The Humor Code by Peter McGraw & Joel Warner

Humor is a funny thing, but what makes things funny? Why does humor exist? What purpose does it serve?

I find the concept of humor extremely interesting because it is so bewildering. It just does not make any sense. There does not seem to be any intrinsic value to humor. As far as we know, animals do not seem to laugh. Some say humor is a coping mechanism. Others say it’s a bonding technique. These make some sense, but to me they are not satisfying answers.

So I picked up the book The Humor Code hoping to learn more about what makes things funny. Professor Peter McGraw and journalist Joel Warner travel the globe looking for answers. There adventures take them to Denver, Montreal, Denmark, Palestine and other locations around the world in order to understand the nuances of humor.

I found the book to be pleasant, but it definitely did not meet my expectations. I was looking for a more in depth look into the constructs of humor, not an Amazing Race type trek throughout the continents.

McGraw and Warner do quickly settle on a theory of humor called the “Benign Violation” theory. It is an interesting theory and I wish they spent more time testing the theory and finding challengers.

Perhaps, trying to understand humor is a lot like explaining a joke; it kind of ruins it.