I'd like to know the catch of a supposedly funny talk that I will explain below.  Emily Levine is the one who is speaking. Quick reference of her goes like this; "Philosopher-comedian Emily...

I'd like to know the catch of a supposedly funny talk that I will explain below.  

Emily Levine is the one who is speaking.

Quick reference of her goes like this;

"Philosopher-comedian Emily Levine talks (hilariously) about science, math, society and the way everything connects. She's a brilliant trickster, poking holes in our fixed ideas and bringing hidden truths to light. Settle in and let her ping your brain."

 You can also watch her video at


Below is the subtitles for what she says.


I am going to talk about myself,

which I rarely do, because I --

well for one thing, I prefer to talk about things I know nothing about.

And secondly, I'm a recovering narcissist.


I didn't know I was a narcissist actually.

I thought narcissism meant you loved yourself.

And then someone told me there is a flip side to it.

So it's actually drearier than self-love;

it's unrequited self-love.


I'm afraid English is my second language and I don't see what is funny about this talk. I Can't laugh at where other people laugh. Although, I sort of feel funniness from her by the way she talks, but it's hard to grasp the literal message out of it.

Expert Answers
literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Given that English is a second (or third) language for you, sometimes unknown words will create a disconnect between a second language learner and the humor of the learned language because of the inability to understand the context of the word being used (even the word itself). Humor is based upon understanding the "ins and outs" of a language (slang never helps).

That said, while the narcissist comment is funny, I actually like the part about talking about things she doesn't know about. As pohnpei points out, people tend to try to come off far more educated than they actually are. The comedian admitting this is very funny (because she is poking fun at the people who tend to talk about things they know nothing about).

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Narcissists are vain and egotistical, thus always think of and talk about themselves. If she is a "recovering" narcissist, like a recovering alcoholic, then she is not supposed to be vain and think and talk only of herself. Yet here she is talking about herself: she has "fallen off the wagon"; she has failed to follow the recovery program program. The unrequited, or unreturned, element is a reflection of contemporary society, not a reflection of the original Greek myth. It's an attempt to allude to the present cultural interest in "dark" humor. 

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Along with Post #7's comment, understanding word-play and connotation is such a higher level thinking skill, not to mention if you are doing so as a non-native reader!  You are doing a phenomenal job to have gotten this far. 

The most humorous aspect of the Levine's monologue to me is her focus on being a 'recovering narcissist' and then she goes on to talk more about herself.  If she were truly a recovering narcissist, she would try not to focus on herself so much.  It's a clever play on words with a twist of irony!

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sarcastic and satiric humor is often incomprehensible for non-native speakers because sarcasm and satire are based upon cultural beliefs and observations.  With the explanations of what the literal meanings of words, then, the non-native listener/reader much find the contrast between the cultural belief and what it is that the speaker ridicules or belittles.  Herein, then, lies the humor. 

Now, with the explanations provided above, you can perceive the sarcasm of Ms. Levine.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another way of thinking about the "unrequited self-love" she mentions - if unrequited means that something is not returned (which it does), could she be saying that she doesn't really love herself as much as she is trying to make us think she does when she calls herself a narcissist?

If you're tackling English as a second language and this is the passage you are trying to understand, you're progressing into very advanced vocabulary and fine points of definitions!

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is also funny that she likes to talk about things she "knows nothing about" because it makes us wonder what she would have to say? If she doesn't know anything about a topic then what she says would be nonsense. It also implies that she, in this case, she knows nothing about herself. That's funny because most people know themselves very well! They certainly know the facts of the events of their lives.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The other thing that's amusing here is how she says that she prefers to talk about things she knows nothing about.  This is amusing because so many people like to pretend to have a great deal more knowledge than they really do have.  Beyond that, I agree with the previous points about narcissism.