Title: The Humor Code
Author: Peter McGraw and Joel Warner
Source: from publisher for review
Review Summary: This book was amusing, well-written, inspiring, moving, and educational, as well as containing surprisingly valuable research.
If you’ve ever thought about why some things are funnier than others, you’ll probably realize that this is a tough question to answer. Other difficult questions include why we’d evolve a sense of humor and what purpose humor serves. Although scientists still don’t agree on answers, professor Peter McGraw and journalist Joel Warner decide to tackle these questions in an epic, around-the-world journey. Their trip includes everything from talking to comedians and researchers to dressing as clowns and trying their hand at stand-up comedy. The perfect read for April Fool’s Day 🙂
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.