Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor
September 2009, Wiley-Blackwell
- Offers an enlightening and accessible foray into the serious business of humor
- Reveals how standard theories of humor fail to explain its true nature and actually support traditional prejudices against humor as being antisocial, irrational, and foolish
- Argues that humor’s benefits overlap significantly with those of philosophy
- Includes a foreword by Robert Mankoff, Cartoon Editor of The New Yorker
1 No Laughing Matter: The Traditional Rejection of Humor and Traditional Theories of Humor.
Humor, Anarchy, and Aggression.
The Superiority Theory: Humor as Anti-social.
The Incongruity Theory: Humor as Irrational.
The Relief Theory: Humor as a Pressure Valve.
The Minority Opinion of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas: Humor as Playful Relaxation.
The Relaxation Theory of Robert Latta.
2 Fight or Flight – or Laughter: The Psychology of Humor.
Humor and Disengagement.
Humor as Play.
Laughter as a Play Signal.
3 From Lucy to "I Love Lucy": The Evolution of Humor.
What Was First Funny?
The Basic Pattern in Humor: The Playful Enjoyment of a Cognitive Shift Is Expressed in Laughter.
The Worth of Mirth.
4 That Mona Lisa Smile: The Aesthetics of Humor.
Humor as Aesthetic Experience.
Humor and Other Ways of Enjoying Cognitive Shifts: The Funny, Tragic, Grotesque, Macabre, Horrible, Bizarre, and Fantastic.
Tragedy vs. Comedy: Is Heavy Better than Light?
Enough with the Jokes: Spontaneous vs. Prepared Humor.
5 Laughing at the Wrong Time: The Negative Ethics of Humor.
Eight Traditional Moral Objections.
The Shortcomings in the Contemporary Ethics of Humor.
A More Comprehensive Approach: The Ethics of Disengagement.
First Harmful Effect: Irresponsibility.
Second Harmful Effect: Blocking Compassion.
Third Harmful Effect: Promoting Prejudice.
6 Having a Good Laugh: The Positive Ethics of Humor.
Intellectual Virtues Fostered by Humor.
Moral Virtues Fostered by Humor.
Humor during the Holocaust.
7 Homo Sapiens and Homo Ridens: Philosophy and Comedy.
Was Socrates the First Stand-up Comedian?
Humor and the Existentialists.
The Laughing Buddha.
8 The Glass Is Half-Empty and Half-Full: Comic Wisdom.
–Don L. F. Nilsen, International Society for Humor Studies
"Comic Relief is an engaging, wide-ranging discussion of how humor is defined within the disciplines of philosophy and history, as well as a brilliant and comprehensive overview of how it is used today. This book is a superb addition to the body of genuinely important works on humor."
–Regina Barreca, University of Connecticut