Books

Quick Reads: "The Humor Code" by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner

| Fri Mar. 28, 2014 5:00 AM EDT
The Humor Code

The Humor Code

By Peter McGraw and Joel Warner

SIMON AND SCHUSTER

Searching for the essence of humor is a delicate business: Dig too deep, and you kill the joke. Fortunately, Peter McGraw, an irrepressible psychology prof, and Joel Warner, his straight-man scribe, deliver entertaining answers to nagging questions like: Do unhappy people make better comedians? Are some things too horrible to laugh at? And how do you win The New Yorker cartoon contest? Despite getting heckled by colleagues in the surprisingly serious field of humor studies and bombing as a stand-up comic, McGraw lays out a convincing theory about how humor works and why it's an essential survival mechanism.

This review originally appeared in our March/April 2014 issue of Mother Jones.