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Plato (1) vs. Henny Youngman


Here it is, our very first matchup! The Philosopher-King vs. the King of One-Liners.

Plato’s got the fame, the staying power, and the #1 seed in his bracket. On the other hand, Henny knew how to hustle. Here’s Roger Ebert, as quoted on Youngman’s Wikipedia page:

I once observed Henny Youngman taping a TV show in the old NBC studios at the Merchandise Mart. We got into an elevator together. It stopped at the second floor, a private club. A wedding was under way. Youngman got off the elevator, asked to meet the father of the bride and said, “I’m Henny Youngman. I’ll do 10 minutes for $100.”

Plato’s got the edge, no doubt about it, but it’s not a gimme.

What do you all think?

P.S. Here’s the background, and here are the rules. Your participation is needed for this to work!


  1. Keith O'Rourke says:

    OK Plato over Henny as Plato was named by his wrestling coach while Henny’s television co-host was a boxer and my prior strongly favours a wrestler over a boxer in any contest (unlike someone who wrote a statistics paper on the boxer [versus] the wrestler.)

  2. Tom says:

    Henny over Plato – as speaker we know what Henny would charge, but for Plato we are left with the question – ‘what’s a Grecian earn?’

  3. Shecky R says:

    Henny should be serving up drinks at the seminar open bar (…and maybe even heckling the speaker), but Plato ought be the dude up front-and-center giving the talk — I just hope he’s learned English; otherwise it will be all Greek to me! :-(

  4. Ethan Bolker says:

    Trying to think strategically – Henny would be fun to listen to, Plato maybe not. But I don’t want to see Henny up against Mark Twain in the next round – so Plato it is for me.

  5. jonathan says:

    I don’t speak Greek, neither modern nor ancient, so Plato could talk all day and I wouldn’t have a clue. If the game is that each guy does his act, then I’d pick Plato because Henny Youngman wasn’t funny to me. But if the game is the seminar is about something, about stories of their lives, about their craft, then I’d pick Henny because those would be better stories and the craft of comedy is interesting.

  6. Do either have any new material? I can imagine being entertained by Plato on Pomo or Henny Youngman on selfie sticks and social apps.

  7. AT says:

    Henny Youngman. Concision (10 minutes) is great as is a small honorarium ($100), both of which wouldn’t be possible with Plato…

  8. Chris lbs says:

    Henny Youngman over Plato. Plato would stand in front of the projector and talk about the shadow on the wall. Youngman would work the room and have everyone engaged.

  9. Joe says:

    Plato. I’ve heard all of Youngman’s stuff.

  10. Eric Loken says:

    Plato. Henny offers 10 minutes of material at the wedding and only if he is paid. Plato gives seven long speeches about love in the Symposium. Henny is more like one of the random rowdy characters who shows up at the end of the Symposium to resume the party and end the philosophical debates.

    On the flip side, depending on what kind of a wedding it was, Youngman’s material may have played better to the crowd with Plato’s definitions of love somewhat missing the main vibe in the room.

  11. David N says:

    Why use either when you can get my cousin Plato Youngman for cheap. His act is unconventional; he uses the Socratic method to solicit punchlines from the audience. If that’s not an option then I feel the contest should be decided by who plays the meanest fiddle and therefore give the edge to Henny.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Henny. I can’t recall something Plato said that was true. That may be normal in philosophy, but it still irritates for some reason.

  13. Brett Keller says:

    Youngman. Plato would probably be an OK speaker, but can you imagine dealing with all of the protestors, explaining yourself to the administration, and so forth? How could you defend bringing a speaker so stridently anti-democratic? If only natural-born philosophers can rule, then democratic rule is impossible. This proposed speaker is just a reactionary philosophy whose views are designed to support the 1%. Save yourself the departmental headaches and pick Youngman!

  14. jrc says:

    Sorry Plato, but we really don’t need another speaker telling our students that there is one Truth out there, and that all people are instantiations of the Form of the Person, and thus a p<.05 clearly must be revealing something deep about the innate nature of Being.

    On the other hand, Henny Youngman's theory of wage negotiations sounds like promising research. And he's probably a lot more fun at the post-seminar dinner "take my quinoa…please! no for real, take it, what is this stuff anyway?"

    I smell upset.

  15. david condon says:

    “Well, although I do not suppose that either of us know anything really beautiful & good, I am better off than he is- for he knows nothing & thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know.” – Plato’s Apology

    I remember how much this resounded with me from the moment I first read it as a child.

  16. Marc Levy says:

    I will go with Plato. Youngman would be funnier in Tonight-Show mode, but the seminar isn’t run in Tonight-Show mode.

    I have low confidence in my vote, though. Plato could easily turn out to be a pedantic bore. It these were parallel sessions at a convention, I’d check them both out.

  17. Ed Freeman says:

    The guy who basically invented philosophy has gotta have something worth listening to. Since we can’t have Socrates (who would also take care of the stand-up part), Plato will have to do.

  18. Xi'an says:

    Not only Plato had a proof of the irrationality of √2 in The Republic, which would be enough for one seminar, but the man also invented the Antiquity projector with shadows on the wall replacing slides. If power breaks down, he could still deliver with a torch! And I have never heard of the other speaker anyway.

  19. Jonathan (another one) says:

    Plato, but it’s somewhat personal, because Henny took my wife. Afterwards, we can be invited to his Retreat. In addition, if he’s late I’d love to hear his Apology.

  20. Chris says:

    Plato WAS someone statisticians need to hear. “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”

  21. If you’re planning on renting out a seminar room at your local YMCA then I’d have to go with youngman… I said youngman…

    But otherwise Plato is the ideal candidate.

  22. Conor says:

    Plato, based primarily on his appearance in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
    Also, Plato can do one-liners too: “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow, or stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.”

  23. Martha says:

    Henny (50 years ago I probably would have voted for Plato, but my priorities have changed since then)

  24. Roy says:

    I mean is this really a contest??? Did Plato ever play the violin while giving his talks? My arms are still tired from flying in from the east coast,
    while there I stepped on a rake (look up the rest), got hit by a car and told a policeman I wasn’t rich but comfortable, and if you look at the seeds, it took seven good horses to beat him!!!

    Henny going away….

    Old Jew from Philadelphia who went to the Borscht Belt every summer as a kid and would take the old yiddish philosophy over Plato any day.

  25. Corey says:

    I vote Youngman. He’s actually before my time, but the sick burns Diogenes put on Plato are timeless.

  26. Matt Beaven says:

    Plato. He can keep an audience without resorting to powerpoint.

  27. zbicyclist says:

    Plato. I did a lot of napping during seminars. Why stop now?

  28. Chris G says:

    I’m still fuming over the artist selections. Serrano? Kincade?!?! No Richter? No Serra? What the hell happened in the Artist Conference tournament that those losers qualified but the latter two didn’t?

    Looking at the bracket overall, Jesus vs Chomsky would be interesting as would Hunter S. Thompson vs a French theorist. Eh, there’s always next year.

    Plato takes Youngman in OT.

  29. Eric says:

    Henny all the way… he’d make us laugh, and Plato would just ask us questions and get us to think. Who wants that?!?

  30. Patrick Caldon says:

    Youngman: take my wife, please.
    Plato: let’s hold wives in common.

    I think Plato wins by a nose.

  31. Johannes says:

    Never heard of Youngman but never heard of anybody that has never heard of Plato. So Plato it is.

  32. Manoel Galdino says:

    Plato. I never heard about the other guy. Also, he wasnt part of any Monty python sketch, was he?

  33. Christian Hennig says:

    I’d be happy having Plato. I don’t like too much the bits I know of him or what is associated with his name but often such ideas are much more convincingly presented by the man in person.

  34. Jon Zelner says:

    I’m going with Henny; curious to see how the whole “Take my wife…” bit plays these days.

  35. Hernan says:

    I think the Socrates issue cannot be overlooked. How much can Plato say that is not really Socrates’. What if he quotes Socrates without proper attribution? How long until a plagiarism controversy comes up? I would vote for Plato just to have a speaker in a toga without a last name.

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