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My Humor Research

Posted Aug 02 2008 10:08pm

[Rosie Shuster] did have one quality she could privately lord over her classmates: her father was a comedian. . . A life in comedy meant that Frank Shuster nodded, rather than laughed, at jokes that worked.

FromAmerican Nerd: The Story of My Peopleby Benjamin Nugent, pp. 62-3. When I was in college I came up with a theory: Laughter is caused by sudden pleasure. Obviously we enjoy jokes, and jokes have punchlines. People laugh in lots of situations not involving humor and as far as I can tell they always involve sudden pleasure — unexpectedly seeing an old friend, for example.

Which is only to say, as this passage implies, there should be a limited number of joke categories and they should be far from mysterious. I once wrote a bunch of jokes from the TV showCheerson cards and sorted them into categories. Later I classifiedsix months ofNew YorkercartoonsandSpyaccepted it. It was my first submission and I was thrilled.

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