What's So Funny?

Humor in American Culture

Edited by Nancy A. Walker

Publication date:

01 November 1998

Length of book:

284 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9780842026871

Critical studies attempting to define and dissect American humor have been published steadily for nearly one hundred years. However, until now, key documents from that history have never been brought together in a single volume for students and scholars.

What's So Funny? Humor in American Culture, a collection of 15 essays, examines the meaning of humor and attempts to pinpoint its impact on American culture and society, while providing a historical overview of its progres-sion. Essays from Nancy Walker and Zita Dresner, Joseph Boskin and Joseph Dorinson, William Keough, Roy Blount, Jr., and others trace the development of American humor from the colonial period to the present, focusing on its relationship with ethnicity, gender, violence, and geography.

An excellent reader for courses in American studies and American social and cultural history, What's So Funny? explores the traits of the American experience that have given rise to its humor.

The essayists in this volume chronicle a complex history and draw attention to the scope of multimedia humor—from the earliest glint of irony and humor in descriptions of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century exploration to the sharp comedy of contemporary film, television, and stand-up routines. The result is an undeniable argument for the central role that humor plays in the development of an American culture shaped by the diverse voices that gained attention through print and electronic media. We have a strong case here that comedy is neither easy nor slight. This collection helps set the foundation for a greater appreciation of humor's influence in American society.