Engaging Humor

Author: Elliott Oring
Exploring the structure, motives, and meanings of humor in everyday life
Paper – $28
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 08/25/2008
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format
Book Share

About the Book

In Engaging Humor, Elliott Oring asks essential questions concerning humorous expression in contemporary society, examining how humor works, why it is employed, and what its messages might be. This provocative book is filled with examples of jokes and riddles that reveal humor to be a meaningful--even significant--form of expression.

Oring scrutinizes classic Jewish jokes, frontier humor, racist cartoons, blonde jokes, and Internet humor. He provides alternate ways of thinking about humorous expressions by examining their contexts--not just their contents. He also shows how the incongruity and absurdity essential to the production of laughter can serve serious communicative ends.

Engaging Humor examines the thoughts that underlie jokes, the question of racist motivation in ethnic humor, and the use of humor as a commentary on social interaction. The book also explores the relationship between humor and sentimentality and the role of humor in forging national identity. Engaging Humor demonstrates that when analyzed contextually and comparatively, humorous expressions emerge as communications that are startling, intriguing, and profound.

About the Author

Elliott Oring is a professor emeritus of anthropology at California State University, Los Angeles, and is the author of Israeli Humor, The Jokes of Sigmund Freud, and Jokes and Their Relations. He serves on the editorial board of Humor: International Journal of Humor Research.


"This readable, well-reasoned book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in humor. Highly recommended."--Choice

"Elliott Oring has written a profound as well as clear and entertaining book."--Folklore

"In every way, Elliott Oring's Engaging Humor leads the pack. . . . It is thoughtful and learned without being dull or pedantic; it combines a folklorist's attention to the social life of jokes with the textual critic's appreciation of verbal nuance. Courage marks every chapter."--Studies in American Humor

"Engaging Humor . . . would prove a useful source to anyone working on the philosophy of humor. It is also a very good read."--Philosophy in Review


“I have read well over a hundred books on humor. None is superior to this one in clarity of expression or liveliness of ideas.”--John Morreall, author of Taking Laughter Seriously and Humor Works and review editor of Humor: International Journal of Humor Research from 1988 to 1999