"Witty Art"
Jokes and their relation to the Arts

University Lecture Series Summer Semester 2009, Freie Universität Berlin

An Event hosted by the International Research Training Group "Interart Studies"
Conception:  Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Erika Fischer-Lichte, Dr. des. Regine Strätling

„Jokes tear holes in our usual predictions about the empirical world,” Simon Critchley states. If this is the case, then there is a fundamental affinity between jokes and the arts. Yet, as undeniable as the entertainment value of jokes is, as disputed is their aesthetic value. How much wit is allowed if art doesn’t want to fall from the high ground of ‘serious’ work to the level of mere entertainment? Isn’t the effect of arousing laughter deemed a more or less welcome addition at best to ‘essential’ aesthetic qualities?  The significance of the witty is accordingly low within current aesthetic and philosophic research.

This is the starting point of our interdisciplinary lecture series. It seeks to inspire a new discussion about a discredited category within philosophy and aesthetics.We all know when we find something funny. Yet if we are asked what was so funny, it is difficult to answer. Which historical reflections about wit can be used to describe certain effects in contemporary art? Is there a phenomenology of the witty – as an aesthetic and day-to-day experience? What role does the specific medium play? What makes a good punch line? A joke that needs an explanation has clearly failed. But how can one explain jokes so that the funny effect becomes clear without disappearing through the effort of trying to explain it?


Thursday, 6 to 8 pm - Beginning: April 16, 2009
Lecture Hall of the Institute for Theater Studies - Grunewaldstr. 35 - 12165 Berlin-Steglitz


Here you can find the detailed programme in German.