What’s so funny? That is one of many questions being asked about humor in general, as a subject of study. Salvatore Attardo, the dean of humanities, social sciences, and arts at Texas A&M-Commerce, has some insight. He says that humor as a subject of study has “become respectable”. Apparently there has been an uprising of research on the subject, which is actually kind of refreshing to hear. So Attardo just went ahead and published a hardback two-volume seven pound shipping weight reference set. Yes seven pounds. The description of the book on the Sage website is: “The Encyclopedia of Humor Studies explores the concept of humor in history and modern society in the United States and internationally. This work’s scope encompasses the humor of children, adults, and even nonhuman primates throughout the ages, from crude jokes and simple slapstick to sophisticated word play and ironic parody and satire.” Wow even non human primates? I’m interested. Too bad it’s $350.00. So unless you’re teaching a class you might not be able to get that one, which brings us to our next authors, who happen to disagree with Attardo’s theory that he and Victor Raskin agreed on in 1991. It’s called the General Theory of Verbal Humor and can be found in this long list of humor theories.
There are some other educational juggernauts that have notable input about humor, and none of these people are not comedians. Maybe we should get some comedians in on this discussioin? Oddly enough Joel Warner (an accomplished writer and Denver local) and Dr. Peter McGraw, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder are two of them. These fun fellas co-wrote the book “The Humor Code”, in which they describe how they traveled the world spanning 5 different continents looking for answers about what makes things funny. After all said and done McGraw had developed the “Benign Violation Theory”, which can also be found in the list. This theory seemingly explains the most aspects of comedy in one theory whereas others have been criticized for only explaining a few or one aspect of comedy. This book would be a little easier to get ahold of seeing as it’s only $17, and you can get it on your Kindle as well. Here’s Peter McGraw talking about what makes things funny in Boulder, CO at TEDx, it’s quite interesting.
There is quite a bit more to talk about when it comes to trying to learn about what makes things funny, this article is to merely let you know that the conversation is happening, and that there are plenty of books out there to read if you’re interested in the subject. Maybe it can be that last course you are trying to find to study in college?
Anywho, the Article I saw that sparked my curiosity is by Shane Snow of “The New Yorker” entitled “A Quest to Understand What Makes Things Funny”. This article is a nice read and includes a quick buttoned up version of the evolution of humor theory, it’s a good place to start.
Until next time,