Funny! (The Book?)
By Jessica Barton on August 9, 2012
Comedy nerds! Lend me your ears. I had a FANTASTIC chat with author David Misch about his Funny: The Book on my podcast (No Math Allowed! Where have you been?) where I, to put in in Holmes-ian terms, “buttered his bread” for most of the episode (that’s Pete Holmes-ian terms, and if you’re not listening to his podcast already, you friggin’ should be!) and I’m going to do little bit more of that right now with this here review.
Funny is a great book if you’re into comedy and it’s a wonderful book even if you’re not. (It’s strongly recommended that you possess a good sense of humor, though.) Unlike other books which try to pin a definition onto the very fluid, wishy-washy (timey-wimey) subject of comedy, Funny doesn’t even try. Instead, Misch arms us with science and history and lets us work it out for ourselves. How can anyone, least of all a book, say what YOU might find humorous?
Personally, I think the forays into history and science make up the best and most interesting parts of this book — along with the jokes the author makes, which are mostly fun and endearing. On the science end, we’ve got everything from exploring dopamine and why it’s so great to theories about the beginning of laughter and how smiling came to be, to the patterns that make jokes work and how our brains look for them. Funny ended up being much, much more informative than I thought it could be.
I don’t mean that as an insult to anyone in particular but there’s an old comedy adage that definitely tends to ring true with books on “funny”, that says something to the effect of: when you start to dissect what humor is, you lose all sense of it. This book doesn’t lose it… but I expected it to! Which probably makes me sound terrible, but I did. Imagine my delight while reading, then, when Funny was equally informative and thought provoking AND fun throughout the whole thing. It’s clearly a well researched passion project, with a healthy dose of humor, and the author seems to be enjoying himself the whole time.
In our conversation, Misch said something that I absolutely loved about his work: “…one of the theses of this book is that joy is not a second string emotion. Just because you laugh and have fun, it doesn’t mean it’s not important — it’s probably THE most important thing. What are we alive for if not but to have joy?” (You can hear the full interview here.)
I absolutely love that. I chatted with David Misch for an hour and he was a joy. Informative and funny, and his book is even MORE delightful, if that’s possible! So, read it. It’ll give you a wonderful history lesson on some of the greats (everyone from Bob Hope to Robert Benchley and Steve Martin to Sarah Silverman) and it’ll show you what makes them great without taking itself too seriously and without assuming you’re a complete moron. What a perfect blend!
If you’re interested in hearing the whole chat, check out my podcast! It’s called No Math Allowed and it’s about books! Sorta. (We tend to get fabulously off topic with things like history and comedy and philosophy.) Follow me on twitter @jessicasayswhat, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and GO READ SOME BOOKS!