With many of us blogging examples of humour in Logic, this post on the Syllogisms of Seinfeld seemed worthy of sharing here, especially for its examination of examples of logical fallacies being used to specific purpose in comedy:
Roles of Essence — The logic or fallacy used serves as the essence of what makes it funny. In these cases other aspects might enhance the humor, but the logic or fallacy is precisely what makes it funny, such that without it there is no humor left.
Type #1 — Equivocation: the name of the most common informal fallacy used in humor and usually it is the essence of what is funny. Equivocation occurs when two different meanings or senses of the same word(s) are used as if equivalent. In humor equivocation is often played out with two people—where one person says something implying one meaning and the other person takes it as if another meaning was intended.
“I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he’s converted to Judaism purely for the jokes.”
“And this offends you as a Jewish person?”
“No, it offends me as a comedian.”
– Jerry and Father Curtis, in “The Yada Yada”
The Role of Enhancer — the logic or fallacy adds to the essence of what is funny to make it even funnier.
Type #1 — Hasty Generalizations — occurs when a generalization is made from too few cases or, as often seen in humor, when the generalization is obviously not true as a literal statement (a clear exaggeration).
“So, what you are saying is that ninety to ninety-five percent of the population is undateable?”
“Then how are all these people getting together?”
– Elaine and Jerry, in “The Wink”
The Role of Mechanism — the logic or fallacy is what gets you from one thought to another. When formal logic takes on the role of mechanism, valid logic is used to get the reader or audience to make a certain inference from one idea to another.
“Well, behind every joke there’s some truth.”
“What about that Bavarian cream pie joke I told you? There’s no truth to that. Nobody with a terminal illness goes from the United States to Europe for a piece of Bavarian cream pie and then when they get there and they don’t have it he says, ‘Ah, I’ll just have some coffee.’ There’s no truth to that.”
– Sheila and Jerry, in “The Soup Nazi”