Stoic Comedy – Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life – A hilarious intro to Stoic Philosophy!
It’s great to be here. I love doing this. I love being a comedian. People always think it’s a hard job though. …you know… Like I tell people I do stand up, people are like “ooh, stand up…” [sucks teeth] Gotta be the toughest job. Well, not really… Brain surgeon… …bit tougher… …like if I make a mistake, ah… …people get bored. See them sitting down the front… Brain surgeon, he makes a mistake… …people still look like that. People applauding that, you are going to hell. Terrible people… No, I’m very happy to be here. And I want to point that out because people have this stereotype about comedians. People always want comedians to be depressed. Do you know what I mean? Like that’s the stereotype They’re all like… “Oh, it’s the tears of the clown… …he’s laughing on the outside, crying on the inside… …oh tears of a clown.” I don’t think comedians are more depressed than other people. I just think when you’re a comedian and you tell people you’re depressed… …no one cares. Do you know what I mean? People actually enjoy that. You know… If I came out here tonight and I was like “Hey… …I’m on anti-depressants…” See, these people are laughing already… “Hey, I’m on anti-depressants… …can’t see the point anymore.” You’d all be like “Ooh… …he’s a tortured artist. How wonderful.” Right? It’s not like that with other jobs, is it? Like if you got on a plane… …the pilot came on like… “I’m on anti-depressants… …can’t see the point anymore.” No one’s gonna be like “Ooh… …tortured pilot! How fantastic!” Right? But I am very happy. And I have to point it out… This is where I’m at, right… I have to point out that I’m happy… …because I’m at this weird point in my life… …where I tell people I’m happy, and people don’t believe me. Like I am very poor. I am very single. I’m not very famous. People think I’m too happy… …for where I’m at in life. Like you probably have conversations with people, and they’re like “How are you going? And you’re like “Yeah, I’m good.” They’re like “Oh, good for you.” What I get is a lot of this: “Hey Michael, How are you going?” I’m like “Yeah, I’m good.” They’re like “Wow… …despite everything!” “That’s the spirit!” What?! Happens all the time. Like, I am very poor, right? I went into the bank the other day, the teller asked me how I was going. I was like “Yeah, I’m doing good.” She’s like “I’ve seen your account… …guess again. I am very single. When I first joined Facebook, I put my relationship status as single. I was getting all those targeted ads; “Hey, are you a single guy?” “Are you looking for single, local ladies?” All that stuff. But, ah, I have been single a long time. I have never changed that status on Facebook. So now I’m getting targeted ads like “Hey… …are you a monk?” “Are you looking for 10% off ecclesiastical robes?” Tell me more Facebook… I’m not very famous, right? I did a gig out in the country, they ran an ad in the local paper, to advertise the comedy show. They said “Comedy Show! Featuring Michael Connell… …and “funny” comedy friends.” Yeah. That’s how they wrote it: “Funny”. In inverted commas. I had to ring up the paper, I said “Hey, look, there’s been a bit of a typo… …ah, bit of a mistake… …maybe you wanna have a word to one of your… “journalists”. They go “Oh sorry. That is a mistake. We’ll run the ad again next week. It’ll all be sorted.” I’m like “Great”. Following week I’ve opened the paper… …they’ve written: “Comedy Show. Featuring Michael Connell and funny, comedy… “friends”. That is worse, right? So, people kind of expect me… …with my life… …people expect me to be sad, right? And they’re surprised when I’m not. You know, like, what I have is… right… You know when a millionaire is depressed, and people can’t understand why he’s sad. I have the opposite of that. People are going up to the Millionaire, they’re like “Hey mate, Cheer up. You can do anything. The world’s your Oyster.” Then they’re coming over to me like “Hey buddy… …what are you smiling about? No one’s fooled.” Right? And maybe it’s my fault, right? Because… People say “are you happy? I’m like “Yeah, I’m happy”. And happy’s a very vague word. Right? So when I say I’m happy they’re like “Really? Really?” I’m Like “Yeah… Well, I’m not, you know… I’m not walking around singing Zip-a-dee-doo-dah. But, you know… I’m content. I’m relaxed. I’m OK. I have a good flow of life. Do you know what I mean?” And they’re like “Yeah, I get what you’re saying… You’re on Valium.” No. No I’m not. They’re like “Well, what is it Michael? Why are you not sad, despite your very tough life? And I’m like “Well, I think it’s probably Stoicism.” and they’re like “Oh, what is that? Is that some kind of… …anti-depressant? Are you nuts?” I’m like “No, no. Stoicism… …it’s a form of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy.” And they’re like “Ah. He IS nuts.” I understand why they have that reaction, right? Because people don’t think Philosophy is useful. I understand. I know… I did a philosophy degree. Yes, that’s right. That’s right… I have a philosophy degree. That means I am poor… …but I know why. That’s what you get from Philosophy, right? My philosophy degree was what you’d imagine a philosophy degree would be like. You know… We’d come in do questions like… you know… If a tree falls in the woods, and no one’s around, does it make a sound? And you might think the answer is “yes”, or you might think the answer is “no”, but what I learnt is the deeper truth. Which is that knowing the answer… …won’t get you a job. Never comes up in job interviews, yeah? They’re like “So Michael, tree falls in the woods, no one’s around, does it make a sound?” Yes it does, cos even though there’s no one there to perceive them, sound waves still exist. “Oh, well done. Welcome to Target.” You are hired.” And that’s what it was like, you know? We’d come to class the tutor would be doing things… You know, we’d have discussions like, ah… the tutor would say things like… “What is “Society”?” and what is “Humanity”?” And then at the end of the year they were like “Michael, did you do the test?” I’d be like “What is “A Test”?” They’re like “You’ve failed” I’m like “Okay”. And, I ah… possibly it was me. Probably I was part of the problem. Because I was doing this philosophy degree when I was like nineteen. Like straight out of high school. I thought I knew everything. I thought “I know all this philosophy stuff… …I know all about philosophy. I’m going to be teaching them about philosophy.” First day of classes I’m sitting in the lecture theatre… …this guy walks in he’s like “Oh, mate, mate… …you’re not in here.” And I was like… “Yeah… …I get what you’re saying. You’re saying like none of us are really “here” are we?” He’s like “No, no, no… Mate, I mean, ah, this class isn’t happening.” “Yeah… …it’s like the Matrix. There is no spoon.” He’s like “NO! No! I mean this lecture’s been cancelled, I am the cleaner.” I was just like “Right… …I am the Walrus. Is this what we’re doing?” It wasn’t what we were doing. He turned the lights out, I sat there in the dark for twenty minutes… “Oh, this is deep… I’m learning a lot in this lecture…” See that’s what philosophy was like when I did it at Uni, but philosophy wasn’t always like that, right? Like back in ancient Greece philosophy was very popular. Like back in ancient Athens, all around the city, there was all these groups Of, ah, philosophers. They used to hang out doing philosophy. So, ah, on the east side you had the Sceptics… …Southside were the Epicureans… …west side was the Crips. That joke never gets a great laugh, but I just like to know who’s into both philosophy… …and west coast rap. So um, well done to you guys. In ancient Athens there were a bunch of guys called the Stoics. And they were a bunch of philosophers. They used to do philosophy in a place called The Stoa. It was porch, out the front of a gym. That’s where they did their philosophy. Just think about that, right? They were doing philosophy out the front front of a gym. That means in ancient Athens, people would be walking around, seeing guys out the front of a gym and go “Oh… …probably philosophers.” And I mean, I do that today… …but I am being sarcastic. The Stoics they were all ancient Greeks and Romans. They all had names that sound a bit like medicine. Ah, Seneca… …Epictetus… …Metamucil. They’d be out the front, they’d do their philosophy there. Just to people in the street, passing by. Wearing their Togas. You all know what a Toga is? It’s that white sheet, they just drape it over one shoulder. I don’t think I’d learn anything in those lectures. Because they were wearing Togas. Do you know what I mean? Like, the guy would be there… …he’d be talking about… …duty and honour… …and I’d be standing in the crowd going “Wow… …I can see his nipple.” Do you know what I mean? He’d be like… “Happiness… …comes from living in accordance with nature… …wooooooooo.” Off putting. You know? Anyway, the Stoics, ah… They didn’t do philosophy like we did philosophy at my university. They thought you could use philosophy to work out practical problems. Like every day, real life problems, right? So people would be coming to them with problems like, “My wife’s cheating on me.” “Someone insulted me in the marketplace.” and they would try and work it out. They weren’t doing it, like we were doing it, in my university degree. No one was coming up to the like; “Help! I got attacked by barbarians!” and they’re like “Well, what is “an attack””? “Oh, he stabbed me.” “What is “Getting Stabbed”?” Instead, they were big fans of Reason. They liked using the Socratic method. You guys know what the Socratic method is? No? Alright… So, the Socratic method… …thing invented by a guy called Socrates. Very smart philosopher. He came up with this thing called The Socratic method. That’s basically where he’d walk up to people in the street, start asking them questions, keep asking them questions, getting people to challenge their beliefs. And the interesting thing is… You still sometimes see that today. Like the other day, I was on the bus… …there was some dude in there… …he was like “Oi!!! WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?!” I was like “Oh… …the Socratic method… …he’s a free range philosopher.” Of course he kept asking me questions, getting me to challenge my beliefs: “DO YOU WANT A KICK IN THE HEAD, MATE?!” “I’d always assumed no, but… …can we ever know the truth? Kick away. Kick away, mate.” And the Stoics…the problem… One of the problems they were trying to work out was… Why are people unhappy? Why do we have unpleasant emotions? Because people often do. You know… They’re sad or angry or depressed. I’m talking in general, not just at my shows. It’s weird that we have those emotions. Because people don’t want to feel these things, right? The world would look very different if you liked being sad, right? For a start you wouldn’t be out watching stand up comedy. You’d all be out watching stand up tragedy. Some of you are like: “I am watching stand up tragedy”. Ow… ow… right? So why do we get upset? Why aren’t we happy all the time? And when you ask this, people always say, “Well, Michael… you know… …it’s because things don’t go your way all the time.” This is what people think. People think it’s cos, you know, there’s a lot of things you can’t control. Which is true. There’s a lot of things you can’t control, you know? You work really hard, then the economy crashes. You try to be nice to people, an then they’re rude. I’m throwing out these great jokes, you’re giving me a so-so response. There are things you don’t control, right? And sometimes it’s a surprise. Growing up I didn’t think life would be like that. When I was growing up, I thought life was gonna be like a game of… The Game of Life. Do you know what I mean? The game of life, ironically… …nothing like the Game of Life. You know what I’m talking about? The game… …you move the little pieces around the circle… …and you get the house… That’s not very accurate. I reckon we should make that more accurate. Right? I reckon the Game of Life should just be a box… …full of cool things. Someone opens it, and you’re like “Oh… Can I have the car?” “Nah…” “Can I have the cool job?” “Nah…” “Well, what have you got for me?” “Arthritis! Shazam! I’m also taking your Grandma. Come on…” Life’s more like that. Or life’s more like a game of Pass the Parcel. You all know Pass the Parcel? Obviously, yeah… You pass the parcel around the circle of kids… …eventually one kid wins the prize, just out of sheer luck. All the other kids get nothing. Right? That game shouldn’t be called “Pass the Parcel”. That should be called “Life’s Not Fair”. I reckon we should make that more educational. I reckon we should just wrap up an empty box. Just pass that round the circle. Because then eventually some kid will win it, he’ll open the box like “Oh… What did I win?” “The ability to handle disappointment. That’s what you got Barry.” Because not enough people are learning that lesson. Right? I know because I fly JetStar a lot. I’m a poor comedian, they’re a cheap airline, it’s gonna happen, right? But, but… you know… They cancel flights at the drop of a hat. And whenever they cancel flights there’s always someone at the airport… …just…just freaking out. You know? Just there going “OH… NO! NO!!! NO!!!! NO!!! NO!!!!” Like he’s gonna say “no” enough, they’re like; “OK, flight’s back on… …we were just testing you…” But you know, he’s there… “NO!!! NO!!! THIS CAN’T HAPPEN!” You just want someone to walk up to him like; “Excuse me sir… Did you ever play Pass the Parcel? Did you not learn the lesson of that game? Look there are things you don’t control.” Which, by the way, That should be JetStar’s slogan. “JetStar: There are things you don’t control.” “In the grand scheme of things, you don’t count for much.” And it’s true, in the picture you don’t have a lot of control. Over so many things in life, right? I was saying this, actually, at a show the other night, this guy came up to me and he’s like “Oh, Michael, I know exactly what you mean.” I’m like “Oh, why is that?” He’s like “Well, you know, I recently went to India, I did this meditation thing. I meditated with the Guru, and had all these visions, and got in touch with my higher power. And it taught me just how little I control in life.” And I was like “Wow…” Because I had a similar experience when I went to India. Because I got really bad food poisoning. I was having visions. I met my higher power. It was Salmonella. This guy was stumbling round the jungle looking for his spirit animal… I just got mine from room service at the hotel. It was a Chicken Tika Masala. I just ate it, it was like “Mmmm… …time for a magical journey.” You know… An this is what you learn, when you get horrible food poisoning, just how little control you have over anything. And you can forget that so easily, right? Because, like, you do, right? You’re flicking through your phone, or driving your car, and you’re like “Yeah, I can control my life.” Then you get horrible food poisoning and you’re like; “I can’t control my guts.” Like I’m pretty sure “Vindaloo” is Indian for “Reality Check”. Because no one’s getting sick like “Blergh… KING OF THE WORLD! Blergh… MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE!” Like that’s not what it makes you feel, right? And that’s how little control you have in life. You don’t even control your own body, really. You don’t. Like, I don’t control this. Right? Like, ah, I try to look good. I do my best, but then I get to a point where I’m like “Look, things you don’t control.” By the way, this is what I say on dates. I meet a girl for the first time, she’s like “Ummm…” I’m like “Yeah, not what I wanted either.” Things you don’t control. So there’s a lot of things you don’t control. You practically control nothing. But there is one thing you control, according to the Stoics, which is your thoughts, right? You control your thoughts. Not all your thoughts, obviously. Sometimes thoughts just pop into your head: “BUY MICHAEL’S CD!” Who knows where these ideas come from? “HE’S AVAILABLE FOR PARTIES!” Who knows? “SIGN UP FOR HIS MAILING LIST ON HIS WEBSITE!” Who knows? Right? But the point is you can agree or disagree, with the thoughts in your head, right? And that’s important because that controls your emotions. Right…? Alright, the way I usually explain this is, ah… Here in Melbourne, when you catch the trains, they always make announcements during peak hour. They always… when you’re on the platform they’re like; “During peak hour… …trains come… …every fifteen minutes.” And there’s always someone there going: “OH NO!!!” It’s the guy from the airport. You know… “NO! No, it should be ten…should be… No, no. They shouldn’t make the trains come faster. What they should do, they should change the announcements, so people would change what they think, and that will change what they feel, right? Instead of being on there and being like “During peak hour… …trains come every fifteen minutes.” What they should be saying is like “In parts of India… …trains come every two days.” Then people would be catching the train like “Wow, this is like… …48 hours early… …this is a very convenient train.” They should do it with all their announcements. Because all their announcements, they’re, you know… They say things like “Oh, we’re trying to keep the train clean,” It always smells like urine. You know? “We’re trying to keep the trains on time,” They’re always like five minutes late. Nah. Every one of their ads should be like “Hey, every one of our trains… …is gonna be an hour late… …smell like rotting meat.” Because then you’d get on the train like; “This is better than I expected. I can barely smell the urine. This is a good service.” Right? They apologise when they cancel trains, you know, like; “The 7:15 to Dandenong’s been delayed… …Metro apologises…” People like this is appalling, this is terrible… right? Don’t apologise. Change what you say, that’ll change what people think, and that will change what they feel, right? What they should do, they should just get on there and be like; “Ah… …there’s a war in the Middle East… …there’s kids starving in Africa… …and the 7:15 to Dandenong has been delayed. If you’re upset about the train… …you’re a terrible person.” Or… Or they should just get really honest with people, just get on there and be like; “The 7:15 to Dandenong has been delayed… …what are you gonna do? What? You’re gonna walk to Dandenong? Mate, I don’t think so. Dude, you don’t even know where I am, come at me bro! Come at me! Psych up, right? The point is, how you see things shapes how you feel about things, right? People are always like “The train is late and that’s making me angry!” No… no. If the train being late made you angry… …then it would make everyone on the platform angry. But that’s not what happens. Right? They announce; “The 7:15 to Dandenong has been delayed…” The business man on the platform… …he’s angry. You know… …teenager, sitting on the bench… …he’s bored. Homeless guy on the tracks… …relieved. Very relieved. Right? This is the thing, right? Your thoughts shape your emotions, right? If the train is late, and you think that’s bad, you get angry. Right? Train is late, you think that doesn’t matter, you get indifferent. Train is late, you think that’s arousing, you get… …arrested. That’s what happens, right? And this is for everything in life, right? For example I live in a rough part of Melbourne. I live in Footscray. There’s a lot of drugs. But then on the other hand, I live in Footscray, THERE’S A LOT OF DRUGS! Is it a crime problem or a party opportunity? I don’t know! The point is, what I’m trying to say is, Choosing your thoughts, chooses your emotions. How you think, shapes how you feel. What I’m saying is, if you don’t enjoy this show… …that’s your fault. Don’t be sitting there thinking; “Well, he’s not as funny as Jerry Seinfeld.” You need to be like; “Ah, more laughs than Schindler’s List.” People not applauding that, you are wrong. Um… that is right… Anyway… this is the thing… If you are getting upset about something, it’s usually because you have some sort of… …irrational thought in your mind, right? Which is what happens all the time when I’m catching the train. Those guys getting angry, they’re always being angry in irrational ways. You see it, they cancel the train, they’re like; “OH! UNBELIEVABLE! OH IT’S THE THIRD TIME THIS WEEK! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!” I’m like “What? You can’t believe it, and it’s the third time this week? How easily surprised is this guy?” Like, they’re never upset in a rational way. Because that’s impossible, right? You can’t… you’ll never see that… Can you imagine that? Getting upset AND being rational at the same time? Like what would that look like? “The 7:15 to Dandenong has been delayed.” “OH! THAT’S NOT WHAT I WANTED, BUT I’LL BE FINE…” “The 4:30 to Knox will not run today.” “OH! CAN’T BE HELPED!” “This service cancelled until further notice.” “AT LEAST I’VE GOT MY HEALTH!” No one gets angry like that. Right? Like if you… this is the thing… There are so many things you can’t control, right? Thinking that you can be happy, by having things always go your way, is a very irrational thought. Right? And if you think you have to have something to be happy, or have something happen to be happy, then, you know, it turns life into a game of like…of like… Piggy in the Middle. Or Keep Away. You know what I’m talking about? You know Piggy in the Middle? People nodding got bullied in high school… If you don’t know it’s that thing… You know it’s that thing in high school… …someone would steal your hat, and they’re like: “Oh here it is… …whoop! Here it is Whoop! Here it is. Whoop!” It’s very frustrating, you know? You’re like; “I HAVE TO HAVE THAT HAT!” And they’re like “Yeah? Well, dance for it! Dance for it!” And it’s frustrating because you can’t control external things. See you thought those guys were bullies. No… Stoic philosophers. That’s what they were. They were teaching us a valuable life lesson, right? That you have to find happiness in here. And people don’t learn that. People never learn that. You… tonight… you go to any nightclub, there will be someone there who hates going to nightclubs. So why are they there? It’s because they want to pick up, It’s because they want to meet someone, It’s like they’ve gone; “I HAVE TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP!” And someone is like “Yeah…? Well dance for it! Dance for it!” Did I mention I was single? Ladies see me after the show, come make me dance for it, I totally will. What I’m saying is, you’ve got to change the way you see things, right? This is what Stoicism’s about… …focusing on what you can control. Right? And I’m not saying, change your thoughts, and everything is going to go your way. Right? Things are going to happen, that you won’t like. I know, I’ve got some terrible jokes coming up. Get ready for that, right? But when you stop thinking… …things have to go a certain way, or controlling things, stop having so much irrational thoughts, you stop having so many unpleasant emotions. And then you sort of feel happy by default. Do you know what I mean? Because the happiness was always there, it’s just hard to feel it when you’re feeling other things. You know? Because you can’t really feel two emotions at the same time, can you? No one’s walking around like “OH! HE CUT ME OFF IN TRAFFIC, AND THAT’S A BEAUTIFUL SUNSET!” And this is why I don’t get upset about my tough life, right? People are always like “Michael you should be sad, because you’re poor.” I’m like; “No, I’m unmuggable.” And they’re like; “your house is terrible, all the walls are falling apart, there’s holes everywhere.” I’m like “No, they’re not holes, they are bonus windows.” They’re like “Come on Michael, come on… …you’re very poor, you have to live off two minute noodles, instant noodles, you know… eating them all the time… …they are very bland, you can’t enjoy that.” I’m like “no, I love eating those noodles. I love them. Because I’ve got a trick, I’ve got like, a secret ingredient. Do you know what makes anything taste great? Hunger. It’s like magic. You never see that on Master Chef, do you? “Oh, these noodles aren’t cooked enough.” “No Matt, you’re not hungry enough. You wait until they kick you off the dole, then you’ll love them noodles.” And they are very bland, right? If you served them at a fancy restaurant people would be upset. But that’s because they’re sitting there thinking “Hey, This should be steak.” But I love them, because I’m looking at them like “Hey, this could be nothing.” So I enjoy those noodles. And it took me a while… It takes a lot of practice to start thinking more rationally. Like sometimes, I’ll take all the money I’ve made from a comedy gig, like twenty bucks, I’ll go to the supermarket, and I’m like; “Yeah, I should buy some doughnuts, Because, you know, the doughnuts, they will make you happy Michael.” Then I think “No, no… The doughnuts won’t make you happy. What’s in here makes you happy, Michael.” So after a while of staring at the doughnuts I’m just like; “Bah! I don’t need you.” Which is very rational, but from the outside, must look pretty crazy. Because people at the supermarket, they can’t hear what I’m thinking. All they see is me walk in… …stare at the doughnuts for three minutes… …then be like… “Bah! I don’t need you!” “He’s breaking up with the doughnuts again… …he’s in here every week…” But this is the thing with Stoicism, it’s not just a philosophy, it’s a practice. You got to practice doing it, right? And the Stoics, they said… they had all these exercises, and meditations and things you could do, and sort of… it’s supposed to become more automatic. Ah, I’m too lazy for all that. So, what I’m gonna do, right… I’m just gonna get a tattoo… …that says “You’re an idiot.” Because that’s basically what you learn, right? You start out thinking, you know… the instant knee jerk reaction is like; “THE WORLD IS STUPID!” And then you think it through and you’re like “Ah, no… I’m an idiot.” Right? So I’m just going to cut out the middleman, I’m just gonna get a tattoo. So then, the next time I’m getting upset about something, I’m like “OH! WHY AM I SO ANGRY? Oh, yeah…” It will also be very helpful, If ever I’m like “Why did I get this tattoo? Oh, yeah… Oh, yeah…” I get better every day, I get a little bit better, a little less irrational, a little happier, as time goes by… and I think that’s great, you know? I like it. The only downside is that I am a comedian, and people don’t really want to see a happy comedian. You know what I mean? Like when you come out and see a comedian You want the comedian to be onstage like “Oh, how bad are telemarketers? You know what makes me angry? My ex wife… rah, rah, rah…” All that sort of thing. But I’m doing all this Stoicism, I’m practising all this philosophy, I’m not having any of these emotions… Come see me in like a year’s time, I’m going to be out onstage like “Hey, How about airline food? It’s alright… Do you know what makes me angry? My irrational thoughts. So yeah, come see that show, and hey, if you don’t like it, just remember, in parts of India… …people don’t get comedy shows. Hey, thanks for watching. You’ve just had a little introduction to Stoicism, but it’s really only the beginning. Luckily, there’s more comedy that will help you improve your life, and give you a laugh, on my website. And you can get it FOR FREE! Go to MichaelConnell.com.au NOW!