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By March 10, 2015Culture, Humility

February 19 was a sad day for comedy, and a humbling day for humanity. Comedy writer Harris Wittels, known for popularizing the term “humblebrag,” died at age 30 of an apparent drug overdose.

Wittels’ hilarious book, Humblebrag: The Art of Fake Modesty, introduces readers to the noun/verb which he defines as “a specific type of brag that masks the boasting part of a statement in a faux-humble guise.”

Among the hundreds of examples he found — mostly by sifting through social media – include:

  • “Why do men hit on me more when I’m in sweat pants? It makes no sense.”
  • “Sending my nephews and nieces to college is $$$$ … but it’s worth it. I love them.”
  • “I’m freaking out! Having a fashion emergency with my Grammy dress.” (Kim Kardashian)


While having fun exposing such immodesty, Wittels clearly appreciated humility as an essential human quality. For this he serves as one of the inspirations for this Humble Sky blog – along with two other very uniquely impressive sources, Carl Sagan and Edward L. Bernays.

Astronomer/author Sagan encouraged us to be both curious about and humbled by the universe. “The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding,” Sagan wrote in Cosmos. “Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty.”

Whereas Bernays, considered the father of modern public relations, encouraged clients to seek “independent validation” for their goals. Though humbling to some advocates, Bernays proved it is far more influential when promoting a cause to have the approval and support of impartial authorities. This, he explained, distinguishes an institution’s goals as serving the public interest rather than merely self-serving propaganda.

No doubt, Humble Sky could do a lot worse than having Sagan, Bernays and Wittels as inspirations. (#humblebrag)


Naturally Wittels joked about his commitment to searching for and calling out humblebrags, “It is most definitely a gigantic waste of time, but I like to think I am doing some sort of service for society (#humblebrag) – putting humblebraggers in check, so that we can get back to a time when braggers either outright bragged like assholes or just didn’t do it at all.”

The always self-effacing Wittels added below his name on the cover of his book: “… who would love some free time but has been too busy writing for Parks and Recreation, Eastbound & Down and a bunch of other stuff.” And then he signed copies: “Ugh, I hate having to sign stuff. Harris.”


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