Before continuing to read this post, you should know that I will be discussing a lot of philosophical viewpoints and I just want to remind you, reader, that these are philosophical propositions made by philosophers and not my own personal beliefs:
Third Rock from the Sun is a TV Show Sit-Com series that aired from 1996 to 2001. The show is based around the created family dynamic of four aliens who disguise themselves as humans to make a life on earth as part of a mission or experimentation. The TV series is absolutely hysterical as the audience watches these clueless aliens try to stumble their way through life on earth. Watching these unlikely group of aliens try to figure out basic human functions is funny to us because we can’t imagine anyone not understanding what we’ve known our whole lives. This show is not just there for the comedy, however. It brings to us a philosophical view and questions our humanity and our society through these jokes; especially in episodes such as, Dick Like Me in Season 1 Episode 23, when the group discovers that being part of an ethnic group is important and they try to figure out which ethnic group they should be a part of or why it’s important in the first place. After all, they’re already dealing with being a whole different species. To understand how this humor can also be thought provoking, I did some research on Comedians who use satirical humor.
Let’s start with Conan O’Brien, the host of the late night show, Conan. He has a unique sense of humor with a sharp wit and conversational cleverness. The first basis or step to achieving this type of humor is through Out of Context Analysis. Conan will frequently make jokes similar to the ones in Third Rock from the Sun when the context of common sense is stripped and we make fun of the ordinary. At first, we laugh because we don’t understand how anyone can’t see what is sensically factual, but then we realize that this non-sensical comment could actually be making a point. Here are some actual thought provoking questions from Third Rock from the Sun paraphrased from different episodes posed as jokes: “Why are there so many different types of humans, I thought we were just humans?”, “Why are there conversations only meant for women?”, “Why do feelings matter?”… the list goes on. And while we may have our own strong set of answers for these, how the main characters (aliens) in the TV Show respond is with another follow-up of a “Why? Why that reason and not another reason?”
Another great example of this type of humor is shown on the YouTube channel, Wisecrack. Wisecrack is a Channel that is actually built on philosophy, which makes a lot of connection to their one specific series called Earthling Cinema: Movies Through the Eyes of an Alien. The title explains itself, a man posed as an alien character analyzes movies without the societal knowledge we possess as humans on earth or living in America. The hilarity lies first within the absurdity which we later decompress into actual philosophical questions to our society and its validity.
A common thought in philosophy is questioning what you believe to be real, originated by Plato. This may be a hard thing to wrap your head around at first but it’s a great idea to consider… or even question (as philosophy goes). And so, the question that Third Rock from the Sun poses is, “If you take away all of your societal understanding of the life you’ve lived and what is right, are your beliefs just a joke laughed about by aliens on a TV Show?” With that being said, get your reading glasses on, be like Plato, and watch Third Rock from the Sun. You might learn something.
Information gathered from:
Conan O’Brien: How To Be Witty