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What Are You Laughing At?: A Comprehensive Guide to the Comedic Event Paperback – September 6, 2012


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What Are You Laughing At?: A Comprehensive Guide to the Comedic Event + The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny + The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You're Not
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (September 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441162933
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441162939
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dan O'Shannon is currently co-executive producer for the ABC show Modern Family, previously working on other Emmy nominated shows such as Frasier and Cheers. O'Shannon has also lectured in classes at UCLA, USC, and taught a course on writing at Cleveland State University, where he holds an honorary doctorate.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
My writing has improved immensely.
Kervin James
This book is not just about the nuts and bolts, it's about the nitty-gritty.
Trish
Which was great and I look forward to the rest.
Lou S Borenstein

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Walker on July 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As I started reading "What Are You Laughing At?", I began to worry. If humour was explained to me, if somebody successfully pulled back the curtain on what makes us laugh, would things stop being funny? And if I ever tried to write anything funny, would it interfere with my natural instincts?

Luckily, as I pushed on, I realised that Dan O'Shannon's book isn't about to ruin anyone's appreciation of comedy, instead it explains the variables that come into play when something makes us laugh. You may have wondered, for example, Why is something funny to you, but not to me? Why does the same person give a hearty applause to a joke in a stage play, but roll their eyes at the same joke in a TV sitcom? Why did Bob, who's a real hoot in work, bomb when he went to an open-mic night?

All these questions, and many more, are clearly and thoroughly answered in this book.

Additionally, through explaining the above, O'Shannon creates a sort of "Grand Unified Theory of Comedy". Rather than just focus on what makes a joke funny (the most obvious go-to place for someone to begin) the author presents what he calls the "comedic event", something which takes into account your state of mind, your prejudices, your preferences, etc. After all, we find humour everywhere in life, not just when we turn on the TV or when someone tells us a joke, plus everyone has a different sense of humour. All of these things need to be accounted for if one is to truly present an explanation of what causes us to laugh.

O'Shannon's holistic view of things allows him to present insights that are completely self-evident once they've been explained. So solid is the author's appreciation, and so analytical is his approach, that you'll wonder how anyone has ever thought differently about the subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Miller on September 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow. What's the last comedy writing book written by an Emmy winner? A treatise on jokes written by someone pitching jokes in a writers room on the most critically acclaimed comedy on TV? What a great book. O'Shannon strips away the "theories" of comedy and instead develops a practical "law" which readers can use almost immediately. Dense, intelligent and - yes - very funny, this is a graduate course in humor. Maybe not the first comedy writing book you should read, but definitely the best.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Trish on September 24, 2012
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The book "What Are You Laughing At" by Dan O'shannon, who, I now consider one of the leading "pathologists of comedy, dissects the structure of comedy to it's very core. It's presented in an understandable format, reviewing all the collaborative aspects that can influence the receiver's perception and ultimate response. This book is not just about the nuts and bolts, it's about the nitty-gritty. A must read for those serious about comedy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JJL on November 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
O'Shannon's book is amazing. Much like a theorist in any other humanistic discipline, O'Shannon's descriptions and analysis of comedy will dramatically change the way you listen to and understand jokes in all their forms. After understanding what the variables are of any given comedic event, you're going to catch yourself analyzing and understanding everything you or someone else laughs at. This is an amazing and much more efective analytical tool to have in understanding comedy than just the cliche "it's all in the timing" or "it's about surprises." This book doesn't just discuss how jokes work: it discusses the nuts-and-bolts of why it is we laugh.

Excellent read.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Connor Mullaney on March 28, 2013
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Won't make you laugh. It might make you think. It's the philosophers book on the origins of laughter. Some of it becomes repetitive.
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