In this fascinating investigation into the science of humor and laughter, cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems uncovers what's happening in our heads when we giggle, guffaw, or double over with laughter. Read more...
In this fascinating investigation into the science of humor and laughter, cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems uncovers what's happening in our heads when we giggle, guffaw, or double over with laughter. While we typically think of humor in terms of jokes or comic timing, in Ha Weems proposes a provocative new model. Humor arises from inner conflict in the brain, he argues, and is part of a larger desire to comprehend a complex world. Showing that the delight that comes with "getting" a punchline is closely related to the joy that accompanies the insight to solve a difficult problem, Weems explores why surprise is such an important element in humor, why computers are terrible at recognizing what's funny, and why it takes so long for a tragedy to become acceptable comedic fodder. From the role of insult jokes to the benefit of laughing for our immune system, Ha reveals why humor is so idiosyncratic, and why how-to books alone will never help us become funnier people.
Packed with the latest research, illuminating anecdotes, and even a few jokes, Ha lifts the curtain on this most human of qualities. From the origins of humor in our brains to its life on the standup comedy circuit, this book offers a delightful tour of why humor is so important to our daily lives.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-12-09
- Reviewer: Staff
Cognitive neuroscientist Weems takes a crack at explaining humor, what it does to the brain, and what purpose(s) it may serve. He describes the effects of dopamine and how the anterior cingulate, the “part of the brain responsible for managing conflict,” overrides the “false expectation” required by many jokes. Weems renders extensive research accessible for a wide audience, citing one study that explored differing attributes of humor across nationality and gender, and another, dubbed “The Bill Cosby Effect,” that claims comedy’s analgesic effect in post-surgical recovery. Weems examines various categories of humor and what they say about human thought and behavior, including “gallows humor,” “lawyer jokes,” and meta-humor. He tackles the “Are women less funny than men?” controversy, notes a study that revealed the tangible negative impact of sexist jokes, outlines personality traits that supposedly contribute to a person’s funniness, ponders why computers can’t master humor, and investigates how comedic timing operates. In addition to a number of amusing jokes, Weems analyzes notable moments in comedy, including Lenny Bruce’s 1961 Carnegie Hall performance and Gilbert Gottfried’s notorious “Aristocrats” routine from the roast of Hugh Hefner. Humor is a difficult, subjective topic of study, and while Weems doesn’t present major conclusions, the information is interesting and the commentary insightful. 6 b&w illus. (Mar.)