Goofy humor can convey very serious things (laughtivism)

This one's a doozy, because both Andy and Mike first learned it before the Yes Men existed, and it's informed much of what we've done since.

And certainly not only us, of course: it was integral to Otpor's overthrow of Milosevic in 2000, to the Tahrir Square activists' overthrow of Mubarak in 2011, to ACT-UP's campaigns to get funding for AIDS research and treatment, etc. The list could go on forever.

The word "laughtivism" is credited to the Yes Men by Otpor's Srdja Popovic, but who knows where it really came from. Here, anyhow, is an interview with Andy about it.

Some more concrete reasons we believe in the use of humor in activism:

  • When you laugh, you're off-balance and off-guard, and more susceptible to new information.
  • People like laughing, and tweeters and journalists therefore tend to spread funny stories.
  • It's fun.

Making fun of the less-powerful just isn't funny, so good humor is biased towards progressives. 

We've linked to this lesson from a few of our projects, below, but it's central to almost everything that we've done—or, if not humor per se, at least trickiness.

Also make sure to check out a very different lesson we've also learned (and forgotten) a good many times: that satire and humor have their limits.

Instances in which we learned this lesson

During National Asthma Awareness Month (a real commemoration), the fossil fuel industry launched one of its more bizarre public health initiatives to…
On Monday, Nov. 8, the Yes Men sent out a fake press release on behalf of private-jet outfitter Yasava with some very real news about this utterly,…
Shortly after the New York Times publishes a full page about our trickery in Salzburg, the organizers of a textiles conference in Tampere,…
Back in 2011, a small brainstorm around the NYPD's racial profiling ("Stop and Frisk") led to an idea that everyone laughed and cringed at…
Full gory story coming soon! Meanwhile, see this excerpt from our third movie. Also, check out the story of, that came out of our…
(For the 2020 postscript, visit our story of Doctors for Opening America.)
Two hundred apartheid-party zombies descend on the Cape Town City Hall to celebrate their return to power. Whaaaaaa?
Off we went to Salzburg, Austria—to speak as reps of the WTO. What we'd encounter would change our lives forever.