The Humour of Ayn Rand


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Michael, I simply don't see the rationale for Rand's point about humor in The Art of Fiction. I'm truly puzzled by it -- although I grant that she only very briefly indicated her reasons. I don't see that humor in necessarily a "metaphysical negation" or that a writer can't properly be a humorist who is not concerned with philosophical messages.

I have a book of Woody Allen articles that had me weeping with laughter; I can't imagine what could be wrong with either his purpose or my reaction.

In one article, he writes about an "intellectual call-girl service." You call up a number, explain that you badly need to have a dicussion of Immanuel Kant, and, for a fee, a beautiful girl comes to your home with a copy of Kant's most important work. Or, if you wish, the service has available a girl who will be happy to watch you have an anxiety attack. In another article, he tells us what he said to a man who was insulting him: "I told him 'Go forth and multiply' --but not in those words".

I insist on my inalienable right to find this terribly funny and to think that Woody Allen is a comic genius. (By the way, for those of you who haven't read them, some of his articles are much funnier than his movies.)


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  • 3 weeks later...

In one of the lost posts in this thread, I noted that I had found one of Ayn Rand's early short stories extremely funny. I could not remember the name of the story and I was away on vacation so I could not look it up. I thought I had heard that some Objectivists objected to this story about the kidnapping of a spoiled rich girl.

Robert Campbell chimed in that he had found Good Copy to be very funny and it was his favorite Rand short story. He said he could not see why an Objectivist should not enjoy this story.

Indeed, this was the very story I was thinking about. If you think Ayn Rand had no humor, you really should read this story. It is great fun.

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  • 2 months later...

The highest comedy I have ever read anywhere is in The Fountainhead in Dominique's first interview with Gale Wynand. My laughter becomes so intense it loses its sound. It's like my whole being is laughing, resonating with the infinite mirth of the entire universe.

Once I saw a stand up comic in LA at the Comedy Store. He was this innocent, gentle, quirky recluse-genius. His act was so brilliant, so funny, that I laughed past the point of needing to laugh. He transported us to this same realm of pure mirth, to the point of joy, as if he had unveiled a fundamental aspect of universe itself as humor. This is what that scene with Dominique and Gale is like for me.

Because of Ayn Rand's humor and her ideas on humor, I thought about it for a long time and came to an idea similar to yours, ashleyparkerangel. It lies in the absurdity of taking evil seriously. Comedians are basically negative because they pretend to take evil seriously. In this way, humor is the profound power to destroy evil, by exposing its vacuity, its impotence, its unimportance, and showing that it is nothing. Franklin and Lincoln both demonstrated and spoke of the indispensibility of humor in criticising others and their ideas. People can receive criticism when they laugh that they cannot receive any other way.

This explained to me why her scenes with the villains were so funny. These people actually took evil seriously, and she cast them in a light that revealed the absurdity of their doing so. Lois Cook and Ellsworth Toohey were great for this. Oh yes, and Toohey and Dominique had one or two hilarious conversations. Toohey gave me so many laughs. In this way, Ayn Rand would also cut at the weaknesses and faults of her heros. Thus, there is so little humor in her main protagonists, Roark and Galt. I can only think of one or two moments each for them. Oh, yes, between Galt and Dagny in the valley. He has this mercurial humor with her that could flash as sternness, too. For her leading heroes, what would be humor was usually ecstasy. I love what Nathaniel Branden says in his memoir about the massive appeal of the ecstasy of reading her books, as well as her presentation of ecstasy in them, especially her heroes.

Also, Francisco was, to me, the funniest character in Atlas Shrugged, especially James Taggart's wedding. This marked a change in her use of humor. Now a protagonist in the capacity of being a hero was funny. I can't remember any of the antagonists in Atlas Shrugged being funny. This made the book heavier than its predecessor. It is a weakness to me of Atlas Shrugged compared to The Fountainhead. I found James Taggart grotesque throughout. Then Dagny and Rearden had a heartbreakingly funny moment in Part Two, on page 352 in the restaurant, where she says, "Hank, I . . . I'd give up anything I've ever had in my life, except my being a . . . a luxury object of your amusement."

I do not believe that anyone who says that Ayn Rand was without humor ever knew her work.


Edited by Andrew Durham
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I have to heard that somebody said that one of the thinnest books in the world was the Ayn Rand joke book. Miss Rand makes fun of some of her villians but I think her comments she could not make fun of any of her heroes. I make add as aside to Barbara that many of highly level Objectivists (the Sures and Lockes) were very into puns. Was that going in NYC too. Barbara I too find Woody Allen's intellctual call girls very funny.

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  • 9 months later...

On June 29, 2007 a poster named Aeaeae sent me pdf backups of 23 threads he had on file. I offer my most heartfelt thanks to him for allowing OL to recover the present thread that was previously lost. I am posting this thread as a series of image files since extracting the text from the Acrobat file would entail an enormous volume of work. For easier file handling due to size, I am giving one Acrobat page per post (sometimes more).

In the present case, the entire thread was not lost, but some of the posts were. I have only posted the lost ones with a couple repeats from before to give the starting point. Now the lost ones are restored. This was part of OL's history and I am glad to recover it.



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