Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes

Overview

“Finally I understand what it is I’ve been laughing at all these years.”—Jimmy Kimmel
From the best-selling author of Why Does the World Exist? comes this outrageous, uproarious compendium of absurdity, filth, racy paradox, and gratuitous offensiveness—just the kind of mature philosophical reflection readers have come to expect from the ever-entertaining Jim Holt. Indeed, Stop Me If You’ve
Heard This is the first book to trace the evolution of the joke all the way from the ...

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Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes

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Overview

“Finally I understand what it is I’ve been laughing at all these years.”—Jimmy Kimmel
From the best-selling author of Why Does the World Exist? comes this outrageous, uproarious compendium of absurdity, filth, racy paradox, and gratuitous offensiveness—just the kind of mature philosophical reflection readers have come to expect from the ever-entertaining Jim Holt. Indeed, Stop Me If You’ve
Heard This is the first book to trace the evolution of the joke all the way from the standup comics of ancient Athens to the comedy-club Seinfelds of today. After exploring humor’s history in Part One, Holt delves into philosophy in Part Two: Wall Street jokes; jokes about rednecks and atheists, bulimics and politicians; jokes you missed if you didn’t go to a Catholic girls’ school; jokes about logic and existence itself . . . all became fodder for the grand theories of Aristotle, Kant, Freud, and Wittgenstein in this heady mix of the high and low, of the ribald and profound, from America’s most beloved philosophical pundit.

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Editorial Reviews

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"They all laughed when I said I'd become a comedian. Well, they're not laughing now." Jokes play jiu-jitsu with our expectations and have been doing so since ancient times. Jim Holt's Stop Me If You've Heard is a guided tour through their orchestrated surprises, with significant sidebars with Aristotle, Kant, and Freud on what all this funniness really means. A hit in hardcover; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Publishers Weekly

A complete history of the joke and its philosophical motivations will perhaps never be written, as Holt admits that "the joke is not an unchanging Platonic Ideal, but a historical form that evolves over time." Holt, a contributor to the New Yorker, tries anyway, tracking the joke's evolution from the oldest surviving joke book, the surprisingly blue Greek text Philogelos, to Freud and Kant in explaining how and why we laugh at jokes. The book's second half occasionally lapses into dryness; even Holt suggests that the more interesting a subject is, the more boring the accompanying philosophy. In examining two overlooked aspects of a common joke, Holt presents some illuminating thoughts-jokes evolve more than they are created; they are an ideal way to expel pent-up aggression-and fascinating fringe figures such as Gershon Legman, the controversial and pioneering dirty-joke archivist who saw himself as "the keeper of the deepest subcellar in the burning Alexandria Library of the age; the subcellar of our secret desires, which no one else was raising so much as a finger to preserve." Highly readable, Holt's effort will appeal to the intellectually curious, and the jokes are pretty funny. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871407207
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 10/21/2013
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 539,727
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Holt, a prominent essayist and critic on philosophy, mathematics, and science, is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I History 1

Pt. II Philosophy 57

Bibliography 127

Credits 129

Index 133

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