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I watch Tosh.0 on Comedy Central TV, as do about two million others per episode. The show is made up of downloads of internet videos created by people throughout the world. It has a fast-paced comedy format by the handsome and quick-witted Daniel Tosh, who makes snarky comments about people doing astonishing things. A lot of what gets aired are simply funny antics, but many of them are people doing astonishingly risky things with little or no potential reward. It is hard to believe that many of the people presented were not seriously injured or even killed. Last week a skateboarder coming off a railing broke his leg between the knee and ankle and we could see the bottom half of his leg sticking out at a right angle from the upper portion. There have been other similar stunts where the person hit their head on concrete after high falls, no doubt with serious permanent injury. WHY? Why do people do these incredibly dangerous stunts with zero potential reward?

Obviously these seemingly sane people thought what they were doing was important, or they wouldn’t have been doing it. Sometimes there were interviews with the people about to do the stunt, and they appeared to be normal and sane, and they knew what they were about to do was very dangerous. This is different from people walking across the street, where they think the driver sees them and is going to yield, but as it turns out doesn’t yield. In those situations it is a miscommunication, and sometimes that results in a person getting hit, and sometimes killed, but it wasn’t a preplanned foolish act by either the pedestrian or the driver that got them into trouble. It was a mistake in communication.

One time on Tosh.0 we saw a guy who wanted to see if his bulletproof vest would stop a high velocity pistol bullet, so he had a friend shoot him from a few feet away. Needless to say, it didn’t stop the bullet, so when he pulled off the vest we saw a hole in his chest. Apparently it didn’t strike a vital organ, so he didn’t die, at least in the first minute. If he succeeded in dying, at least he would get a Darwin Award for taking his genes out of the human gene pool for voluntary stupid behavior.

The things to be seen on Tosh.0 are extreme examples, but when we look to our friends’ behavior, and our own too, are we doing foolish things with no potential reward, or at minimum no reward commensurate with the risk? It may be difficult to judge the subtleties of some kinds of potential actions, but before any act that gives us physical anxiety that wells up from the gut, it is reasonable to ask, is the potential payoff worth the risk?