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There’s no shame in Schadenfreude

Eduardo Zamacois y Zabala
The painting ‘Return to the Convent,’ by Eduardo Zamacois y Zabala, shows a group of monks laughing while a lone monk struggles with a donkey.

Schadenfreude, the German word for taking pleasure in others’ misfortune, seems like an ugly human emotion. But psychologists and philosophers argue that Schadenfreude is baked into the human condition and actually is kind of good for us. This hour, we explore why it’s okay to laugh when someone slips on a banana peel.


  • John Portmann: Professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia and the author of When Bad Things Happen to Other People, which explores the moral and philosophical implications of schadenfreude
  • Lauren Ober: Hosted the Spectacular Failures podcast, which during its 22-episode run looked at the demise of businesses large and small — before meeting its own demise. Ober is a podcast host, consultant, and voice coach in Washington, D.C.
  • Scott Dikkers: Founding editor of The Onion and the author of How to Write Funny and other books about humor writing

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The Colin McEnroe Show is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode!

Colin McEnroe, Jonathan McNicol, Lily Tyson, Eugene Amatruda, and Cat Pastor contributed to this show.

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Jennifer LaRue is a freelance writer, editor, publicist, and producer. She’s written about health and travel for The Washington Post, published four children’s picture books, and hosted hundreds of virtual author talks during the pandemic. She’s a little bit giddy about producing for The Colin McEnroe Show.
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