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Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes (2008)

de Jim Holt

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1579134,155 (2.89)9
Stop Me If You've Heard This is the first book to trace the evolution of the joke from the stand-up comics of ancient Athens to the comedy-club Seinfelds of today. Cropping up en route are such unforgettable figures as Poggio, a Renaissance papal secretary and sexual adventurer; and Gershon Legman, the FBI-hounded psychoanalyst of dirty jokes. Having explored humor's history in part one, Jim Holt then delves into philosophy in part two. Jewish jokes; Wall Street jokes; jokes about rednecks and atheists, bulimics and politicians; jokes that you missed if you didn't go to a Catholic girls' school; jokes about language and logic itself--all become fodder for the grand theories of Aristotle, Kant, Freud, and Wittgenstein. A heady mix of the high and the low, of the ribald and the profound, this handsomely illustrated volume demands to be read by anyone who has ever peered into the abyss and asked: What's so funny?… (mais)
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This book was an interesting introduction to the study of the history of jokes and the philosophy behind them. I didn't find it boring, but it could have been much more informative and could have used more jokes to illustrate some of the points made. There are some jokes -- they aren't very funny, though. The book is short and whetted my appetite for a more in-depth look at the topic. ( )
  LynnB | Sep 21, 2019 |
It would be hard to imagine a book about jokes that was less humorous than this small work. It reads like a New Yorker article -- which in fact, half of the book is. (The first 55 of its small pages -- focusing on the history of jokes-- are taken word-for-word from a 2004 article by the author). The second half of the book considers the philosophy of jokes -- a subject that has been done better elsewhere. To help fill out this tiny work (i.e., to make it look like more than the essay that it is), a number of full page photos are included -- of Kant, Freud, Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, and compiler of the first joke book, Philip the Great of Macedonia (b. 382 BCE).

One might think that a book about jokes would be full of examples, if for no other reason than to illustrate the nature of the humor. The 2nd half of this book has some, but I found most of them notably unfunny.

(A small exception: A skeleton walks into a bar, and says "Give me a beer and a mop".

Want another? An angry guy walks into a bar, orders a drink, says to the bartender "All agents are a--holes!" Guy sitting at the end of the bar says "Just a minute! I resent that!" "Why? You an agent?" "No; I'm an a--hole.").

Overall, I found this book verbose, dry, and stimulating to neither the intellect nor funny bone. For another book on jokes with hilarious choices, I recommend Thomas Cathcart's "Plato and a Platypus walk into a Bar. . . : Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes". ( )
1 vote danielx | Aug 13, 2018 |
This is a cute and informative little book about the evolution and history of the joke. I thought it would have been boring and dry but was actually enlightening and interesting. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
This is a cute and informative little book about the evolution and history of the joke. I thought it would have been boring and dry but was actually enlightening and interesting. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
Amusing essay stretched into a whole book the way you stretched papers in high school and college - lots of empty spaces and illustrations. ( )
  giovannigf | Sep 4, 2011 |
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Stop Me If You've Heard This is the first book to trace the evolution of the joke from the stand-up comics of ancient Athens to the comedy-club Seinfelds of today. Cropping up en route are such unforgettable figures as Poggio, a Renaissance papal secretary and sexual adventurer; and Gershon Legman, the FBI-hounded psychoanalyst of dirty jokes. Having explored humor's history in part one, Jim Holt then delves into philosophy in part two. Jewish jokes; Wall Street jokes; jokes about rednecks and atheists, bulimics and politicians; jokes that you missed if you didn't go to a Catholic girls' school; jokes about language and logic itself--all become fodder for the grand theories of Aristotle, Kant, Freud, and Wittgenstein. A heady mix of the high and the low, of the ribald and the profound, this handsomely illustrated volume demands to be read by anyone who has ever peered into the abyss and asked: What's so funny?

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