Against Insular Arrogance

I was at an Improv show the other day (in fact, it was referred to in the Anchoring Symposium) and the host asked audience members for a word, any word in order to get the guest monologist (a comedian) started on her monologue. One man responded with analrapist, an Arrested Development reference. In context, this joke is very funny. Out of context, however, it only signifies that you’ve watched the show. When the comedian did not get the reference, the man started repeating the fictional word louder and louder with a sense of snide condescension. Analrapist. Analrapist. He might as well have been saying “I watch Arrested Development, don’t you?” All I could think was: Are you serious? She is the one actually performing comedy, not you. Watching a show and understanding a joke written by someone else (and then, presenting it without context) is not at all impressive. It certainly does not give you license to look down on someone who is actually in the practice of making jokes for not understanding your reference.

If this type of behavior were rare, I wouldn’t bother telling you this story. But, unfortunately, this type of insular arrogance is fairly common. Why? It’s self-perpetuating. Those who know the context for the reference generally take pride in being part of the in-group that understands it. Their encouragement leads the out-of-context reference-dropper to acquire this insular arrogance. This is especially common among Arrested Development fans (of which I am one) because they tend to view the show as the epitome of erudite humor. If someone has not watched the show, they are inferior.

So, what is the point of this post? To change your behavior. If you are feeding this sort of insular arrogance, then stop. It’s condescending and not at all amusing.

And, please, do not refer to this post without providing context.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dan on June 8, 2009 at 2:03 PM

    Although it only goes to support the point of your post, I have to add: perhaps her lack of watching and appreciating that show calls into question her status as a comedian…


  2. […] Posted by Tim in TV, We Take–Among Other Things–Umbrage. No Comments As you no doubt inferred, this is a response to Josh’s post. […]


  3. […] has no monopoly over this domain (although, economists love to act like it does, sometimes in an insularly arrogant way!), which explains why tools from psychology, statistics, sociology, and other disciplines are […]


  4. Posted by Rich on February 9, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Is the term ‘insular arrogance’ itself one of those cryptic references? At least you put it in context… thanx…


  5. […] generally will give both participants a lot of pleasure, sometimes even generating a sort of insular arrogance. People who don’t engage in this self-congratulatory ritual—like my former professor—will be […]


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