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A Theory Of Humor

Christopher Land

Presented at: TOC 1992

Date: Nov 13, 1992

The existence of humor is extremely widespread; virtually everyone knows of someone or something that is funny, or silly, or in some way makes one laugh. It is strange, then, to realize that the reasons behind such a common and universally acknowledged experience are quite difficult to pinpoint. The fact that one finds something funny is self-evident, but it is a much more difficult task to explain why. 

For this paper, I will make a few introductory remarks about humor, present a variety of examples, and propose a unifying definition and an explanation. To round out the first part, I’ll show in detail how the definition applies to a particularly famous joke and discuss some additional points. In the second part, I’ll explore the purpose of humor: what the connection is between humor and the life of a rational being, and why humor is experienced as pleasurable. I’ll then discuss problems often encountered with humor: the idea of “laughing at yourself,” the supposed conflict between humor and seriousness, and inappropriate or irrational humor. I will have one final topic on Applied Humor. 


Parts: 1

Handout: none


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