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review 2014-06-24 02:49
The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny - 'Peter McGraw', 'Joel Warner'

I’ve read a lot of comedy studies books. Well, three, but that’s a lot compared to most people, because most people aren’t sadists.

Luckily, this book isn’t like most humor studies books. This one is readable. It’s interesting. It actually contributes to an overall better understanding of, wait for it, what makes things funny (appropriate subtitles are all the rage right now).



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review 2014-03-31 00:00
The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny
The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny - 'Peter McGraw', 'Joel Warner' I could tell right away that the authors had learned something about being funny on their trip. While the book didn’t have me in stitches, I did chuckle frequently at the humorous anecdotes and often humorous science as well. The mix of science, anecdotes, and humor were just right. As a result, I found this an incredibly easy and entertaining read.

I wasn’t sure about the organization at first, because the book was only almost chronological. More than making the book hard to follow, I think it just bothered my OCD side that I wasn’t sure what point the authors were trying to make with the way they organized the book. However, this didn’t stop my enjoyment of the book, so I decided to let it go at the beginning. It’s a good thing I did, because the low level jumping around eventually came together in a very cohesive story.In addition to my initial dislike of the organization, I wasn’t quite convinced of the scientific value of the questions they were asking. (I’m a science snob, what can I say?) By the end, however, that part of the book had really come together for me too.

The book started with a discussion of what makes things funny and continued into the theories on what purpose humor serves. This is partly a question of evolution, which sparked my interest, but still seemed like very basic, never-going-to-be-applied science. However, the third part of the story discusses some very emotionally moving situations which show how laughter is an invaluable part of the human experience. A large part of why I love non-fiction is for the people stories, so this part really worked for me. I thought the authors clearly showed the value of humor and this convinced me of the value of their research. It also gave their narrative far more emotional impact than I expected. This ended up being one of the few books I’ve read where initial impressions were wrong. It only got better as it went and ended up being a fantastic read.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.
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review 2014-03-26 00:00
The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny
The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny - 'Peter McGraw', 'Joel Warner' Well, that certainly turned out better than expected. What starts out as sounding like a bad joke, a college professor and a journalist wanting to find out what makes things funny, ends up being a truly interesting book. It is part science, part road-trip humor, and one-hundred percent heart.

After some initial research, the comedy researching authors set out to test the Benign Violation Theory, which crosses inappropriate humor without going over the socially-acceptable line. You can see this in action on Pete’s (I feel like we’re on a first-name basis after reading the book) TEDx talk on YouTube. Yet, thanks to their travels, everything is in context. In other words, a raunchy joke may grab a ton of laughs from some drink-sodden attendees in a comedy club, but not so much at Sunday morning mass.

I appreciated the comparison between Sarah Silverman type of humor and Jerry Seinfeld type of humor. The authors go on to elaborate other popular humor methods such as that found on The Onion and Jon Stewart. And it doesn’t stop there—not by a long shot. I was surprised about the amount of books cited, both in direct quotation and in footnotes. I’m not sure if everything was as described, such as their interview that caused Louis C.K. offense, but most of it seemed of merit.

Each chapter is broken down by the authors’ stop around the globe. These guys stopped off at Los Angeles, New York, and even Palestine (Humor in Palestine? Yes.). The beginning was an awesome whirlwind of silly and embarrassing experiments that were motivated by research and guidance. When we got to the Amazon (world location, not the website) dressed as clowns, it felt like the book needed to wrap-up. It was a bit over-extending.

The end of the book was to conclude with the authors presenting their learnings at the largest international comedy festival Just for Laughs, located in Montreal. And they did. But that’s where they finally won me over, not in the comedy, but in the heart-touching moments of realization. While we are all different, we all have a united theme.

So yes, this book is an excellent resource on humor. There are plenty of additional resources and research to follow-up with. And yes, this book was funny. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. And yes, this book offers a ton of heart.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a review copy of this book.
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