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.