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Critical issues presentations/A Wikipedian Walks Into A Bar: The appropriate intersection of humor and the encyclopedia

From Wikimania 2016 • Esino Lario, Italy
Submission no. 22
Title of the submission

A Wikipedian Walks Into A Bar: The appropriate intersection of humor and the encyclopedia

Author of the submission
  • Brian Abramson
Country of origin

United States of America


Policy, Projects

  • humor
  • funny
  • content

Half stand-up comedy and half deeply serious discussion, this presentation will discuss whether and when it is appropriate to leaven the contents of Wikimedia projects with various kinds of humor.

Humor is a ubiquitous feature of human society, as demonstrated by the "history" section of the Wikipedia article on humor. As a philosophical matter, however, humor has long been frowned upon as an expression of course instincts or uncontrolled reactions to the absurd. Writers of reference works have often discussed their topic, including inherently humorous topics, with as much dryness and humorlessness that can be mustered.

Wikipedia, however, is not constrained to do things the way other encyclopedias do, particularly where we cover humorous topics that others would never touch, such as the "buttered cat paradox", the "knock-knock joke," and the "punch line." It could be argued, in fact, that the best way to effectively discuss specific kinds of jokes or features of humor is to provide the best and funniest examples of these jokes, the best setups, the best punchlines.

The potential for humor extends beyond Wikipedia, of course. There are funny words in Wiktionary, funny pictures in Commons, funny source documents (particularly in fiction) in Wikisource, and funny quotes in Wikiquote. If approved to present this topic, I will not only be able to cover these points, but will at least be able to answer the age-old questions: "How many Wikipedians does it take to change a light bulb?" and "Why did the Wikipedian cross the road?"


Not accepted