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Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor (New Directions in Aesthetics, No. 9) [Hardcover]

by John Morreall, Robert Mankoff
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 28, 2009 1405196122 978-1405196123 1st
Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor develops an inclusive theory that integrates psychological, aesthetic, and ethical issues relating to humor
  • 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

Frequently Bought Together

Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor (New Directions in Aesthetics, No. 9) + The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor (SUNY Series in Philosophy) + Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind
Price for all three: $65.70

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Editorial Reviews


"As an intelligent treatment of what humor is and what it means, this work raises significant questions and proposes plausible answers." (CHOICE, September 2010)


"Of all of the humor scholars I know, John Morreall is the best at making original, fascinating, and useful observations. We should all be grateful that in Comic Relief he has once more demonstrated--in his witty and accessible style--that the play ethic is as important as the work ethic."
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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1st edition (September 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405196122
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405196123
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book on humor! February 22, 2010
This book of Professor Morreall's is a great read. His theory and basic pattern in humor--The playful enjoyment of a cognitive shift is expressed in laughter--is more realistic than conventional superiority, incongruity and relief theories.

In this great book, Professor Morreall explored many of the benefits of humor. In Chapter 3, we saw how its emotional disengagement promotes rationallity and mental flexibility. The contrast of comedy with tragedy in Chapter 4 showed how comedy fosters a more rational, critical, and creative attidude that serves us better in the modern world. It makes us sensitive to the complexity of life; it enhances our ability to deal with novelty and disorder, and it chanllges elitism, militarism, and sexism. In Chapter 6, he examined some intellectural and moral virtues promoted by humor: open-mindedness, divergent thinking, critical thinking, self-transcedence, honesty with oneself, patience, tolerance, graciousness, humility, perseverance, and courage. Then in Chapter 7, he compared humor to philosophy in promoting a curious, imaginative, critical atttude in which we see our lives in perspective.

Enjoy reading!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Brian
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A friend recommended this book so I thought I'd check it out--I'm really interested in humor and jokes but it's hard to find a satisfactory, richly developed theory of laughter. Plenty of people have tried, and the first chapters, which exhaustively list various thinkers' attempts to theorize laughter throughout history and also point out their flaws and shortcomings, are very useful and illuminating. But John Morreall doesn't offer a theory to outdo them. It seems like he's mainly restating the obvious parts of other thinkers' work (he says in the intro that he's a public speaker and consultant who gives talks to corporate meetings about humor--and the way he writes and thinks seems better suited to that kind of work than producing the "comprehensive philosophy" that the title promises). Maybe I wasn't reading close enough into his ideas, but I really lost interest when he spent several pages trying to explain why a rape joke isn't offensive.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The author of this book, contrary to what one might suppose, does not have any genuine expertise in the theory of humor. That is, he has no noteworthy understanding of it, that could not be acquired by the most casual study. And he perpetuates the false assumption that the concept of humor has been adequately explained in published texts. Scholars should stop citing Morreall as an authority in this field, for example, as seen in A. Peter McGraw's (December, 2013) citation of Morreall (2009). The concepts of expectation, error, and belief should lead to a definitive understanding of humor. The reason they have not is that theories have stopped short of actually explaining why these ideas are present. Instead, those interested are content with these words as mere descriptions. They are satisfied with what is obvious, or else they make unproven generalizations. Consider Morreall's idea that humor is "pleasure in incongruity." One could have many pleasures in incongruity that are not humor.

Morreall emphasizes inconguity because he fails to discern the actual role of belief in humor. He does not attempt to understand what the stimulus and response are. The solution is actually quite simple, to take the humor response as imitation or reverberation of the stimulus. The problem is that Morreall and other "humor theory" cronies are not man enough to admit that they are wrong. In character and courage, they have not progressed beyond childhood.
I have engaged with Morreall in conversation in person for several hours, attended his lectures, and given his approach a fair hearing. Having mastered and criticized every theory or text that exists in this area, I can safely conclude that Morreall's contribution is pedestrian and unremarkable.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What makes us laugh? July 13, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've often wondered what makes us laugh. This book will give me some insights into what makes us tick and why we laugh at some things and frown at others.
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