Searching the World for What Makes Things Funny

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

What makes something funny? Dr. Peter McGraw and Joel Warner went on an epic quest around the world to find out. Dr. McGraw, founder of the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, traveled from New York to Japan, and from Palestine to the Amazon to investigate humor in different countries and among different peoples. Their book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny is an exploration of humor, society, and an unusual friendship.


Peter McGraw and Joel Warner

Comments [9]

antonio from baySide

Jerry-lewis episode on Leonard Lopate.

That was funny. Maybe not for Leonard at the time...

Apr. 01 2014 01:28 PM
Michael from Passaic

Some professional comedians associate comedy with pain, and I’ve encountered an idea that seems linked to this thought: that laughter is provoked by a sort of sympathetic response to an escape from danger. E.g., Cary Grant jumps over a shrub, thinking that he’ll land safely on the other side, but falls twenty feet downward, but turns out to be OK in the end. So as an audience we feel a sympathetic relief seeing an escape from danger or aggression. What do you think of this idea, and do you think that your theory of benign violation encompasses it?

Apr. 01 2014 01:27 PM
Nat Benchley from Manhattan

Your guests should read Robert Benchley's "Why We Laugh - Or Do We?" It is a piercing analysis of the guts of humor which also posits that "…by the time you have the 'humor' analyzed, it will be found that the necessity for laughing has ben relieved."

Apr. 01 2014 01:22 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Leonard, I was going to wait till the show was over so as not to distract you, but this is the perfect segment for it, especially since 1 of the guests mentioned puns:

The word you & Ricky Jay were trying to pronounce is pachyDERMatous, not pachyderMATous. But that's OK...if it weren't a pachyderm, it would be irrelephant!

Apr. 01 2014 01:20 PM
Joe from Flushing Queens

Do different cultures laugh differently?

Apr. 01 2014 01:18 PM

Christopher Hitchens argued that there was a gender difference. It would seem men tend to remember jokes more (as they need them to be funny to amuse females?) and women don't seem to be so inclined to remember jokes or relish their telling...Any idea as to gender difference(s)?

Apr. 01 2014 01:16 PM
Nancy from Brooklyn

Are we sure bonobos don't make puns?

Apr. 01 2014 01:15 PM
Raconteuse from Midtown Manhattan

I don't know about Palestinian humor, but Japanese humor is often crude and involves harsh pranks that border on being scary... Do a search on YouTube. I was recently reminded of them when I read a NYTimes article about Yankees Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, whose wife was categorized as an 'o-baka tarento' and appeared on such shows. Translation: 'O' means honorable, 'baka' stupid and tarento is an adulteration of the English word 'talent'. Go figure!

Apr. 01 2014 12:51 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

What's funny in Japan or in "Palestine?"

Apr. 01 2014 11:39 AM

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