Apr 272012

I love a bit of silly, including in work. That’s certainly reflected in my own style of webcasting and blogging. Happily, lots of people enjoy that: I routinely receive e-mails expressing delight that I make exploring ethics and philosophy enjoyable, as opposed to feeling like a burden or a chore.

Recently, I discovered that MailChimp takes their form of silly to a particularly high level of awesome. Let me explain.

MailChimp is an e-mail newsletter service, and I use it for my weekly Philosophy in Action Newsletter. (Not yet subscribed? Gack! Get yourself subscribed today!) I’ve been really pleased with their offerings and prices. (They’re better than Constant Contact, particularly on price.)

I’ve also been entertained by their little touches of irreverence. So in their header, they’ll have their chimp logo say and link to something amusing. For example:

That links to this silly video of Chimpanzee Outtakes.

Even better, the bacon lance:

That links to this awesome video:

It gets even better than that, however. In my settings, I found this switch for “Party Pooper Mode.”

So yes, you can turn off the bits of humor in MailChimp. But if you do that, they’re going to poke a bit of fun at you, just one last time. I love it!

Some people, I’m sure, find such humor quite offensive. I’ve noticed that some people seem to think that a person can’t be doing good work unless dead serious. Yet a bit of observation easily proves that false. Particularly in customer service, a touch of humor can brighten a person’s mood and create goodwill. (Think Southwest Airlines!) The same is often true for dealing with co-workers, clients, suppliers, and the like: a touch of benevolent humor can make the work so much more enjoyable.

With the use of humor, a person must aim for that Aristotelian mean — meaning using humor “at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way.” That “mean” may depend on the individual too, as people differ in their senses of humor — often purely as a matter of personality, not morality. Of course, it’s good to be sensitive to the preferences of others.

So if you think that philosophy or business or politics or romance or sex or parenting or almost any other pursuit in life is TOO IMPORTANT to ever be lightened by benevolent humor… think again. Heck, even dour-faced rationalism can be funny!

  • Jim May

    I think the issue with humor is that it’s tarred by association with its frequent use as a technique of evasion and of cover nowadays, usually by Leftists. You are probably familiar with “attack under cover of humor”, a staple tactic of many Leftist pundits (James Wolcott comes to mind) which is what Ayn Rand was taking about when discussing the “Can’t you take a joke?” dodge.

    I still find it annoying when someone engages me on some political or philosophical topic of which I am knowledgeable, only to start using humor as a dodge to escape when he realizes I’m not his usual soft target. I guess that’s “escape under cover of humor” (again, James Wolcott comes to mind on that count re: his running for cover by pleading the Humor Amendment after Katrina had the temerity to flood New Orleans scant months after his infamous “rooting for hurricanes” post).

  • Jim May

    As luck would have it, today’s XKCD #1049 supplies a case for my point.

  Video: Poking Fun at Friends’ Ideas Online   Designing the Stop Sign
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