Seriously Funny: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime by Howard Jacobson
This investigation of the origins of comedy and the meaning of laughter draws on biology, anthropology, classical studies, behavioural science, philosophy and psychology - with a few authorial jokes along the way. What we learn of humour's origins in ritual invective and the cursing of malign spirit has a bearing on how we understand the violence we enjoy (or fear) in much contemporary stand-up comedy. And yet this is not simply an investigation of the nature of comedy and its origins. It is also about the indispensible contribution which humour makes to our humanity and the dangers to us in what we can't laugh at. The author sees humour as compromised by political correctness and therefore this book is not short on contentious argument. From fools and jesters, gleemen and clowns, comedians, harlequins, pantaloons and Punch, to stand-up comedians, man has learnt to laugh at what he fears, but can humour withstand the onslaught of "isms"? Can we go on making jokes if we fear whom we might hurt? Are ethnic jokes in fact important safety valves for racial tension that will otherwise express themselves?