposte only provides a rejection of her attendance at the wedding. There is no logic behind the incongruity you create that will help Aunt Greta to realize she has no business in your life decision. You might have to face a further inquisition from Aunt Greta where Engaging Cowardice will not be as effective as the first time. It's your choice of intention if you want her to understand the reason behind your rejection when you are on parry mode. However, when you are on riposte mode or intend to challenge social norms with Engaging Cowardice, a logical reason attached to your hidden message is highly recommended. 


In addition to being solid support of our riposte, logic further helps the communication between us cowards and receivers. We practice Engaging Cowardice not merely to express what we do not dare to do so directly, but also in hopes of to eventually path a way for discussion or even improvement in the society, regarding the problem and social closure that previously silenced us. To open up a discussion, there is bound to be an exchange of viewpoints. For receivers, they have already displayed their viewpoint clearly by evaluating our actions and thoughts based on social norms. However, due to the subtle nature of Engaging Cowardice, our viewpoints may not be as clear as theirs on the surface. Yet, our viewpoints become more visible during the process of the cognitive process where receivers untangle the incongruity by resolving the logic behind it. Therefore, it is dangerous to practice Engaging Cowardice based on an unjustifiable motive. Without the exchange of viewpoints, a discussion will degenerate into confusion or even becomes a row. 

Furthermore, instead of pointing it out afterward, the benefit of attaching a rational logic to your hidden message is turning a lecture into a self-enlightenment. In this fashion, you give them a chance to choose between engaging a discussion with you or acknowledging their flawed logic inwardly without any further comments, that is if they can understand your point of view in the course of the cognitive process. Whether a discussion arises or not, you have already planted a seed of an idea in their mind. And class, don't underestimate the power of an idea. It will slowly sprout and root in their head. Sooner or later, it will become a tree that is strong enough to make an influence. No, their head is not going to explode, Class Weirdo Who Collects Splatter Films. It is a metaphorical tree! When enough trees of idea root within a community, a phenomenon called minority influence might occur. As we discussed in Lesson 03, the revolution of social norms is a continuous occurrence. If you can provide a logical and convincing point of view, little by little, there is an increasing possibility to change the mind of the majority. And yes, we can.

Eagleton, Terry, Humour, (2019), p.148






Hold on. Let me get this straight. Even if we make the lowest level of incongruity, there is still a chance that receivers don't

get the hidden message? It also depends on the other side? I thought it could be just about me." Sorry to pull you out of the comfort zone, Housemate Who Stays In The Room Most of The Time. The answer is yes. It also depends on the other side. Engaging Cowardice is a form of communication and communication can never be a one-way street. Even though you have control over the level of the incongruity when you practice Engaging Cowardice, the receivers also hold rule books of their own. Their rule books will have their influence on unwrapping the hidden message in the course of the cognitive process. If there aren't many overlaps between the rule books of the receiver and yours, it will take some time for the unwrapping to happen, or not at all. 


"We constantly project ourselves onto others, seeking similarities as well as differences." Whether it's your sandwich that has one more lettuce than the others; her dress is from H&M unlike yours that is from Mango; or his idea is praised by your supervisor while yours got a hard pass, every human interaction involves comparison, knowingly or unawares. It is like we are in an everlasting Spot the Difference puzzle. This, is the first step of every cognitive process, spot the incongruity. Picture this, on the left side, is our rule books, on the right side, is the incongruity we received in Engaging Cowardice. First, we flip through our rule book looking for a similar situation to the incongruity. Once we find one, we start marking the incompatible aspects between the rule book and the incongruity. Are you there yet? Good. In the second step, we employ our sense of logic to assemble the incompatible aspects to form a logical interpretation of the incongruity. Finally, we can use the newly acquired logical interpretation as a key to decipher the incongruity and reveal the hidden message within. If there is no similar situation within receivers' books, the incongruity might be simply overlooked.

"Professor, can you..." Yes, I know, Asian Girl With Caucasian Boyfriend. I will bring up another work of mine as an example. Run is a waste disposal commercial I made in 2019. In this commercial, I smuggled my displeasure of irresponsibility regarding house chores by displaying and exaggerating the fear of responsibility. I was very satisfied with this work and I expected the audience to feel the same as well. However, at the European test screening, when the product was revealed in the commercial, there was dead silence except for one or two chuckles. Shocked, I asked the test audience what went wrong. "My boyfriend says he doesn't know what waste disposal is and he knows a lot of things. He is from the Netherlands." Thank you for the spoiler, Asian Girl With Caucasian Boyfriend. Yes, as she said, they didn't know the product in the first place. People rarely install waste disposal in their households in Europe, therefore, shredding waste in the sink is not listed in their rule book. Furthermore, even though few people knew the product from American TV shows, they didn't resonate with my hatred towards irresponsibility. Either they never lived with someone irresponsible, or they are the irresponsible one. In both cases, the incompatible aspects, fear of responsibility and waste disposal commercial, couldn't form my intended ingenious incongruity. The only incongruity that exists in their mind is "What on earth did I just see?"


"But professor, even though I don't know what waste disposal is, I can still see the hidden message within. Why is that?" Great observation, Housemate Who Stays In The Room Most of The Time. I assume you also have an irresponsible housemate? Yes, I thought so too. Before I answer your question, I would like to add one point regarding incongruity. Indeed, as a commercial and perhaps humor, Run requires the audience to know about waste disposal and irresponsibility regarding house chores to form an incongruous image that can trigger laughter. However, that incongruous image is the dominant incongruity. The minor incongruity behind the curtain is the action triggered by the fear of responsibility. It is unlikely for someone to run away from a simple house chore to the level of running away from a psycho killer or the Grimm Reaper. This incongruous image exaggerated the fear of responsibility. So, in a sense of Engaging Cowardice, it works. There can be more incongruity working within one situation. When the dominant one is overlooked, subconsciously we will notice the minor incongruity or ones that fit our rule book.

And that explains your question, Housemate Who Stays In The Room Most of The Time. The reason you could still see the hidden message that is my displeasure about irresponsibility in house chores is that you overlooked my intended dominant incongruity. You moved on to the other incongruity that fits your rule book, one which you can easily identify yourself with. Identification and nostalgia are powerful enhancers when it comes to the cognitive process. The more you can relate to the situation within the incongruity, the easier you can spot the difference and form a logical interpretation. It saves you the trouble of flipping through the rule book to find a similar situation. Identification can also trigger emotion. Emotion will then accelerate the formation of logical interpretation. "Yes! I don't need someone explaining to me to know how much those bastards are afraid of throwing out the trash. I sense their fear whenever the trash is full." Yes! Don't you also wish that you can throw them out instead of the trash? 


Now where are we? Ah, yes. When it comes to humor, emotion can also enhance our appreciation. "By and large, people respect intellect, but they connect with emotions." With the potential of seeking identification and emotional connection, Engaging Cowardice can also be used as a method of seeking alliances. As a coward and an outcast of social norms, we might feel alone on certain issues. You don't want to address it directly so you hide it within Engaging Cowardice. When someone receives your Engaging Cowardice and laughs, it is not just a sign that they complete the cognitive process and receive your hidden message; it could also be a sign of recognition. "Laughter may be used to communicate approval to a source or a desire to connect with other receivers" Interpretation of that silvery chuckle? "I feel you, girl/man."

Other than how incompatible the aspects within incongruity are, the structure of the incongruity also influences the cognitive process. O'Shannon categorizes the structures of incongruity into three basic groups: Straightforward, Gap-Filling, and Recontexualization. A straightforward structure is like its namesake, straightforward. You don't need to form a logical interpretation to discover the hidden message because you are provided with one. "I am going to kick you in the ass so hard that my shoes is going to be stuck in it”, is a straightforward structure of incongruity; Gap-Filling structure, on the other hand, requires a deduction of a logical interpretation to discover the hidden message within an incongruity. "Our houses are the cheapest. The one next to me's been on sale forever. I see them lowering the price every morning when I go out to pee." You have to use logic - public urination is unsightly, therefore a house with a neighbor that urinates in public every morning is undesirable on the market, hence the lowering price - to reach the hidden message; Recontextualization is similar to a straightforward structure, it also provides the logical interpretation. However, the incongruity is not revealed until you revisit the image again with the logical interpretation you are given at the end. Max Black in 2 Broke Girls once said "Oh my god, that was you? I love that lipstick. I was wearing it during my first kiss, and thank you. Because I got an A in that class." It seemed to be a normal scenario at the beginning until we went back from the beginning with the new information we acquired at the end. Thus it created a suggested incongruity that Max kissed a teacher while wearing that lipstick after we go through the whole sentence again. Understand that one structure isn't necessarily easier for the cognitive process than the others. They are broad categories. Structures can also be regarded as contents of our rule books. Some receivers might be more familiar with a gap-filling structure than a straightforward structure. They might also appreciate a certain structure more than the other.


Speaking of appreciation, when I was cornered by Asian Who Eats Chips with Chopsticks in the lavatory, I mentioned the cognitive process can be regarded as the reason why we laugh. "But professor, she is a girl..." Yes, I know. If she gets an A in this class, there is no correlation of what happened in the lavatory. "Oops, she is gonna get it. She is Asian, you know." Your words, not mine. Okay, back to class. If incongruity is a puzzle, then the cognitive process can be seen as an effort we make to discover the hidden message. The moment we solve the logic and discover the hidden message, it generates a brief cognitive thrill and releases the puzzling tension we built up during the cognitive process in a form of laughter. It is the same cognitive thrill that made Archimedes become the famous nude jogger in history. The laughter might also be a gesture of appreciation to the creative mind that creates the puzzle. That's why I would say incongruity is what we laugh at and the cognitive process is the reason why we laugh. Now if you excuse me. I have an appointment with HR.

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p. 246

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.240

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.35

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), Chapter 7

2 Broke Girls, S02E18, (2013)




It's Not What It Looks Like


lright, guys, the good news is that I finally came out to Janice from HR. The bad news is that I am still required to attend a

seminar regarding sexual harassment at workplaces. Because, to quote her words, "It's not the first time someone faked a boyfriend and drafted a steaming conversation with that fake boyfriend to avoid the accusation of sexual harassment." "Did you tell Janice that it's not what it looks like? That's what I told my wife when her sister was wiping the wine she spilled off my crotch." Yes, I did, Recently Divorcé With A Dubious Story. Be careful, my dear students, not every situation can be solved with the phrase "It is not what it looks like”. Your intention can be easily misread by others from its appearance. That being said, the message within Engaging Cowardice can also be misunderstood by receivers based on its presentation since it is the outer layer of Engaging Cowardice. On the other hand, the right presentation execution can enhance the effectiveness of the cognitive process, and guide the logic tracing to our desired direction.


When I first presented my work, #NotYourDayYet, in a setting of..."Excuse me, professor, I think you might have gone overboard with my request on sharing more of your works. I would like to hear other professional examples from now on." Too late, Asian Girl With Caucasian Boyfriend. As I was saying, when I first presented my illustration, #NotYourDayYet, in a setting of a Christian altar with a Church choir playing in the background, my intention was to create a sense of holiness in contrast to the ridiculousness of the content in my illustration, which was illustrated in the fashion of stained glass. Despite the effort I made, the audience was steered in the opposite direction than I expected. Some said their minds were instantly filled with many associations of Christianity at the first sight of the setting. One even had a disturbing association, regarding the infamous molestation of altar boys in Christian churches, based on the construction of the illustration and the background choir. The fact that over 50% of the audience were European who grew up in a more Christian-ingrained environment than I did, has created an unintended impression of my work. To them, the setting didn't just stop at a sense of holiness but it evoked more profound cultural connections. In the end, these profound cultural connections overshadowed whatever potential connections they may have had. People have specific connections towards different forms of presentation. Like social norms, they are also part of our rule books. So you see, class, when the first impression takes root, it's hard to uproot it with a simple phrase "It's Not What It Looks Like." The veil between your intention and the perception of others is dangerously thin, especially when you practice Engaging Cowardice with a sense of sarcasm. If your sarcastic tone is not delivered through your presentation, people will assume that you believe in what you present.


"Dear Lord, are you telling me that how the presentation is translated also depends on receivers? Then why are we even taking this class? It's hopeless, y'all." Yes and no, Czech Who Doesn't Drink Beer. Indeed, we cannot control how receivers react to our presentation based on their cultural part of rule books. However, we can take back some control by identifying who we present to. By doing so, we can think through potential cultural connections they may have regarding our presentation. Are they Christians? Does the color white mean joy or death to them? Do words like fruit and fairy mean something different to them? It is still possible to limit the angle of the derailment of cultural connections if you pay attention to these details. Furthermore, unlike social norms which are evolved from experience and knowledge that can differ from individuals and cultures, the rules and traits of individual presentation forms are consistent regardless of the identity of receivers. For example, you can pause and rewind with online videos whenever you want but you won't have the luxury with cable TV. Comparing to audiences on Netflix, audiences at a theater have less control over the presentation but they make a deeper commitment to the receiving of the presentation than the audience on stream services. Stand-up comedy is more interactive and tolerable for occasional silence while sketch videos on SNL are one-way communication and less tolerable for tedious scenes. If the sketches you present have been through table reads and few rehearsals, people will hold a higher standard than a spontaneous stand-up comedy. "There are various reasons why a receiver prefers any one mode of communication for entertainment delivery, such as time and commitment, level of decoding, level of sensory reconstruction." All in all, knowing the nature of your chosen presentation forms of Engaging Cowardice will be in your favor on gaining more control over the cognitive process of the receivers.

"Sorry to interrupt, man. But have you considered a digital version of this course? Many of my followers are mad interested in this course after they saw my post on Instagram. I mean, it shouldn't make too much difference if the lessons are in written form instead of audial, right?" I thought I had disconnected the router. How did you get back on Instagram, African American Who Doesn't Act Black Enough? "Hello, cellular data? Duh." Fair enough. However, if you have paid close attention to what we have discussed a few minutes ago, you would not be asking this question. Of course, there is a difference. But to what extend? Let me break down the presentation forms into the primary categories before we explore further. If we categorize them by media, there are visual presentation (images and motions), audial presentation (sounds and spoken verbal), and written verbal presentation (words). If we categorize by how receivers experience the presentation, there are digital presentation and analog presentation. "Professor, if you want to categorize them into digital and analog, shouldn't it be based on if receivers and sources of Engaging Cowardice are in the same space?" Critical thinking, Czech Who Doesn't Drink Beer. That sober mind of yours really pays off. Allow me to give you an example. If you are sending this text "I wish I drink. It's hard to be sober in this conversation." to your friend next to you at a dinner party, she will experience your Engaging Cowardice presentation through a digital device even though she is physically next to you in the same room. So you see, what matters is the way receivers experience instead of where the delivery and the receiving take place.


Cognitive process is the first thing that we need to talk about when it comes to different media. Different media require varied levels of cognitive process. "Our senses are stimulated by audio and visual cues that raise our attention level. When we read, we’re doing all the decoding and sensory reconstruction ourselves." Vision and hearing are the two primary senses that help us perceive and experience the world. Written words, on the other hand, are codes we use to document our experience and perception. When receivers engage in written verbal presentations, they must go through the decoding process before they can start comparing the information they acquire to their rule books. However, with visual and audial presentations, receivers can skip the decoding process right away, that is, if no spoken verbal is involved. Not to mention that, in written verbal presentation, receivers also need to construct an image with visual and audial information in their mind based on their rule books, which might be distinct to the image that we intended to construct. With that being said, written verbal presentations require a higher level of cognitive process, comparing to visual and audial ones. It also means receivers have more possible interpretations of our Engaging Cowardice. "Cognitive requirements increase when we go from showing incongruity to saying things that are incongruous." Between visual and verbal presentations, written or spoken, verbal presentations require a higher level of cognitive process since languages create additional decoding processes. Furthermore, language itself is already a big chapter in our rule books. It's packed with idioms, catchphrases, cliches, quotes, expressions, lyrics, and so on. They can be well-known as well as exclusive among individuals regarding different regions, generations, or personalities. Try to translate Bart Simpson's catchphrase "Eat My Shorts" into Mandarin Chinese and explain it to your Korean-drama-enthusiastic mother. It's a real treat. 


So far, you may have thought that verbal presentations are the worst choice for Engaging Cowardice. However, there are still pros about them despite all the cons we mentioned. "For centuries, portable humor was limited almost exclusively to the linguistic joke." Before digital devices were invented to shorten our attention spans and ruin your dinner date with the rule cameras eat first, verbal presentations were the most common choices for Engaging Cowardice, mostly due to their traits of being easily reproduced and distributed. Also, one needs no specific skills to practice verbal presentation as long as he/she knows the language to construct presentations. It's worth mentioning, especially for people who enjoy sarcastic verbal presentations, spoken verbal presentations convert the attitude and words simultaneously. On the contrary, written verbal presentations rely on receivers to construct the attitude themselves based on the context of the presentation.


Due to the development of technology, many analog presentations can be transformed into digital presentations in forms such as videos, pictures, or audio recordings. Yet, one trait that digital presentations can not convey from analog presentations is the commitment of the physical presence of receivers. What does it mean then? Being physically present means receivers are willing to invest their time and pay more attention to the presentation. With higher attention, receivers can narrow down the potential derailment angles of the cognitive process. Additionally. with the requirement of physical presence, receivers will experience and interact with the environment where presentations take place. Wise Engaging Cowardice practitioners will use it as their advantage to enhance the experience as well as creating an atmosphere to guide the cognitive process into their desired direction. "When someone speaks to us directly, we assume an active role in the communication. When we observe comedy from the interaction of characters who do not acknowledge our presence, we take on a more passive role." Analog presentations also have higher possibilities for instant interaction between the source of Engaging Cowardice and the receivers, or even between receivers. Take SNL for example. There are two kinds of audiences of SNL, the ones at the live set (analog) and the ones watching live remotely through devices (digital). At the set, the source of the presentation can sense instant feedback about their acts through the expressions of the audiences, which may affect the presentation positively or negatively. For instance, when someone at the audience makes a burst of hysterical laughter, performers may break their characters and laugh as well. As a result, it encourages more laughter in the audiences, whether on set or watching remotely. The possible instant interaction between audiences at analog presentations can accelerate the cognitive process as well. If other people in the audience react to certain acts, it is an indication of incongruity which pushes receivers to take out the rule book and start the cognitive process. You might have missed the indication if you experience it alone and find out later in the comment section. Even though streaming service has provided digital presentation a higher possibility of instant interaction between the source and the receivers, it is still limited to written verbal and simple graphic interaction. They also require a certain amount of decoding that may distract the source from the presentation. However, a better chance for instant interaction also means a better chance for instant confrontation. In this case, you will need quick wit and strong logic to support and defend your Engaging Cowardice presentation. 


Audiences might have taken on a passive role as observers in digital presentations, but they can take on an active role as redistributors or even become sources of Engaging Cowardice themselves. When it comes to digital presentations, one can not ignore their irreplaceable traits of easy distribution and massive (re)production. It takes less effort to recreate an exact presentation and distribute it to others digitally. In other words, digital presentations spread faster, and effortlessly maintain their original content. With this quality, audiences sometimes become a source of Engaging Cowardice. For example, if you share an SNL video, which satirizes the idea of peer pressure, on Facebook with a caption "Love being pressured to drink beer at parties because I am Czech.", you become the source of another Engaging Cowardice as well. It works with or without a caption because you will still be subtly expressing your opinion. The same goes for the comments people post on videos or articles. Digital presentations also make it easier to modify presentations, giving them new lives. Memes are the best examples of this phenomenon. However, adding to the quality of easy distribution and mass (re)production, for some presentations, it's hard to trace the original sources. Only God knows the first version of each meme. Oh, I almost forgot one important thing. Yes, African American Who Doesn't Act Black Enough, please tell your devoted followers that I do plan to open an online version of Engaging Cowardice 101. It will be mostly an archive of what happens during this class.

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.46

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.79

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.159

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.236

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p.78




Live From New York…


lright, the next example will be in the midterm, so class, make sure you take notes. In 2019, another work of mine...Could you

please put down your hand, Asian Girl With Caucasian Boyfriend? I saw it up in the air 10 mins ago and I knew exactly what you were gonna ask. "I am sorry, professor. I really am. But could we please have more professional examples as case studies? I really need more inspirations on how to counter those haters of cross-cultural-romance." Haters of CCR? Why didn't you say so, my dear? I did get my fair share of the hate crimes of CCR before as well. Ah Carlos, how I misse my exotic muchacho. Alright, I will provide more professional examples in the coming four lessons as case studies. Don't put your pens down just yet, class. Asian Girl With Caucasian Boyfriend has just found ourselves additional materials for the midterm. “Ouch." Hey, who threw that pen at her?


Premiered in 1975, Saturday Night Live has brought the world 45-years of joy and laughter on 887 Saturday nights. The show is known for its high-concept comedy sketches which often parody and satirize contemporary culture, social norms, as well as politics. In 2016, the sketch Screen Guild Awards began with a typical nominees announcement at an award ceremony.  It seemed that there was nothing abnormal until the middle of the sketch. Gradually, we came to realize that every nominee was an insignificant support character and the reasons for their nominations became more and more absurd. One thing in common among the nominees was their skin color, unlike all the protagonists who were black. Those protagonists deserve more attention as well as praise for their performance. Surely by now, we can see it's a satire on the recent controversy on the lack of minority nominees among main-stream film industry awards. In lesson 04 and lesson 06, we learned about the subtle nature of Engaging Cowardice and how we tip off the audience about the existence of Engaging Cowardice with incongruity. To achieve this, SNL often employs escalation of absurdity and it has been very effective. The same technique can be seen in another brilliant sketch Asian American Doll.  In regard to satire, we aim to generate constructive social criticism instead of laying the blame on others. Hate the sin, not the sinners, as Mahatma Gandhi said. "While “SNL” could have merely parodied those who were nominated or the overwhelmingly Caucasian and male voters, they chose a more clever route.", Sarah Osman commented on SNL's choice of storytelling on Screen Guild Awards. Knowing themselves as a popular cultural juggernaut, SNL chooses to ridicule on the issue instead of the people who are involved. Like we mentioned many times throughout the lessons, we want to create a bridge for communication between us and receivers for a possibility of improvement. Another example of this can be seen in the sketch Welcome to Hell. Welcome to Hell was SNL's response to the recent Hollywood scandal of Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse cases. Again, SNL could simply parody on Harvey Weinstein and the despicable crime he committed. However, it wouldn't change anything for the society as Weinstein was not the only person who exploited his power for their personal gain. As a result, SNL chose to satire on the issue instead of personal attacks on Weinstein which made the sketch rational and favorable. In spite of that, the writers of SNL seemed to turn a blind eye to this principle during the presidential election in 2016. It was quite obvious on their political preference when its growing tedious and annoying parodies on Donald Trump resurfaced every week. This time, the action was not so favorable for some viewers. "The revolutionary (and funnier) move isn’t spotlighting the monkey running into the wall, but poking fun at all these people watching a monkey run into the wall over and over again." Brendan Bures expressed his opinions on SNL's repetitive Donald Trump sketches. 


The other specialty of SNL is to precisely spot the flawed logic or blindspots, then ridicule and exaggerate them by their rules within situations that we are all too familiar with. Totino's Activity Pack Super Bowl Commercial seems like an ordinary Super Bowl snack commercial in which housewives serve snacks to their men and friends while they enjoy Super Bowl. Homey atmosphere, catchphrases, and the setup for the introduction of the product, it had all the common elements of an actual commercial that we saw before on TV.  However, we can sense the incongruity when the activity pack is clearly designed for preschool children instead of grown women. To enforce that incongruity, the cheering attitude of the housewife indicated she was having the time of her life with the activity pack despite the pack only lasted for the first quarter of the game. Now it became obvious to us the commercial is a satire on the sexist nature of many stereotypical commercials by following and exaggerating the flawed image that society shapes. An image illustrates the sole rule of housewives during a sports game is to serve her man and friends. The kitchen is where she belongs unless she is being summoned. This is what we discussed in lesson 03 and lesson 07. By knowing the nature of the social norms we are challenging, we can employ its own logic to expose its flaws and contradiction as well as supporting our argument. A similar case can be seen in A Ladies Guide to Party Planning. This method also works in a fictional world, like the sketch The Beygency. In this case, it's not the situation that we are familiar with but the film language. Fiction or not, we can also relate to it due to its exaggeration of our hatred towards people badmouthing our beloved celebrities or our hatred towards the extreme defensive attitude of hardcore fans. Is everything clear so far or does anyone has anything to say about my beloved Saturday night entertainment? (take out scoreboard)




The Simpsons, S19E17, (2008)


'oh! Speaking of fictional worlds, how can I forget the most renowned animated family in history - The Simpsons. For those

who grew up without a TV, the Internet, or who are simply Amish, The Simpson family resides in a fictional town called Springfield in the US. It consists of five core members, Homer, Marge, their firstborn Bart, middle child Lisa, and baby Maggie. Their family represents the middle-class American lifestyle. Each episode, we follow the family members through their daily routines - Homer goes to work at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, the children study at Springfield Elementary School, Marge does house chore or runs errands for the family. On Sunday, they go to church together as devoted Christians would do. Besides the family, the town residents and their varied capacities mold Springfield into a small yet compact universe that is capable of mirroring our reality to an infinite extent. It is also this rich diversity that enables the show's writers to take advantage of the settings and to examine our modern society through this fictional town in various fields. Environment, education, religion, politics, contemporary culture, social norms, and relationships are all among the topics that the show has covered so far, even the credibility of Wikipedia. "Don't you worry about Wikipedia. We'll change it when we get home. We'll change a lot of things." Yes, we will, Homer. The reason The Simpsons is commonly considered as a satire is not only because of the relatable mirror reality but also the characters dare to express the dark side of humanity which we oppress ever so cautiously. By surrendering to their vices, they provide the source of laughter as well as the incongruities for the Engaging Cowardice. We were all amazed and also amused by the effort Homer made to gain as much weight as possible to claim disability so he could work at home in King-Size Homer. You might think, "Who would do such a thing?" Yet, but if you look back to our own reality, there are indeed several cases of people trying to avoid responsibility in any way they can. The writers of The Simpsons simply observed this phenomenon and exaggerated it to the extreme. What about when the recurring villain Mr. Burn ran for office, in Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish, merely on the motive that he could change the law which would cost him 56 million dollars on the environmental damage he caused. Homer said to Mr. Burn, “If you were governor you could decide what’s safe and what isn’t.” Sadly enough, this sentence hit too close to home to the politics in our reality. The Simpsons doesn't tell us what is right and what is wrong. It shows us the consequence of our actions. One may say the consequences are extreme or merely exaggeration. I would say they are logical deductions from the actions. Just as we discussed several times in this course, logic helps people to see from a different perspective, therefore, we can open a possible conversation about the issue. They may seem extreme or exaggerated because, in real life, we oppress our impulse so things won't go out of control. "It would be gratifying to indulge such inanities ourselves, if only we were not so fearful of social censure.” If you still don't believe that none of the aftermaths in The Simpsons could cross the mirror into our reality? Then say hello to President Trump.


Although The Simpsons reveals our vices and flaws, most people still can not help but love them. It's not only because of its humorous and clever takes on the storytelling but its Engaging Cowardice gets to the heart of the issues instead of laying blames as well. "That's because all the characters are fictional. There is no one they can satire from our reality" Well, The Only Right-Wing In A Left-Wing Family, if you are really a fan of The Simpsons, you would know that there are also cameos of real-life characters such as Stan Lee or President Bush. They could have been shaped as the antagonists in different episodes effortlessly. "What about the people of America. Springfield is based in the US, right? I am sure they wouldn't enjoy being the laughing stock of the world." Alright, this is a classroom, not a parliament. To answer your question, we have to solve the biggest mystery of the show in history. "Oh, oh. You mean who shot Mr. Burn?" Not that one, Class Weirdo Who Collects Splatter Films. It's the mystery of the whereabouts of Springfield. Throughout the series, including its only movie (so far), there were moments where audiences would finally learn the exact location of Springfield in the US, but then the subject was deliberately shifted with contradictory clues, leaving us the never-ending enigma. Personally, I think this mystery is why most Americans wouldn't mind being the laughing stock. "When I fall down, it's a tragedy. When you fall down, its a comedy." This old saying explains how a simple safe distance makes us enjoy other's misfortune. "The value of the safe distance allows us to enjoy pain on several levels...We can identify with Curly, we can be shocked by the violence, all without feeling the pain." Indeed, the mystery of the whereabouts of Springfield is the safe distance we need in The Simpsons to take the criticism light-hearted. We know it's in the US and we know the characters are American. However, when we laugh at their misfortune, dimwit, or farces Springfielders make, people from New York won't feel so offended. Neither will people from California, Chicago, Texas, nor any other states in the US. It's never clarified which state Springfield is in. So, on the surface, all the criticism seems so far away for American but deep down they know it is very close to their heart. One important thing to notice is that the Engaging Cowardice The Simpsons has demonstrated is humorous, intelligent but never malicious, something we should all keep in mind when practicing Engaging Cowardice. There is still much to say about The Simpsons and its clever and charming approach to Engaging Cowardice. Yet, I will end with a quote by comedian John Roberts that I think is best to describe the show, "Comedy bears witness to 'the endless capacity of humans to work through misrecognitions, errors and misconstruals, as a condition of the recovery and renewal of truth'.

Eagleton, Terry, Humour (2019), p.57

O’Shannon, Dan, What Are You Laughing At?, (2012), p. 2

John Roberts, The Necessity of Errors, (2011), p. 204

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What Do You Meme?


efore we start our next case study, I would like to give you some hands-on practice. Class, take out your phone. "Holy Moses, 

are you for real, man?" Yes I am. "But did you..." Yes, I have reconnected the router, African American Who Doesn't Act Black Enough. "Damn, now we are talking!" First, open your web browser and go to a stock photography provider such as Shutterstock or Getting Image. Second, type in the first word that comes to your mind in the search bar. Third, save the first photo you see. Alright, I believe everyone has one in their hand. What I want you to do is to write down two sentences that are not describing the photo but express your opinion that surprisingly matches the photo. That's right, class, we are making memes!


An Internet meme, or generally simplified as a meme, is consisted of a visual paired with verbals to express concepts and opinions through the Internet. The verbals are not intended to describe the visual but to serve as a punchline. The visual, on the other hand, is a setup to support the verbals with conceptions. It also lowers the level of cognitive process for the verbals, which we discussed in lesson 09. Incongruous by nature, the verbals and the visual of memes somehow create images so harmoniously, yet vigorous and explicit to describe desired situations and experiences. Due to their elementary construction, memes are easily produced, reproduced, and modified without any skill requirement. Meanwhile, being digital media with small size data, it enables memes to spread through the world so effortlessly via the Internet. With all these qualities, memes become an exceptional and popular form of Engaging Cowardice. People can quickly reflect their opinion on the latest events. It is easy to see which event is currently in the center of attention by observing how many memes are about it and how viral they are. We can also see which side of the discussion the public is leaning towards from memes. This phenomenon also substantiates our statement that Engaging Cowardice sometimes is considered an informal social study in lesson 02. "A picture is worth a thousand words", this well-known saying explains also why people choose to respond with memes instead of words on the Internet or communication apps, not just because we are lazy and "cool" has 4 characters scattering around the tiny keyboard. Memes certainly become a secondary language in contemporary society. Since everyone is able to create memes-  there is even meme generators where you just have to insert your texts on given images - as a result, memes are mostly free of ownership and it's also hard to trace who started the first in the series. However, under the surface of democratization and uncensorship, is the slippery slope to degenerated meaningless slanders. Statements without the support of credibility or impulsive emotions can also be carried in memes and start a fire through the Internet. "The internet is the Space-X, turbocharged version of the rumor mill. Things just catch fire and some people really like that kind of arson.", Ami Murphy Iannone commented on the potential danger of memes on her article at Snapfluence. Even though the fundamental idea of Engaging Cowardice is to express our opinion without instant confrontation, but it's far from hiding behind the keyboard and says whatever we want without taking responsibility. Passively, we counter or parry incoming assaults. Actively, we challenge the society to reexamine our collective imaginary. These are the purpose of Engaging Cowardice. Fortunately, with the nature of massive production and rapid distribution, memes also go stale easily, especially the ones that make no sense or possess hostile intentions. The punchline (verbals) will fade but the setup (visuals) will stay. It's the circle of memes. (cue Lion King opening music) Ami also made an incisive point regarding digital Engaging Cowardice like memes. "Satire in the digital age has taken off running and now we’re satirizing the culture of the internet itself. This brand of humor does double duty: calling us out for our ridiculous addictive behaviors while also giving us a good laugh about it. But then we have the newfound dangers of jokes that just don’t land when you can’t read the jester’s body language or vocal tone, and we’re left with a firestorm of sarcasm and lies that’s hard decipher as a joke or not." Alright, class, now show me your memes.




Make Logic Great Again


ow, I know you are all tired but this last case study is worth your time. All the case studies and references I brought to the class

have been scripted. In the video, Jordan Klepper vs. Trump Supporters, you can see the example of spontaneous Engaging Cowardice and how Jordan Klepper employed the logic of the opposite side with quick wits to expose the flawed logic of others. This video should give you enough examples of the importance of logic in Engaging Cowardice. I am gonna take a nap while you guys watch the video. Dim the light please, Blue Collar Whose Supervisors Are Trump Supporters. "My pleasure.”



Pay Up


lright, class. I believe everyone has received the payment request? Remember, I accept all kinds of payment method

JCP credit card. Livestock, on the other hand, is out of the question. "Ehh, professor?" Oh yeah, I almost forgot, Amish Who Majors In Electronic Engineering, that will be two puppies and three kitties for you. Here is my address. 


Now please don't all stand up on your desk and call me your captain. I can't afford to cry with my eyeliners on. God, why did you take Mr. Williams from us! At the end of the course, I hope you now have clear ideas of the origin of Engaging Cowardice and why do we practice it in the first place. Throughout many lessons, we also dug deeper into different aspects of Engaging Cowardice, regarding its targets, subtle nature, foundations, and way of receptions. All of these are intended to help you express your implication of inner voice more effectively. How you deliver your Engaging Cowardice is up to your preference and experience. Some might say "Practice Makes Perfect" is a cliché. Still, quick wit is not something you were born with but something you can acquire by flipping through your rule books as often as possible. Engaging yourself in various case studies and examples is a great way to enrich your rule book, so you are more likely well-prepared in different situations. Furthermore, I can't stress the importance of your intention towards Engaging Cowardice enough. You are all here because you are once a victim of uncomfortable questions or a deviant of social norms. Engaging Cowardice allows you to avoid the tension with a careless smirk or to counter with a sugarcoated truth. You are encouraged to challenge the society on its collective values and images with Engaging Cowardice. However, in any circumstances, you are not encouraged to practice Engaging Cowardice to launch an attack someone different than you. Think before your riposte, class. Don’t become the other side of Engaging Cowardice. If you are interested in picking on the outsiders of social norms, you are welcomed to sign up for the course "It Is Never My Fault 101", taught by my childhood bully, Karma. She can really use some money and friends, guys.

I would also like to take a moment to express my gratitude to Margo Slomp Drs. and her contribution to the preparation of the teaching materials. If it wasn't for her comments "It looks boring" on my initial proposal, you guys would probably be learning what is funny and asking for refunds instead of transferring your tuition right now. "What looked boring professor?" Ah, always not afraid to ask difficult questions, Taiwanese Man Who Like Teddy Bears. In her own words: "Well, to be honest, both your topic and the structure. If you want to talk about humor, then there can be a better approach that is humorous. I like your humor and I believe you can do better than that." "I think you made the right choice to follow her suggestion, professor." Yeah, I think so too. Now, stop kissing my ass.


One thing to keep in mind is that you can't control how others react to the truth. People are entitled to have their own emotions and opinions towards certain topics. Engaging Cowardice is a way to express your real thought under uncomfortable situations. It is used to expose problems and contradictions. You are not obligated to provide a solution to the problem. In the meantime, receivers are not obligated to change themselves as well. A conversation may arise, but a violation of free will shall not. In the end, if a mutual understanding can not exist, then like every child was singing in the year of 2013, Let It Go.

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I am sorry. 
Am I boring you?

No chatting in the class!

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