Saturday, April 06, 2024

You Can't Joke About That - Kat Timpf


Let's begin with three things you should know about Kat Timpf, author of You Can't Joke About That:

  • She is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and it's often hard to tell which of the two parties she thinks is run by the biggest group of idiots. 
  • She is a libertarian comedian, columnist, and television commentator/personality - despite being labeled by those who don't like her message as "just another Fox News channel regular." It's actually rather surprising that she's even on Fox News at all.
  • She is one very smart woman.
The subtitle of of You Can't Joke About That makes very clear what to expect from the book: Why Everything is Funny, Nothing is Sacred, and We're All in This Together. If that were not clear enough already, Timpf restates the book's theme within its first few pages this way:
"The darker the subject matter, the greater the healing that laughter can bring, disarming the darkness and making the people who are feeling isolated by their trauma feel less alone."

Anyone can make claims like this one; the old cliché about "talking the talk" as opposed to "walking the walk" works pretty well in this case. Timpf may be only thirty-five years old, but she has experienced near fatal health issues that resulted in some of the most humiliating situations imaginable, experiences that would likely leave emotional scars for most people with twice her years and experience. And she did it by laughing at the absurdity of it all - and how others reacted to the way she handled those moments. 

As Timpf points out, comedians have always been the one to hold the powerful accountable for their actions. Ridicule and public embarrassment are powerful tools that the powerless cannot afford to have taken away from them, and the current governmental and societal drive to censor comedians, especially of the stand-up variety, terrifies Timpf. As it should terrify all of us.

I don't know if Timpf wrote her own chapter headings. If not, she should give that person a fat bonus because those headings are some of the strongest I've ever read. Among them are these:

  • "Intention Absolutely Matters" 
  • "Don't Erase Anything"
  • "No One Wants to Hear You Whine"
  • "Words Are Not Violence"
  • "Safe Spaces Aren't Real"
You Can't Joke About That is one of the most quotable books of its type I've read in a while, so rather than try to explain Timpf's arguments in my own, certain-to-be less insightful words, I'll just share these quotes with you:
"Erasing a joke to make the past look better amounts to lying about the past...The limitation of lying is that the truth is always going to be true anyway. The kinds of jokes that people told during a time can really tell us a lot about that time."

"The words are violence crowd doesn't want conversation - at least not one on a level playing field."

"When you say that words are violence, you inherently are saying that violence is an acceptable response to words, because violence is universally considered an acceptable response to violence."

"Claiming 'words are violence' is a tool to dictate and control, all while engaging in a massive fraud that they are on the side of compassion."

And finally, my favorite point/quote of all:

"The best part of ensuring that your own voice is heard and understood is not aiming to change the way other people talk about theirs; it's to talk about yours, and to encourage other people to be able to talk about it with you and learn. The answer isn't less speech, it's more."

 It's a dirty (not so secret) shame that cancel culture has made most of us afraid to do that anymore.

If you share any of the concerns that Timpf addresses, You Can't Joke About That is a book you will want to read. Timpf pulls no punches here, and her language is sometimes crudely expressive in nature - but she has a lot to say that makes a whole lot of sense, and thank goodness she's not afraid to say it (even though she admits it makes her very, very nervous sometimes to do so).


  1. The worry I have with books written by comedians is that they don't let down their guard and so what I will be reading is alot of jokes strung together. But it sounds like Kat's book is different and she shares the health issues she has faced and I commend her for it. And people like Kat who have been through tough times have real insight to share.

    1. There are a few jokes in this one, but it's more of the sarcasm-directed-at-herself variety of joke than just outright jokes to make you laugh. She's very insecure in real life and it shows in her memoir-like stories in this one. Her health issues stripped her (literally) of all expectation of modesty or personal privacy. I can't imagine going through what happened to her. She makes a very strong case for the importance of comedy on regulating our social structure for the better and how important it is that comedians be allowed to joke about anything, anyone, and everything when they want to without fear of retribution by a loudmouth contingent that thrives on destroying the lives of those more successful than themselves.

  2. I like Kat Timpf. I don't always agree with what her views, but she makes a lot of sense in regards to many situations that I do agree with. And she always makes me laugh. Glad you enjoyed this one. I might have to give it a read myself. :D

    1. I don't agree with her quite often either, but she has a way of making me listen and consider her argument that I think we need more of these days. Her wit and insecurities show clearly in what she has to say. I like her, I think, as a person.

  3. I like the way she laughs at herself, tickled at her own responses when in interviews (and maybe a little apprehensive about how her response will be received). I do, however, believe words can be weapons. Jokes and satire are one thing, but what I hear from some Christian Nationalists feels very threatening. I'm interested in reading this one because I do find Kat funny.

    1. She's so insecure with herself sometimes that I feel sorry for her. I used to think that persona was part of her act, but I've come to believe now that she really is that way. That makes what she's accomplished at her young age even more impressive to me. She's a lot braver than most of us. I understand what you're saying about threatening words, and I totally agree. What Kat is talking about is more along the lines of satire and sarcasm being used as social commentary. She's had the worst directed at herself - even the most threatening types. She mentions death threats she's received several times. I do think you'd like this one.


I always love hearing from you guys...that's what keeps me book-blogging. Thanks for stopping by.