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Anorak | Every Joke Explained, Maybe

Every Joke Explained, Maybe

by | 16th, May 2011

CAN humour be explained? Is this mantra enough: someone else falling ower is funny; you falling over is a tregedy. A professor has tried to make sense of every joke.

Joel Warner writes in Wired :

[Peter] McGraw didn’t set out to become a humorologist. His background is in marketing and consumer decisionmaking, especially the way moral transgressions and breaches of decorum affect the perceived value of things. For instance, he studied a Florida megachurch that tarnished its reputation when it tried to reward attendees with glitzy prizes. The church’s promise to raffle off a Hummer H2 to some lucky congregant was met with controversy in the community—what the hell did that have to do with eternal salvation? But when McGraw related the anecdote at presentations, it prompted laughter—a holy Hummer!—rather than repulsion. This confused him.

“It had never crossed my mind that moral violations could be amusing,” McGraw says. He became increasingly preoccupied with the conundrum he saw at the heart of humor: Why do people laugh at horrible things like stereotypes, embarrassment, and pain? Basically, why is Sarah Silverman funny?

Philosophers had pondered this sort of question for millennia, long before anyone thought to examine it in a lab. Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Hobbes posited the superiority theory

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