The Humor Code Book Summary - The Humor Code Book explained in key points

The Humor Code summary

Peter McGraw and Joel Warner

A Global Search For What Makes Things Funny

Listen to the first key idea

Key idea 1 of 7
3.7 (41 ratings)
13 mins
7 key ideas
Audio & text

What is The Humor Code about?

This book is all about humor. It explores theories on why certain things are funny and why humor is so important. It also describes how humor is different across different cultures, and why you should always be careful to use humor appropriately.

About the Author

Peter McGraw is a professor at the University of Colorado, and the director of the Humor Research Lab. Joel Warner is a journalist who’s been featured in the Boston Globe. For this book, the authors travelled the world together to understand what makes things funny across the globe.

Key idea 1 of 7

Laughter is a communication tool, for expressing safety or stress.

What do you do when you think something is funny? You laugh, of course! But why do our bodies respond this way? What purpose does it serve?

Well, laughter evolved partly as a way to let others know that everything is fine. Imagine one of our ancient ancestors casually passing by a bush. He hears something rustling inside it and panics, thinking a tiger might pop out. But just then, a small bird comes hopping out instead.

Our ancestor probably would've laughed in response to this. Doing so would have relieved his stress and signaled to others around him that there was no danger.

Although we aren't often in situations like this today, we still use laughter to relieve our stress and let others know that we're okay.

There's also another, less obvious reason for laughter. It can sometimes be a sign of stress or strain. This kind of laughter is called hysteria.

In 1962, for example, a strange illness started to spread in Tanzania. It was characterized by uncontrollable laughter. It affected mostly young school girls, who would start laughing and be unable to stop. Some of them had to cope with it for hours, or even days.

There still isn't a clear explanation for what exactly happened to the girls, but it's generally thought that their laughter was a way for them to respond to their life situation. Many of them had just started boarding school and they weren't used to having strict rules. Even though the children weren't consciously deciding to laugh, their bodies coped with their discomfort that way.

Overall, laughter is a communication tool. In situations where we can't or don't want to use words, we can laugh to let others know how we feel.

Want to see all full key ideas from The Humor Code?

Key ideas in The Humor Code

More knowledge in less time
Read or listen
Read or listen
Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
Find your next read
Find your next read
Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
Shortcasts New
We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

Who should read The Humor Code

  • Anyone interested in understanding why we joke and laugh
  • Anyone hoping to become funnier

Categories with The Humor Code

What our members say

Sven O.

It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

Thi Viet Quynh N.

Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

Jonathan A.

Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

Renee D.

Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

Start growing with Blinkist now

25 Million
Downloads on all platforms
4.7 Stars
Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
*Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 5,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

Start your free trial